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Rhetorical Devices

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Devices, definitions, and examples

Rhetorical Devices


1. Expletive is a single word or short phrase, usually interrupting normal syntax, used to lend emphasis to the words immediately proximate to the expletive. (We emphasize the words on each side of a pause or interruption in order to maintain continuity of the thought.) Compare:   But the lake was not drained before April.  But the lake was not, in fact, drained before April.  Expletives are most frequently placed near the beginning of a sentence, where important material has been placed:  All truth is not, indeed, of equal importance; but if little violations are allowed, every violation will in time be thought little. --Samuel Johnson  But sometimes they are placed at the very beginning of a sentence, thereby serving as signals that the whole sentence is especially important. In such cases the sentence should be kept as short as possible:  In short, the cobbler had neglected his soul.

 1A. Syntax is the ordering of words into meaningful verbal patterns such as phrases, clauses, and sentences. Poets often manipulate syntax, changing conventional word order, to place certain emphasis on particular words. Emily Dickinson, for instance, writes about being surprised by a snake in her poem "A narrow Fellow in the Grass," and includes this line: "His notice sudden is." In addition to the alliterative hissing s-sounds here, Dickinson also effectively manipulates the line’s syntax so that the verb is appears unexpectedly at the end, making the snake’s hissing presence all the more "sudden."

2. Understatement deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is, either for ironic emphasis or for politeness and tact. When the writer's audience can be expected to know the true nature of a fact which might be rather difficult to describe adequately in a brief space, the writer may choose to understate the fact as a means of employing the reader's own powers of description. For example, instead of endeavoring to describe in a few words the horrors and destruction of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, a writer might state:   The 1906 San Francisco earthquake interrupted business somewhat in the downtown area.   The effect is not the same as a description of destruction, since understatement like this necessarily smacks of flippancy to some degree; but occasionally that is a desirable effect.

3. Parallelism is recurrent syntactical similarity. Several parts of a sentence or several sentences are expressed similarly to show that the ideas in the parts or sentences are equal in importance. Parallelism also adds balance and rhythm and, most importantly, clarity to the sentence.  Any sentence elements can be paralleled, any number of times (though, of course, excess quickly becomes ridiculous). You might choose parallel subjects with parallel modifiers attached to them:  Ferocious dragons breathing fire and wicked sorcerers casting their spells do their harm by night in the forest of Darkness.  Or parallel verbs and adverbs:  I have always sought but seldom obtained a parking space near the door.   Quickly and happily he walked around the corner to buy the book.

4. Antithesis establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between two ideas by joining them together or juxtaposing them, often in parallel structure. Human beings are inveterate systematizers and categorizers, so the mind has a natural love for antithesis, which creates a definite and systematic relationship between ideas:  To err is human; to forgive, divine. --Pope    That short and easy trip made a lasting and profound change in Harold's outlook.  That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. --Neil Armstrong

5. Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences, commonly in conjunction with climax and with parallelism:  To think on death it is a misery,/ To think on life it is a vanity;/ To think on the world verily it is,/ To think that here man hath no perfect bliss. --Peacham     In books I find the dead as if they were alive; in books I foresee things to come; in books warlike affairs are set forth; from books come forth the laws of peace. --Richard de Bury

6. Rhetorical question (erotesis) differs from hypophora in that it is not answered by the writer, because its answer is obvious or obviously desired, and usually just a yes or no. It is used for effect, emphasis, or provocation, or for drawing a conclusionary statement from the facts at hand.  But how can we expect to enjoy the scenery when the scenery consists entirely of garish billboards?  . . . For if we lose the ability to perceive our faults, what is the good of living on? --Marcus Aurelius   •Is justice then to be considered merely a word? Or is it whatever results from the bartering between attorneys?  Often the rhetorical question and its implied answer will lead to further discussion: Is this the end to which we are reduced? Is the disaster film the highest form of art we can expect from our era? Perhaps we should examine the alternatives presented by independent film maker Joe Blow . . . •I agree the funding and support are still minimal, but shouldn't worthy projects be tried, even though they are not certain to succeed? So the plans in effect now should be expanded to include . . . . [Note: Here is an example where the answer "yes" is clearly desired rhetorically by the writer, though conceivably someone might say "no" to the question if asked straightforwardly.]  Several rhetorical questions together can form a nicely developed and directed paragraph by changing a series of logical statements into queries:  We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it? What does Nature hold dearer, or more proper to herself? Could you have a hot bath unless the firewood underwent some change? Could you be nourished if the food suffered no change? Do you not see, then, that change in yourself is of the same order, and no less necessary to Nature? --Marcus Aurelius  Sometimes the desired answer to the rhetorical question is made obvious by the discussion preceding it: The gods, though they live forever, feel no resentment at having to put up eternally with the generations of men and their misdeeds; nay more, they even show every possible care and concern for them. Are you, then, whose abiding is but for a moment, to lose patience--you who are yourself one of the culprits? --Marcus Aurelius    When you are thinking about a rhetorical question, be careful to avoid sinking to absurdity. You would not want to ask, for example, "But is it right to burn down the campus and sack the bookstore?" The use of this device allows your reader to think, query, and conclude along with you; but if your questions become ridiculous, your essay may become wastepaper.

