The Language Analysis Area of Study is one that many students neglect over the course of Year 12. It can be a very formulaic task, but unless you have the right kind of metalanguage and Language Analysis techniques up your sleeve, you may find yourself losing marks for really general statements like ‘the inclusive language makes readers feel included’ or ‘the statistics help persuade readers of the author’s contention.’

Specificity is key for Language Analysis! Unless you’re able to isolate and comment on specific language features, it’s really hard for the assessors to give you marks.

That basic process of pointing out Language Analysis techniques might’ve been enough to get you by in earlier years, but it won’t cut it at a Year 12 level. But that doesn’t stop thousands of students around the state from using the same, tired old phrases every single year. With that in mind, here are five of the most common and basic Language Analysis techniques and how you can boost your mark by analysing them properly!

The 5 Most Basic Language Analysis Techniques

1. Rhetorical Questions

This is probably the MOST frequently mentioned device in all of Language Analysis history. Unfortunately, while it’s sometimes worth commenting on, here’s where most students will start and end their discussion:

‘The author uses a rhetorical question which encourages readers to reevaluate their stance on the issue and instead consider the author’s point of view.’

Why is this bad? Well, it’s too general! That sentence could apply to absolutely any rhetorical question EVER, which means it’s not going to be worth much. Yes, technically the rhetorical question probably is making readers reevaluate their views, but pointing that out is about as useful as saying “the author uses the word “energy” which has 6 letters in it.” I mean, you’re right, but so what??

If you want to discuss how these Language Analysis techniques are persuading readers, you need to zoom in on how that particular device is reinforcing that particular contention. For example, if you had an article about introducing a new law that would let kids carry knives for some reason, and it included the rhetorical question: “Do you really want your child to have access to dangerous weapons?” you might analyse it like so:

‘The author rhetorically questions whether readers would “want [their] child to have access to dangerous weapons” in order to elicit fear and concern from parents, thus encouraging them to oppose this new law that would threaten the safety of their child.’

Notice how that’s waaaay more tailored to the issue and the language than the really generic statement from before? This is the kind of specificity you need when dealing with Language Analysis techniques. So the next time you want to mention a rhetorical question, ask yourself ‘what is the author questioning?’

(^ and that question’s not rhetorical, by the way)

2. Statistics

Another very overused technique is the use of statistics. Of course, this is a really easy thing to comment on – pretty much any time the author is including numbers (especially percentages,) they’re employing statistics or evidence in some way. But with so many students making redundant commentary like:

“The author uses statistics like “83%” and “one in every three children under five” to lend credibility to his argument.”

… you’ll want something more effective to stand out from the crowd. Much like your analysis of rhetorical questions, if you’re able to specify the relationship between this device and the issue or context it’s referring to, you’ll give yourself a decent advantage.

Consider what this statistic is referring to. Is it meant to seem like an overwhelmingly large number, or an insignificant figure? You could also analyse the words that the author uses to describe a statistic, for example:

• “over 1,200 people have not registered to vote”

• “there are only 19 days until the next election!”

• “a mere 14% of people voted against this proposal”

• “almost 15% of people voted against this proposal”

• “an massive majority of at least 76% people have supported this proposal”

Notice how an author can make a number seem big or small by presenting it in a certain way? That’s something you can analyse!

“The author’s inclusion of the statistic “1,200 people” that failed to register, modified by the adjective “only” implies that the number of registrants is not too substantial and therefore should not alarm readers.”

Again, by being more specific, the analysis becomes more in-depth, which is exactly what the assessors want to see.

3. Expert Opinion

On a similar note, an author citing an expert can be an effective persuasive device, but your analysis should go beyond something like:

“The expert opinion of “Dr. Marie Stevenson” reinforces the author’s contention and therefore makes his argument seem well-supported by a professional.”

See if you can say anything more substantial about this expert the author is using. Who are they? Why are they ‘experts?’ Why might the author want to cite their opinions? And, (most importantly,) what kind of language does the author use to introduce or describe them? Ideally, you want to combine your discussion of the use of expert opinion with some analysis of what that opinion is, so stating very briefly that an author is eliciting respect for an esteemed authority figure is fine if you couple it with some close analysis too.

4. Inclusive Language

Full disclosure: this is one of my pet peeves. I distinctly remember using the phrase “this inclusive language makes readers feel included” in one of my Language Analysis essays in Year 8. And my teacher scrawled all over that sentence with his angry red pen saying ‘I KNOW! THAT’S WHAT INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE DOES.’ Then he drew some angry emojis that haunt me to this day.

Ever since then, I have taken it upon myself to campaign against silly statements like ‘inclusive language creates inclusivity.’ I know it can be really hard to reword this idea (because, again, you’re technically right, it’s just that the point isn’t as specific or worthwhile as it could be.) But the easiest way to fix this is to ask: what is the author including readers in? If it’s inclusive language, then what group is the author positioning the audience to belong to?

For instance, let’s say the author was like: “we need to demand more from our politicians because it’s up to us to create a better future for ourselves.”

‘The author uses inclusive language like “we” and “us” when expressing the “need to demand more” and “create a better future” in order to put the onus of responsibility on readers, thereby compelling them to take action and oppose the legislation.’

On the other hand, if an author said: “our children should be our number one priority!” then your analysis might look like:

‘The fact that the author describes those affected as “our children” is intended to include readers and evoke their concern and compassion, suggesting to them that they should also by prioritising children’s wellbeing.’

In the first instance, readers are being included in a call-to-action, and are compelled to demand a better solution from the government. But in the second case, they’re being included in the concern for children’s health and happiness. The technique is the same, but the context has changed! Therefore, your analysis should reflect this! We could’ve just said “the inclusive language makes readers feel included” both times, but that wouldn’t have been specific enough. If you’re able to target how and why something is persuasive, you’ll be in a much better position than someone making these hyper-generalised assertions about Language Analysis techniques.

5. Emotive Language

As you may already know, calling language “emotive” is a pretty bland statement. And all it does is make the assessors clench their fists in frustration and yell ‘WHICH EMOTIONS???’ That said, it’s still a common pitfall to write something like:

‘The author uses a variety of emotive language to compel readers to agree with his point of view.’


‘The emotive language “fight for your rights” aims to persuade the audience to fight for their rights.’

That’s not accomplishing anything. Luckily, the easiest fix in the world here is just to specify which emotions you think are central to the author’s point.

For example:

‘The author’s use of the phrase “suffering of innocent people” which engenders sympathy and outrage is designed to encourage readers to oppose the new laws because it will bring harm to those who do not deserve it.’


‘The word “hazardous” elicits readers’ fear and trepidation, enabling the author to position the “hazardous road” as a terrifying danger that needs to be changed for the sake of all commuters.’

Remember, if you have any Language Analysis questions, you can drop by our English Board, or chuck up one of your essays here for some detailed feedback.