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English 10 Honors: American Literature
English 12/LIT 115
AP English Language and Composition/ENG 121 » Columnist Rhetorical Precis/Response Assignment

Columnist/ Rhetorical Precis Assignment Columnist Rhetorical Precis/Response Assignment

Links to the complete assignment and columnist web sites are below.

The Columnist Rhetorical Précis/Response Project


The Assignment: As a means of keeping abreast of public discourse issues, you are required to follow a national columnist in a newspaper or online. You must collect five current, preferably consecutive columns by your author. On my website, you will find links to columnists and journalistic websites where you will find the name of a specific columnist and a link to her/his work.    Archives can be searched on some of the columnists’ sites, but many publications require payment for articles older than one or two weeks. Therefore, check your columnist’s web site weekly. Due dates TBA. The assignment has three parts:

I. Each article must be annotated for the following:

  • Speaker's tone and possible tone shifts
  • Rhetorical strategies
  • Organization and arrangement
  • Aristotelian appeals


Mark places in the text that evoke a reaction from you, be it laughter, anger, or confusion.
Some questions to ask yourself as you read:

  • How does s/he open the column?
  • How does s/he close the column?
  • How soon does s/he announce the thesis?
  • How does s/he organize? What are the parts or sections of the column?
  • How much is based on observation? Personal experience? Interviews? Fact?
  • What sort of diction characterizes the columnist?
  • What sort of syntax characterizes the columnist?
  • What audience does s/he assume? How do you know?
  • What unstated assumptions (warrants – enthymemes) does the columnist make?
  • What are the potential ramifications of the issues addressed in the column? 


II. After annotating, write a one-page précis/response (download complete assignment below for explicit directions).

Your first annotated article and one-page précis/response are due next week; if you are struggling I can give you some guidance.  You must have your columnist approved by me.


III. The final task is to compose an argumentative essay of your own while synthesizing material from the columns.  The due date for this final task is TBA. Based on the columns, consider:

  • the issues the columnist has addressed in his/her columns
  • a tangential issue you might expect your columnist to address;
  • how the columnist might address your issue;
  • your expectations of the columnist’s position on the issue;
  • how you would respond effectively to the columnist’s position on the issue.


Do not simply address one argument raised in the columns, but create your own argument based on your perception of the columnist’s ideological positions as you have perceived them.


Related Files

pdf pdf file: You need Adobe Acrobat Reader (version 7 or higher) to view this file. Download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for PC or Macintosh.

Related Links
    Creators Syndicate
    Here you will find columnists categorized according to their political predisposition. Look under "conservative opinion" or "liberal opinion." Remember: you will benefit more if you engage with a columnist you are inclined to challenge.
    Real Clear Politics
    Links to columnists and all things political
    The Drudge Report
    Scroll down the home page for links to newspapers and columnists
    Blue Eagle Commentary
    Links to over 700 columnists

Mr. Gunnar's English Classes
Jefferson County
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