7. Amplification involves repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it, in order to emphasize what might otherwise be passed over. In other words, amplification allows you to call attention to, emphasize, and expand a word or idea to make sure the reader realizes its importance or centrality in the discussion. In my hunger after ten days of rigorous dieting I saw visions of ice cream--mountains of creamy, luscious ice cream, dripping with gooey syrup and calories.

8. Simile is a  comparison between two different things that resemble each other in at least one way. In formal prose the simile is a device both of art and explanation, comparing an unfamiliar thing to some familiar thing (an object, event, process, etc.) known to the reader. When you compare a noun to a noun, the simile is usually introduced by like:  I see men, but they look like trees, walking. --Mark 8:24     After such long exposure to the direct sun, the leaves of the houseplant looked like pieces of overcooked bacon.    The soul in the body is like a bird in a cage.

9. 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. While simile and analogy often overlap, the simile is generally a more artistic likening, done briefly for effect and emphasis, while analogy serves the more practical end of explaining a thought process or a line of reasoning or the abstract in terms of the concrete, and may therefore be more extended.   •You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables. --Samuel Johnson

10. Metaphor compares two different things by speaking of one in terms of the other. Unlike a simile or analogy, metaphor asserts that one thing is another thing, not just that one is like another. Very frequently a metaphor is invoked by the to be verb:   •Affliction then is ours; / We are the trees whom shaking fastens more. --George Herbert      Thus a mind that is free from passion is a very citadel; man has no stronger fortress in which to seek shelter and defy every assault. Failure to perceive this is ignorance; but to perceive it, and still not to seek its refuge, is misfortune indeed. --Marcus Aurelius

11. Synecdoche is 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). •Farmer Jones has two hundred head of cattle and three hired hands.

12. Metonymy is another form of metaphor, very similar to synecdoche (and, in fact, some rhetoricians do not distinguish between the two), in which the thing chosen for the metaphorical image is closely associated with (but not an actual part of) the subject with which it is to be compared.  •The orders came directly from the White House.  In this example we know that the writer means the President issued the orders, because "White House" is quite closely associated with "President," even though it is not physically a part of him. Consider these substitutions, and notice that some are more obvious than others, but that in context all are clear:  •You can't fight city hall.   This land belongs to the crown.

13. Personification metaphorically represents an animal or inanimate object as having human attributes--attributes of form, character, feelings, behavior, and so on. Ideas and abstractions can also be personified.  •The ship began to creak and protest as it struggled against the rising sea.

14. Hyperbole, the counterpart of understatement, deliberately exaggerates conditions for emphasis or effect. In formal writing the hyperbole must be clearly intended as an exaggeration, and should be carefully restricted. That is, do not exaggerate everything, but treat hyperbole like an exclamation point, to be used only once a year. Then it will be quite effective as a table-thumping attention getter, introductory to your essay or some section thereof:  •There are a thousand reasons why more research is needed on solar energy.  Or it can make a single point very enthusiastically:  I said "rare," not "raw." I've seen cows hurt worse than this get up and get well.

