Once a main idea is developed and research is out of the way, it is time to focus on development. Although it may seem daunting at first, drafting and developing your ideas becomes easier with practice, a bit of planning, and a good understanding of the rhetorical strategies you are using.
A rhetorical strategy is simply an approach to organizing information in a piece of writing. There are different strategies for different purposes, and they can be combined as needed to create the strongest final paper. You may be required to use a specific mode or modes of development in an assignment, so be sure that you have reviewed the assignment requirements carefully and know how much flexibility you have in terms of development.
Following is a discussion of the most commonly used rhetorical modes. You will recognize many of them from reading that you have done.
Narration is a favourite for both writers and readers, because it is engaging and fun to read. Narration is simply storytelling, and it can be used for writing about personal experience or presenting information in a fresh and exciting way.
Ex. The baby crow was the same size as its parents, but clearly lacked their expertise in gathering food. It followed its mother and father, beak open, cawing and begging for one of them to feed it. Its parents, however, ignored its cries, looking around for a morsel of scavengable food to use as the object in a lesson on gathering a meal of one's own.
Ex. The man in the lieutenant's uniform handed me a bulletproof vest and helmet, then laughed when I put them on – they were both ridiculously oversized on my skinny sixteen-year-old frame. The private handed me a towel and told me to wrap it around my head before putting the helmet back on. It was hot, but made the helmet secure, and I thought grimly that it might offer some additional protection should I step on a land mine. The vest, on the other hand, would just have to do. I doubted its efficacy anyway, but its weight was reassuring.
"The metal detectors are outside," the lieutenant told me. "Good luck."
Description and narration go hand-in-hand. The best narration has strong description, and descriptive writing tends to tell a story in addition to painting a picture for readers. Description is beneficial for any type of project and in conjunction with any rhetorical mode, however – illustrating or explaining an idea through specific use of sensory detail helps to clarify any topic. When writing description, remember to be as specific as possible and remember to include details that will help paint a picture for readers.
Ex. Healthy phalenopsis orchid roots are thick and firm, and have the texture of fresh, raw green beans. You need to be careful not to snap them when cleaning the old potting mix away to prepare the plant for its new home. The roots should have a green tip (in fact, the entire core of the root is green) surrounded by a sheath of spongy white material. Any roots that are not firm or that lack green – if you run into a root that feels shriveled and is simply spongy and white, for example – are unhealthy and can be trimmed.
Examples and illustrations serve to develop and explain an idea. You may have heard the old writing adage, "show, don't tell." This has been said by writing instructors so often it is cliché, but for good reason – the strongest writing doesn't rely on exposition, but rather on illustration. If you want readers to understand why a law protecting small dairy farmers' land from seizure and development, offer an example of a situation where land was not protected to show the consequences for the farmer, the farm, the animals, the dairy industry, and the community in general.
Ex. A visit to the Vancouver Aquarium shows how the values of the City of Vancouver may differ from those of other cities. One of the first things visitors notice is the focus on sustainability messages in both the information posted around animal habitats and in the shows and presentations given. Visitors also notice the plaques and posters explaining the facility's design and outlining the ways in which the building itself reduces the carbon footprint. Conservation messages are presented in the children's area, with specific ideas for parents and children to easily do their part to protect the environment and the animals they are visiting. In contrast, aquariums in other large cities focus on surprising facts about the animals or on the rarity of the animals they are caring for in order to reinforce the visitor's feeling of value for the admission fee.
Process analysis either explains how to do something or how a process works. This is one of the few situations where second person point of view is appropriate; since this mode of development requires the writer to walk the reader through something, step-by-step, it is natural to address the reader directly. If you are assigned to write a process analysis, though, be sure you know what point of view your instructor wants you to use.
A good process analysis requires strong organization a lot of detail so that readers can follow along and complete the process themselves (if you are writing a "how-to"). You may feel as though you are giving too much detail during certain steps, but remember that readers are unlikely to be as familiar with the process as you are and may not find it intuitive. It is always better to err on the side of giving too many details than too few.
Ex. To make a grilled cheese sandwich, you will need soft bread, the cheese of your choice, butter, and a heavy-bottomed skillet. The first step is preparing the cheese. For best results, the cheese should be grated as this will facilitate quick and even melting. Grate about two ounces of cheese using the coarsest option your grater has. Once your cheese is grated, you will need to prepare the bread. To do this…
Definition goes beyond simple dictionary definitions to explain a main idea or use of a particular word or concept, especially if those uses are very specific or outside of the ordinary.
Ex. Intelligence is usually thought of as being related to self-awareness, but the ability to solve problems, remember those solutions, and adapt them to new situations may be a more important factor in determining whether or not an animal, especially non-mammalian, has intelligence.
Cause and effect is exactly what it sounds like: it examines the causes and effects surrounding a specific event or action. When completing a cause and effect analysis, be absolutely sure that you are examining real causes and effects and not falling into the false cause fallacy.
Ex. If one is a jeweler or an aspiring jeweler, building a workbench and setting up a workstation at home is beneficial. Although there may be a great deal of financial outlay initially, having one's own space leads to the effect of increased productivity and enables one to work more conveniently and cheaply in the long run.
When using classification, you focus on organizing different objects, ideas, etc. by distinguishing feature or characteristics. Classification is useful in conjunction with any of the other modes of development, especially if you are looking at a variety of problems and solutions, some of which share certain important characteristics, or if you are trying to explain the multiple factors affecting an issue.
Ex. There are many approaches one can take to sustainable living; the key is choosing one that works and that one can continue indefinitely. One set of approaches focuses on energy sourcing and use. There are simple things one can do, such as turn out lights when not in a room or shut down a computer monitor that is not in use, but there are also slightly more involved approaches, such as contacting one's local energy provider to see if one can source electricity from bioenergy or wind farms. Energy-based solutions tend to be fairly simple and tend to be more a question of remembering to do something or paying a small extra fee on electric bills rather than requiring a great deal of direct action. Approaching a sustainable lifestyle through waste management may be more complicated…
This mode asks you as the writer to draw comparisons between and point out differences between a pair or set of ideas, objects, or people. It is especially useful when you need to develop an argument asking readers to choose between one option and another. When making comparisons and contrasts, be sure that you are balancing the points being examined. For example, if you want to discuss Leica cameras versus SLR, you could look at the shutter material and mechanics for both and have balance. On the other hand, if you looked at the price of the Leica but the body construction of an SLR, the comparison/contrast would no longer have balance.
Ex. Green tea and black tea both have caffeine, but green tea has a good deal less. This makes black tea work well as a morning drink for most people, while green tea is often a preferred drink in the afternoon. Both types of tea come from the same plant, camellia sinesis, but they are processed differently, giving each their distinctive flavours. Green tea tends to be fresh and bright, with a taste some describe as "grassy", while black tea is robust and may have a "malty" or "roasty" flavour with a heavier mouthfeel. Both teas take well to the addition of external flavours, such as fruits or herbs.