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Rhetorical Modes

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Rhetorical Modes

People use language daily to interact and communicate about anything, from describing a new pet to explaining a complex chemical reaction. We speak and write in a manner so that our message will make sense to the recipient and have the greatest impact. Rhetorical modes are one way we can accomplish this goal. Keep on reading for the for the definition, types, and examples of Rhetorical Modes.

Rhetorical Modes Definition

Simply put, rhetorical modes organize communication, meaning they are an established way to order rhetoric.

Rhetoric is any choice a communicator makes in an attempt to persuade their intended audience. Every time we speak or write, we have a purpose—whether to make a point, convince someone of something, or entertain—and rhetoric is the heart of achieving this purpose most effectively.

Whether spoken or written, rhetorical modes help authors organize their evidence and connect facts systematically for the audience's benefit.

Another term for rhetorical modes is patterns of organization because they often happen naturally during discourse to create a natural pattern of discussion or argument. Patterns of organization are predictable, which help the audience to anticipate the format of an argument. This helps eliminate misunderstandings or distractions as the audience makes sense of the argument.

Rhetorical Modes of Writing

No matter the context or topic, an author always has a goal in writing. Rhetorical modes allow writers to ensure their writing serves a particular purpose and achieves their specific goal. As a result, you can be sure your writing will be more articulate and persuasive.

Rhetorical modes are also important to have in your writing toolbox because they are like ready-made responses to essays. They give you, the writer, a sort of structure to follow as you write an essay.

For example, let’s say you’re taking an exam and the prompt asks you to review a topic and present a persuasive argument in favor of or against a common perspective. What do you do?

You will likely start to think about pieces of evidence you can provide to support whatever your claim will be. You might also think of ways to show the opposing argument as incorrect.

The prompt didn’t tell you to do these things, you just instinctively knew that these would be effective approaches toward convincing your audience. This is probably because you’ve been exposed to the persuasive rhetorical mode in some fashion or another.

A solid familiarity with different rhetorical modes is especially useful for timed exams. Armed with this knowledge, you can reduce the amount of time it takes to develop a strategy for your written responses.

There are other kinds of rhetorical modes that are perhaps less well-known than persuasion but work in much the same way for quickly and systematically forming essays.

Rhetorical Modes Types

There are many rhetorical modes and four basic types under which they can be categorized. The categories are:

These four categories are responsible for covering the range of ways a writer or speaker might construct their rhetoric.

It is possible to use more than one type of rhetorical mode within a single piece of writing.

Exposition

The word exposition comes from the word expose, and we often use it in the phrase “expository writing” to describe a kind of writing that explains something.

To expose means to make something known by uncovering it.

The purpose of expository writing is to educate the reader or to explain something. Because of this, it is frequently used in professional and academic writing where it is appropriate to use an educational tone.

Tone is the stylistic means by which a writer conveys their attitude in a piece of writing. This can be in literature or academic and professional writing.

Some examples of expository rhetorical modes are illustration, cause and effect, classification, and process analysis.

Narration

Writers use narration as a rhetorical mode to tell a story or to describe a scene. For narration to be most effective, the story or event should be organized into a logical pattern; typically, chronological order makes the most sense for narration.

Chronological order is a way of organizing an event from beginning to end. You might also call chronological order linear order, or time order, because it denotes a movement through time in one forward direction.

Fictional writing often uses narration to move the story forward. The designated timeline helps the reader not only understand the series of events, but also to put themselves in the story and experience it personally. Narration is also helpful in any context where chronological order is essential.

Argumentation

Also known as persuasive writing, argumentative writing tries to get the reader to think in a specific way or take a specific action. Argumentation relies heavily on logic to persuade the reader of the author’s claim, but sometimes it also uses emotion or the author’s authority to be persuasive. Argumentative writing always has a call to action for the reader.

A call to action is an appeal made to the audience to get them to take some action related to the topic of discussion. The call to action could be as simple as considering using vinegar instead of toxic chemical cleaners, or as complex as changing their political or religious stance.

Argumentation also typically involves a discussion of opposing perspectives. This is known as concession.

Concession is a rhetorical device where the speaker or writer addresses a claim made by their opponent, either to acknowledge its validity or offer a counterargument to that claim.

By including a concession in your argumentative writing, you illustrate that you have a solid understanding of the topic.

Several types of rhetorical modes can be argumentative, including compare and contrast, analogy, and persuasion.