15. Allusion is a short, informal reference to a famous person or event:  •You must borrow me Gargantua's mouth first. 'Tis a word too great for any mouth of this age's size. --Shakespeare   • If you take his parking place, you can expect World War II all over again.  •Plan ahead: it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. --Richard Cushing   •Our examination of the relation of the historian to the facts of history finds us, therefore, in an apparently precarious situation, navigating delicately between the Scylla of an untenable theory of history as an objective compilation of facts . . . and the Charybdis of an equally untenable theory of history as the subjective product of the mind of the historian . . . . --Edward Hallett Carr      Notice in these examples that the allusions are to very well known characters or events, not to obscure ones. (The best sources for allusions are literature, history, Greek myth, and the Bible.) Note also that the reference serves to explain or clarify or enhance whatever subject is under discussion, without sidetracking the reader.  Allusion can be wonderfully attractive in your writing because it can introduce variety and energy into an otherwise limited discussion (an exciting historical adventure rises suddenly in the middle of a discussion of chemicals or some abstract argument), and it can please the reader by reminding him of a pertinent story or figure with which he is familiar, thus helping (like analogy) to explain something difficult. The instantaneous pause and reflection on the analogy refreshes and strengthens the reader's mind.

16. Eponym substitutes for a particular attribute the name of a famous person recognized for that attribute. By their nature eponyms often border on the cliche, but many times they can be useful without seeming too obviously trite. Finding new or infrequently used ones is best, though hard, because the name-and-attribute relationship needs to be well established. Consider the effectiveness of these: Is he smart? Why, the man is an Einstein. Has he suffered? This poor Job can tell you himself.

17. Oxymoron is a paradox reduced to two words, usually in an adjective-noun ("eloquent silence") or adverb-adjective ("inertly strong") relationship, and is used for effect, complexity, emphasis, or wit: --I do here make humbly bold to present them with a short account of themselves and their art.....--Jonathan Swift   The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head . . . .--Alexander Pope

18. Alliteration is the recurrence of initial consonant sounds. The repetition can be juxtaposed (and then it is usually limited to two words): •Ah, what a delicious day!  •Yes, I have read that little bundle of pernicious prose, but I have no comment to make upon it.

19. Onomatopoeia is the use of words whose pronunciation imitates the sound the word describes. "Buzz," for example, when spoken is intended to resemble the sound of a flying insect. Other examples include these: slam, pow, screech, whirr, crush, sizzle, crunch, wring, wrench, gouge, grind, mangle, bang, blam, pow, zap, fizz, urp, roar, growl, blip, click, whimper, and, of course, snap, crackle, and pop. Note that the connection between sound and pronunciation is sometimes rather a product of imagination ("slam" and "wring" are not very good imitations). And note also that written language retains an aural quality, so that even unspoken your writing has a sound to it. Compare these sentences, for instance:  •Someone yelled, "Look out!" and I heard the skidding of tires and the horrible noise of bending metal and breaking glass.  •Someone yelled "Look out!" and I heard a loud screech followed by a grinding, wrenching crash.

20. Apostrophe interrupts the discussion or discourse and addresses directly a person or personified thing, either present or absent. Its most common purpose in prose is to give vent to or display intense emotion, which can no longer be held back:  •O value of wisdom that fadeth not away with time, virtue ever flourishing, that cleanseth its possessor from all venom! O heavenly gift of the divine bounty, descending from the Father of lights, that thou mayest exalt the rational soul to the very heavens! Thou art the celestial nourishment of the intellect . . . . --Richard de Bury   •O books who alone are liberal and free, who give to all who ask of you and enfranchise all who serve you faithfully! -- Richard de Bury

21. Climax (gradatio) consists of arranging words, clauses, or sentences in the order of increasing importance, weight, or emphasis. Parallelism usually forms a part of the arrangement, because it offers a sense of continuity, order, and movement-up the ladder of importance. But if you wish to vary the amount of discussion on each point, parallelism is not essential.  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.

22. Enumeratio: detailing parts, causes, effects, or consequences to make a point more forcibly:  •I love her eyes, her hair, her nose, her cheeks, her lips [etc.].   •When the new highway opened, more than just the motels and restaurants prospered. The stores noted a substantial increase in sales, more people began moving to town, a new dairy farm was started, the old Main Street Theater doubled its showings and put up a new building . . .

