July 2, 2013 fm

50 Roaring Rhetorical Devices

Sources: A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, Wikipediagrammar.about.com, own examples.

Device Definition Examples
Alliteration Recurrence of initial consonant sounds. The repetition can be juxtaposed (and then it is usually limited to two words).
  • Veni, vidi, vici. — Cesar
  • Facebook is a mighty movement.
Allusion Short, informal reference to a famous person or event.
  • If only Leonidas and his men were here.
  • You think life is difficult? Tell Nelson Mandela about it.
Amplification Repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it.
  • Suddenly Frank was standing in front of me, right in front of me, right in front of my face.
Anadiplosis Repeats the last word of one phrase, clause, or sentence at or very near the beginning of the next.
  • It was a beautiful day. That day became a hallmark, a hallmark of happiness in my life.
  • You cannot buy passion in the supermarket. In a supermarket you can only buy commodity goods.
Analogy Compares two things, which are alike in several respects, for the purpose of explaining or clarifying some unfamiliar or difficult idea or object by showing how the idea or object is similar to some familiar one.
  • Flying with Ryanair is like being drunk. Afterwards you always say that it was the last time.
  • People are like potatoes. They all look the same, but when you taste them you realize they are not.
Anaphora Repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences, commonly in conjunction with climax and with parallelism.
  • The beauty of life runs away from pessimists. The beauty of life hides from realists. The beauty of life embraces optimists.
  • No love will give up where hatred rules. No love will ever surrender to detestation.
Antanagoge Placing a good point or benefit next to a fault criticism, or problem in order to reduce the impact or significance of the negative point.
  • True, he always forgets my birthday, but he buys me presents all year round.
  • He’s the most miserable person on earth, but I love him.
Antimetabole Reversing the order of repeated words or phrases (a loosely chiastic structure, AB-BA) to intensify the final formulation, to present alternatives, or to show contrast.
  • Always is never right; and never is always wrong.
  • No great speaker lacks of energy. Without energy you cannot become a great speaker.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going! — Anon
Antiphrasis One word irony, established by context.
  • Come here, Tiny, he said to the two-meter giant.
  • What a cool 45 degrees!
Antithesis Establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between two ideas by joining them together or juxtaposing them, often in parallel structure.
  • That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. — Neil Armstrong.
  • I was the right fish in the wrong pond.
Aposiopesis Stopping abruptly and leaving a statement unfinished.
  • We better leave this place or we’ll—
  • You should get your act together or you will—
Apostrophe Addresses some absent or nonexistent person or things if present and capable of understanding. Its most common purpose in prose is to display intense emotion.
  • O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! — Luke 13:34 (NASB)
  • O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! — Sir Walter Raleigh
Assonance Similar vowel sounds repeated in successive or proximate words containing different consonants.
  • The crumbling thunder of seas.
  • On a proud round cloud in white high night.
Asyndeton Omitting of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses.
  • Public speaking is all about self-confidence, message, impact.
  • He likes beer, white sausages, pretzels, dumplings, sauerkraut.
Catachresis An extravagant, implied metaphor using words in an alien or unusual way.
  • I will speak daggers to her. — Hamlet
  • To take arms against a sea of troubles… — Hamlet
  • She spoke AK47-style, without pausing at all.
Chiasmus Figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism. In its classical application, chiasmus would have been used for structures that do not repeat the same words and phrases, but invert a sentence’s grammatical structure or ideas.
  • What is learned unwillingly is gladly forgotten.
  • I feel proud of my Alvaro every time the little man makes others smile.
  • By day the frolic, and the dance by night. —  Samuel Johnson
Climax Consists of arranging words, clauses, or sentences in the order of increasing importance, weight, or emphasis. A good, better, best structure.
  • The concerto was applauded at the house of Baron von Schnooty, it was praised highly at court, it was voted best concerto of the year by the Academy, it was considered by Mozart the highlight of his career, and it has become known today as the best concerto in the world.
Resembles anadiplosis in the repetition of a preceding word, but it repeats a key word (not just the last word) from a preceding phrase, clause, or sentence, at the beginning of the next.
  • A golden key to success in public speaking is authenticity. We all hold that key in our hands already.
Diacope Repetition of a word or phrase after an intervening word or phrase as a method of emphasis.
  • We can do this, believe me; we can do this!
  • What do you say, team; what do you say?
Distinctio An explicit reference to a particular meaning or to the various meanings of a word, in order to remove or prevent ambiguity.
  • An audience falls asleep soon—that is, after seven minutes.
  • Without an emotional appeal it’s hard to persuade an audience. Pathos, the emotional appeal, is one of Aristotle’s three pillars of persuasion.
Enthymeme Informally stated syllogism which omits either one of the premises or the conclusion. The omitted part must be clearly understood by the reader.
  • He is a Toastmaster. He must be a great speaker.
Enumeratio Details parts, causes, effects, or consequences to make a point more forcibly.
  • Public speaking is adrenaline, euphoria, acknowledgment, fun, creativity, energy, passion, …
  • I like many things about her: her passion, her enthusiasm, her drive, her intrinsic motivation, …
Epanalepsis Repeats the beginning word of a clause or sentence at the end.
  • The king is dead; long live the king.
  • Water alone dug this giant canyon; yes, just plain water.
Epistrophe Repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive phrases, clauses or sentences. It is the counterpart of anaphora.
  • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. — The Apostle Paul
Epithet An adjective or adjective phrase appropriately qualifying a noun by naming a key or important characteristic of the subject. It can be metaphorical.