Description

Like narration, description is a rhetorical mode in and of itself. Description is a tool writers use to make their writing come alive—they do this with language that appeals to the five senses. This helps immerse the reader in the words on the page, making the item described more real.

Descriptions can be either objective or subjective; objective is a factual account of something, while subjective is the view from a single person’s perspective.

Examples of rhetorical modes that can use descriptive writing include narration, process analysis, and definition.

Notice that some rhetorical modes can use different types of writing mentioned here. For example, a process analysis could be written with an explanatory slant (i.e, exposition) or a descriptive slant (i.e., description), depending on the purpose of the writing.

Rhetorical Modes Examples

Rhetorical modes can be either complex or basic. This simply means that some rhetorical modes are more complex and use a more detail-oriented approach to the subject, while others are more shallow and don’t involve as many complex details.

Below are some examples of both complex and basic rhetorical modes.

Basic Rhetorical Modes

Basic rhetorical modes are those that remain on the surface of the subject. In other words, these rhetorical modes don’t necessitate as much of a thorough discussion of the subject as complex rhetorical modes. Some examples of basic rhetorical modes include illustration, classification, and analogy.

Rhetorical Modes, Basic Rhetorical Modes Types, Straight Road, StudySmarterBasic rhetorical modes are like taking a straight road directly to the point.

Illustration Example

The rhetorical mode of illustration (also known as exemplification) uses detailed examples to make abstract ideas concrete, or general ideas specific. This rhetorical tool does more than describe something or narrate a series of events; it can turn the object of discussion into a symbol or an idea representing something bigger.

Shakespeare uses the bulk of the space in his sonnets to express the problem and then delays the resolution until the final lines. For example, Sonnet #34 (1609) is twelve lines of complaint and dismay because he feels the sun betrayed him, but it ends in the final two lines,

“Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,

And they are rich, and ransom all ill deeds.”

The example of Sonnet #34 illustrates the point made in the previous sentence; that Shakespeare liked to save the resolution of his poems for the final few lines. The author doesn’t need to provide much more information beyond the point they’re trying to make and the example that illustrates the point.

Analogy Example

Analogy is the process of comparing two seemingly unrelated things to highlight the characteristics they share. Analogy is best used in a situation where you’d like to explain something highly complex or unfamiliar to the audience. As with illustration, you don’t have to give a lengthy explanation or complex details of the subject in this rhetorical mode.

There are two basic types of analogies: literal and figurative. Literal analogies compare two things based on literal, real similarities. For example, when scientists test medicines on mice in laboratories, they are saying that mice are similar to human beings in medically significant ways.

Figurative analogies draw a comparison between two things that are highly unrelated to highlight a certain characteristic that they both share. Take for example the statement, “You have to be busy as a bee to get good grades.” The only similarity to a bee that a student should strive for is their productivity level. Otherwise, human students and bees are not at all similar.

Complex Rhetorical Modes

Complex rhetorical modes are a category of the more intricate rhetorical modes. These patterns of organization typically go into a deeper examination of the topic than the basic rhetorical modes. Rhetorical modes such as cause and effect, argumentation, and definition are complex because the author must have an intimate understanding of the topic to write about it in these ways.

Rhetorical Modes, Complex Rhetorical Modes, Curved Road, StudySmarterComplex rhetorical modes require more information about the topic, and so the writer has to take a more complex route to the point.

Cause and Effect Example

Establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between two things is difficult because you must prove that one thing caused another.

For example, simply stating that you think a new movie adaptation of Gone With the Wind (the cause) will generate new interest in the book (effect) is not enough. The person making this claim must prove this is true by establishing a cause and effect relationship with these three criteria:

  1. The cause must happen before the effect

  2. Whenever the cause happens, the effect must also happen

  3. There must not be another factor that could explain the relationship between the cause and the effect

To claim that a new movie version of Gone With the Wind will cause for there to be new readers of the book, you have to take a closer look at the situation and perhaps other similar situations for comparison and see what you find.

  1. Would a new Gone With the Wind movie come before the renewed interest in the book? Yes.

  2. Can a movie release cause for there to be new interest in an older book or story? Yes. (We can look to other examples of movies generating readership of classic books, such as The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald or It by Stephen King.)

  3. Are there any other valid factors that could explain the relationship between the new movie and people reading the book? No.

Definition Example

Definition seems like a simple enough way to approach a subject because we do it so often, but it is a complex method of speaking about something.

For example, in order to define a classical school for someone who doesn’t know what it is requires you to intimately understand how a classical school works, and what makes it different from other schools. You need to be so familiar with it, that you can explain this information to someone else.