23. Sententia: quoting a maxim or wise saying to apply a general truth to the situation; concluding or summing foregoing material by offering a single, pithy statement of general wisdom:  •But, of course, to understand all is to forgive all.  •As the saying is, art is long and life is short.   •For as Pascal reminds us, "It is not good to have all your wants satisfied."

24. Exemplum: citing an example; using an illustrative story, either true or fictitious:  •Let me give you an example. In the early 1920's in Germany, the government let the printing presses turn out endless quantities of paper money, and soon, instead of 50-pfennige postage stamps, denominations up to 50 billion marks were being issued.

25. Dirimens Copulatio: mentioning a balancing or opposing fact to prevent the argument from being one-sided or unqualified:  •This car is extremely sturdy and durable. It's low maintenance; things never go wrong with it. Of course, if you abuse it, it will break.

26. Appositive: a noun or noun substitute placed next to (in apposition to) another noun to be described or defined by the appositive. The appositive can be placed before or after the noun:   •Henry Jameson, the boss of the operation, always wore a red baseball cap.  •A notorious annual feast, the picnic was well attended.   •That evening we were all at the concert, a really elaborate and exciting affair. 
With very short appositives, the commas setting off the second noun from the first are often omitted:  •That afternoon Kathy Todd the pianist met the poet Thompson.  •Is your friend George going to run for office?

27. Diction: the choice and use of words.

28. Slippery Slope: "one thing leads to another" fallacy, also called the "domino effect." This uses a false or unproven thesis, one without foundation. Example: "If we do this, then that will happen, then something else, and then other things; where will it end?"

29. Red Herring: (sometimes called Trojan Horse) a decoy argument; one that ignores the real issue while bringing up totally irrelevant issues. Example: "How can you justify spending money to fight crime in America when there are children starving in Africa ?"

30. Abstract Language: Words that refer to ides, qualities, attitudes, and conditions that cannot be perceived with the senses—for example, freedom, beauty, joy. Opposite of concrete language.

31. Antistrophe: repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses.   *In 1931, ten years ago, Japan invaded Manchukuo -- without warning. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia -- without warning. In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria -- without warning. In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia -- without warning. Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland -- without warning. And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand -- and the United States --without warning. Franklin D. Roosevelt

32. Archaism: use of an older or obsolete form.  *Pipit sate upright in her chair Some distance from where I was sitting; T. S. Eliot, "A Cooking Egg"

33. Audience: The intended readers of a piece of writing. Knowledge of the audience’s needs and expectations helps a writer shape the writing so that it is clear., interesting, and convincing.

34. Bandwagon: the tactic of inviting the audience to accept an assertion because everybody else does.

35. Colloquial language: words or expressions from everyday speech. Colloquial language can enliven informal writing but is generally inappropriate in formal academic or business writing.

36. Comparison and contrast: the identification of similarities (comparison) and differences (contrast) between two or more subjects.

37. Concrete language: words that refer to objects persons, places, or conditions that can be perceived with the senses. Opposite of abstract language.

38. Credibility: the reliability or trustworthiness of the writer or sources; ethos. The audience’s belief in such.

39. Denotation: the dictionary definition or literal meaning of a word or phrase.

40. Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.  Sleeping together = having sex; Passed away = died; Chemical dependant = dope head

41. Ad Hominem: From the Latin meaning "against the man"—that is, making an attack on the person rather than on the person’s argument or particular issue.

42. Ad misericordiam: An argument that is an appeal to the emotions of the audience.

43. Begging the question: in an argument, making an assumption that what’s being argued has already been proven or confirmed.

44. Circular reasoning: reasoning where the conclusion is hidden in the premise of the argument.

45. Double Standard: comparing two or more similar things or situations by a different sets of standards. Example: "Well, it’s OK for him, but if she tries it I’ll punish her."

46. Equivocation: using words that have at least two different definitions to support or refute an issue. Using ambiguous words is also a form of equivocation.

47. False analogy: a fallacy of comparing two things that are not sufficiently alike to be compared. Such comparison concentrates one a singular similarity while ignoring all differences.

48. Hasty generalization: an assertion or conclusion drawn on insufficient evidence; jumping to conclusions.

49. Non sequitur: from the Latin for "it does not follow;" a fallacy of claiming a conclusion that does not follow logically from the premise.