  • Untouched love
  • Harmful attempt
  • Peaceful dawn
  • Lazy road
  • Sleepy mountain
Epizeuxis Repetition of words in immediate succession, for vehemence or emphasis.
  • O horror, horror, horror. — Macbeth
  • Never give in — never, never, never, never… — Winston Churchill
Eponym Substitutes for a particular attribute the name of a famous person recognized for that attribute.
  • Is she smart? That girl is an Einstein.
  • My partner is a Mother Teresa.
Exemplum Citing an example; using an illustrative story, either true or fictitious.
  • To illustrate, let’s consider the following situation. A man walks down the street. He’s homeless. He carries only one bag. …
  • An example: In the late 1950s the world faced…
Hyperbole Counterpart of understatement, deliberately exaggerates conditions for emphasis or effect.
  • The bag weighed a ton.
  • I can give you a thousand reasons, why you should invest more time in personal growth.
Hypophora Consists of raising one or more questions and then proceeding to answer them, usually at some length. A common usage is to ask the question at the beginning of a paragraph and then use that paragraph to answer it.
  • So, what does all this mean? It means that….
  • What behavior, then, is uniquely human? My theory is this…. — H. J. Campbell
Metabasis Consists of a brief statement of what has been said and what will follow.
  • Now that I’ve explained the core of this problem, I will continue to examine its reasons.
  • Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. — George Orwell
Metanoia Qualifies a statement by recalling it (or part of it) and expressing it in a better, milder, or stronger way.
  • At Toastmasters we become better speakers. In fact, we become better people.
  • He’s a great friend, nay the best friend in the world.
Metaphor Describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object.
  • All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances; — Shakespeare, As You Like It
Metonymy Calls a thing or concept not by its own name but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept.
  • The White House (=the President of the USA) announced today…
  • He’s one of the most influential actors in Hollywood (=US film industry).
Word that phonetically imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes.
  • Oink
  • Meow
  • Bang
  • Roar
  • Snap
  • Crackle
  • Pop
Oxymoron Combines contradictory terms.
  • Black milk
  • Dark light
  • Happily divorced
  • Kindly bold
  • Violent relaxation
Paradox Anomalous juxtaposition of incongruous ideas for the sake of striking exposition or unexpected insight.
  • I can resist anything except temptation. — Oscar Wilde
  • Spies do not look like spies. — G. K. Chesterton
Paralipsis Asserts or emphasizes something by pointedly seeming to pass over, ignore, or deny it.
  • If you were not my father, I would say you were perverse. — Antigone.
  • I won’t tell you that it’s bad manners to put your elbow on the table while you’re eating.
Parallelism Gives two or more parts of the sentences a similar form so as to give the whole a definite pattern.
  • What you see is what you get.
  • I appreciate profound conversations and I despise superficial talk.
Parenthesis A final form of hyperbaton, consists of a word, phrase, or whole sentence inserted as an aside in the middle of another sentence.
  • Every time I try to think of a good rhetorical example, I rack my brains but – you guessed – nothing happens.
Gives an inanimate (non-living) object human traits and qualities.
  • The sky smiled, as the horrible clouds raced across it, out of its way.
  • The stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky.
  • This coffee is strong enough to get up and walk away.
Pleonasm Use of more words than required to express an idea; being redundant. Normally a vice, it is done on purpose on rare occasions for emphasis.
  • The point he made was blank, empty and hollow.
  • It was a dire, dreadful, disastrous feeling.
  • We heard it with our own ears.
Polysyndeton Use of a conjunction between each word, phrase, or clause. Opposite of asyndeton.
  • I’m sick and tired and exhausted.
  • I have not the money, nor the power, nor the influence, nor the public support to change this situation.
Procatalepsis Anticipates an objection and answers it.
  • At this point, normally, people show their concern by pointing out that… What they forget to take into consideration is the following. …
Rhetorical Question Asking a question as a way of asserting something. Asking a question which already has the answer hidden in it. Or asking a question not for the sake of getting an answer but for asserting something.
  • What have the Romans ever done for us? — Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  • Don’t we all work too much?
Sententia Quoting a maxim or wise saying to apply a general truth to the situation.
  • Let’s not forget one thing: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Sentential Adverb Is a single word or short phrase, usually interrupting normal syntax, used to lend emphasis to the words immediately proximate to the adverb.
  • This is not, in fact, what I said.
  • We are, of course, a wonderful Toastmasters club.
Simile Directly compares two things through some connective, usually “like”, “as”, “than”, or a verb such as “resembles”.
  • They fought like lions.
  • Her eyes twinkled like stars.
  • Cute as a kitten.
  • As busy as a bee.
  • I’m happier than a tornado in a trailer park! — Mater, Cars
Synecdoche A type of metaphor in which the part stands for the whole, the whole for a part, the genus for the species, the species for the genus, the material for the thing made, or in short, any portion, section, or main quality for the whole or the thing itself (or vice versa).
  • Four wheels on fire.
  • Land ho! All hands on deck! — Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island
  • All these brains in the room, and no answer to the problem.
Under-statement Deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is, either for ironic emphasis or for politeness and tact. Understatement is a form of irony.
  • It’s just a flesh wound. — The Black Knight, after having both arms cut off, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • I am just going outside and may be some time. — Captain Lawrence Oates, Antarctic explorer, before walking out into a blizzard to face certain death, 1912

If you’re still hungry by now, watch this IESE podcast on rhetorical devices.

Comments (2)

  1. Kevin Schrecengost

    I’m copying this to my PC for future reference. Thanks for all this good information!

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