Classical schools are a school choice that uses a traditional classroom setting and curriculum that focuses on history-based learning that exposes students to great minds of the past, and on producing learners that self-educate.

From here, you would want to explain and define a few more of these terms, such as “traditional classroom,” “history-based learning,” and “self-educate.”

The Most Common Rhetorical Mode of Writing

There are ten major rhetorical modes, which are:

  1. Narration

  2. Process analysis

  3. Definition

  4. Cause and effect

  5. Description

  6. Classification

  7. Compare and contrast

  8. Argument/ persuasion

  9. Problem and solution

  10. Illustration

Remember, you can use different rhetorical modes in one piece of writing. Also, you can approach a particular rhetorical mode from any of the major rhetorical mode types (e.g., exposition, narrative, descriptive, and argumentative).

If there was one type of rhetorical mode that was more common than the others, it would be exposition. Exposition uses facts and data to explain information to someone, which is why it is commonly used in academic, professional, and even journalistic writing.

Depending on the author’s message, several rhetorical modes can use an expository approach. For example, think of the many ways you could write about and explain summer school with an expository lens:

Narration – Tell a personal story about an experience in summer school that helps the reader understand how it works

Definition – Define what summer school is

Compare and contrast – Compare summer school to traditional school, and contrast any differences

Argument/ persuasion – Present an argument either for or against summer school

Classification – Categorize the students that would benefit from summer school

Each of these approaches to the topic of summer school are expository because they explain some aspect of summer school. Regardless of which rhetorical mode you choose for a particular piece of writing, knowing how they work will help keep your writing organized and reduce the amount of time it takes to plan out a writing project.

Rhetorical modes - Key takeaways

  • Whether spoken or written, rhetorical modes help authors organize their evidence and connect facts systematically for the audience's benefit.
  • Another term for rhetorical modes is patterns of organization because they often happen naturally during discourse.
  • Rhetorical modes are an important tool to have in your writing toolbox because they are like ready-made responses to essays.
  • Rhetorical modes can be either complex or basic.
  • The four types of rhetorical modes are:

Frequently Asked Questions about Rhetorical Modes

Simply put, rhetorical modes organize communication, meaning they are an established way to order rhetoric. 

The four main types of rhetorical modes are:

Narration

Description

Argumentation/ persuasion

Exposition

  1. Narration

  2. Process analysis

  3. Definition

  4. Cause and effect

  5. Description

  6. Classification

  7. Compare and contrast

  8. Argument/ persuasion

  9. Problem and solution

  10. Illustration

Whether spoken or written, rhetorical modes help authors organize their evidence and connect facts systematically for the benefit of the audience.

Rhetorical modes give writers the ability to be sure their writing serves a particular purpose and achieves whatever the goal is.

Final Rhetorical Modes Quiz

Question

What does argumentation mean?

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Answer

Argumentation is a rhetorical mode used to present an argument, when someone is clearly arguing in support of a particular point of view.

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Question

What is a rhetorical mode?

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Answer

Rhetorical modes are all the possible ways of organizing communication.

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Question

True or false: Argumentation always implies emotional conflict.

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Answer

False

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Question

Traditionally, argumentative techniques are put into two categories: ________ or ________. 


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Answer

Inductive or deductive

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Question

Which line of reasoning looks for "clues" or reasons that will support the main claim?

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Answer

Inductive reasoning

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Question

The following is an example of what technique of argumentation:
All spiders have eight legs. Tarantulas are spiders. Therefore, Tarantulas have eight legs.

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Answer

Deductive

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A good argument contains two basic parts, which are...

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The conclusion and premises

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_________ in the main claim offered by an argument.

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The conclusion

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True or false: The conclusion is not always offered at the beginning of an argument.

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True

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Question

  • Therefore

  • So

  • As a result

  • Consequently

  • Thus

Are all examples of words that indicate...

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The conclusion of an argument

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Question

There was a time when people couldn't conceive of talking with a person from another country from the comfort of their own home. The internet is a good thing because it allows us to connect to just about anyone around the globe. Global interaction is a good for commerce, and it also helps eliminate national egocentrism.


In the example above, "Global interaction is good for commerce" is an example of...

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Answer

A premise

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Question

Which type of argumentation is missing from the list below?

Classical

Rogerian

________

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Answer

Toulmin

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Which type of argumentation includes three appeals to the audience?

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Answer

Classical

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Which type of argumentation looks for compromise between two extreme poles of opposition?

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Rogerian

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Question

When using a Toulmin approach to argumentation, you must include the claim, the grounds, and the _________.

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Warrant

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Question

What is exposition? 

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Answer

Exposition is a rhetorical mode whose purpose is to explain or inform.

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What is a rhetorical mode? 

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Answer

Rhetorical modes are the different patterns or structures for organizing writing.

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Question

In narrative, which of the following is NOT part of the exposition? 


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Answer

Conflict

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What is the purpose of exposition as a rhetorical mode? 

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Answer

To explain or inform information to the audience

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Which form of exposition would be best to explain the roots and outcomes of an issue?

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Answer

Cause and effect

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What form of exposition would be best to use to break down information into smaller categories?


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Classification

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What form of exposition would be best to identify similarities and differences among different subjects? 

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Compare and contrast

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You want to write an essay where you explain the differing meanings of the concept of "evil." What form of exposition should you choose?

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Defintion

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You want to about your judgment of an album you listened to. What form of exposition would you choose for this essay?  


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Evaluation

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You are writing a guide to explain how to download a video from Instagram. What form of exposition would you choose for this guide? 

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Process analysis

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What are evaluative criteria? 

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Standards used to make a judgment about a subject

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What is rhetoric?

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Rhetoric is any choice a communicator makes in an attempt to persuade their intended audience.

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What is another term for rhetorical modes?

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Answer

Another term for rhetorical modes is patterns of organization because they often happen naturally during discourse to create a natural pattern of discussion or argument.

Show question

Question

True or false: Patterns of organization are unpredictable

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Answer

False

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Question

Rhetorical modes are helpful to authors for two main reasons:

1. They make your writing more articulate and persuasive

2. ______________________

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Answer

Rhetorical modes are like ready-made essay response templates. 

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Why is an understanding of rhetorical modes helpful on timed exam responses?

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Answer

A knowledge of rhetorical modes can reduce the amount of time it takes to develop a strategy for your written responses. 

Show question

Question

Which type of rhetorical mode is missing from the list:

Narration

Exposition

Description

__________

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Answer

Argumentation

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Question

True or false: It is possible to use more than one rhetorical mode in a single piece of writing.

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Answer

True

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Question

What is the purpose of expository writing?

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Answer


The purpose of expository writing is to educate the reader or explain something.

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For narration to be most effective, the story or event should be organized into a logical pattern; typically, ____________ makes the most sense for narration


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Answer

Chronological order

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Argumentation could also be called what?

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Persuasion

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What type of rhetorical mode uses a call to action?

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Answer

Argumentation

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What is a call to action?

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A call to action is an appeal made to the audience to get them to take some action related to the topic of discussion.

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Descriptions can be either objective or subjective. Which is the following?
"Dr. Alonzo is the best professor in the English Language department."

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Answer

Subjective

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Rhetorical modes can be either __________ or ___________

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Complex, basic

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Which is arguably the most common type of rhetorical mode?

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Answer

Exposition

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Question

What is narration?

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Answer

Narration is a rhetorical mode used to tell a story, communicate a series of events, or describe a scene. 

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Question

What are rhetorical modes?

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Answer

Rhetorical modes organize communication, meaning they are an established way to order rhetoric. 

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Question

True or false: Narration can describe both true and fictional events?

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of the following is not an example of narration as a rhetorical mode?

  • Romantic comedy movie
  • Novel
  • Biography
  • Textbook

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Answer

Textbook

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Much of the time, when someone tells a story or explains something in ______________, they are using narration as a rhetorical mode. 

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Answer

Chronological order

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Why does fictional writing often use narration?

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Answer

Narration moves the story in a forward direction, and the designated timeline helps the reader not only understand the series of events, but also to put themselves in the story and experience it personally.

Show question

Question

Which type of narration is missing from the list below?

  • Descriptive
  • Historical
  • Linear
  • Non-linear
  • __________

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Answer

Viewpoint

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Question

Which type of narrator is used below:


"Manuel was feeling sick. He begged his brother to take him to get some medicine. He wasn't sure why his brother was so hesitant, but glad that he finally said yes. Together, they went to the drug store."

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Third-person narrator

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Which type of narrator is used below:


"Amanda was nervous to plant a garden but she knew she shouldn't let that stop her from trying. As Amanda contemplated which seeds to buy, her mom watched her and could see the nervousness on Amanda's face." 

Show answer

Answer

Omniscient

Show question

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