50. Oversimplification: attempts to obscure or deny the complex issues of a claim, syllogism, or enthymeme.

51. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: (cause and effect, false cause) Most readily identified as the "If..., then..." fallacy. Assumes that event A causes event B or some undesired result. Example: "If we can put a man on the moon, then we should be able to cure AIDS."

52. Self Contradiction: giving two premises that when used together cannot be true. Example: If you die while you’re asleep, you won’t know about it until the next morning when you wake up.

53. Slanted language: (also called stacking the deck) evidence, words, or expressions whose connotations favor a particular bias of the arguer and which distort the opposition.

54. Stacking the deck: (also known as slanting) giving evidence, words, or expressions supporting a premise while disregarding or withholding contrary evidence.

55. Stereotyping: a form of hasty generalization, assuming that all members of a group are the same; this can be racist in nature or simply sweeping generalizations. Example: "All red heads have a fiery temper."

56. Strawman (strawperson): this fallacy creates its own issues and then attacks or refutes these rather than addressing the issue of the core argument.

57. Generalization: an assertion inferred from evidence.

58. Grounds: the minor premise supporting evidence.

59. Occam’s Razor : the theory holding that all things being equal the simplest answer is probably the best and most correct. Spock (Star Trek) used a version of Occam’s Razor in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, "If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains—however improbable—must be the truth."

60. Opinion: a conclusion based on facts or judgements; an arguable, potentially changeable assertion. Assertions of opinion form the backbone of an argument.

61. Pre-empting: anticipating the opposition’s argument and attempting to invalidate it before it is delivered.

62. Process analysis: a step-by-step explanation of how something works or how something is done.

63. Proposition: the claim or the point to be discussed or proven in an argument.

64. Purpose: what the writer hopes to accomplish is a piece of writing. The chief reason for communicating something about a topic to one’s audience.

65. Qualifier: a restriction placed on the claim to indicate that it may not always be true as so stated.

66. Racist language: slurs or derogatory terms that discriminate against or denigrate members of certain races or ethnicity.

67. Reason: a statement that explains or justifies the claim.

68. Rebuttal: exception to a claim.

69. Refutation: an attack on an opposing point of view in order to lessen its credibility or to invalidate it.

70. Rhetoric: the strategic use of language.

71. Sexist language: language expressing narrow ideas about men’s and women’s roles, positions, capabilities, or values.

72. Slang: expressions used by members of a group to create bonds and sometimes exclude others. Most slang is too vague, short-lived, and narrowly understood to be included in anything but informal writing.

73. Statistics: information that is expressed in numerical form; quantitative data.

74. Syllepsis: use of a word with two others, with each of them being understood differently/having a different meaning.: We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately. Benjamin Franklin

75. Thesis: the central controlling idea of an essay to which all assertions and details relate.

76. Thesis sentence: the sentence that asserts the central controlling idea of an essay. It conveys the writer’s purpose and attitude and perhaps previews the essay’s organization.

77. Transitions: words or phrases such as thus or similarly or by comparison that link sentences and paragraphs for the sake of enhancing coherence.

78. Twisted cliché: a cliché where one or more of the words are changed, either in spelling or replaced by a new word, but the basic concept of the cliché is still recognizable.

79. Unity: the quality of an effective essay or paragraph in which all parts relate to the central idea and to each other.

80. Values: principles or ideas that are used as standards for determining the worth of something—that is, good or bad, ugly or beautiful, useful or worthless, right or wrong.

81. Fallacy: an error in reasoning, a false argument. These are not necessarily to be avoided at all costs; however, if used they must be used very wisely and carefully. One fallacy can destroy an entire argument if it is used improperly. The following is a list of various fallacies and their definitions.


82. Anacoluthon: finishing a sentence with a different grammatical structure from that with which it began:  •And then the deep rumble from the explosion began to shake the very bones of--no one had ever felt anything like it.  •Be careful with these two devices because improperly used they can--well, I have cautioned you enough.

83. Anadiplosis repeats the last word of one phrase, clause, or sentence at or very near the beginning of the next. it can be generated in series for the sake of beauty or to give a sense of logical progression:  •Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,/ Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain . . . . --Philip Sidney

84. 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.  •The new anti-pollution equipment will increase the price of the product slightly, I am aware; but the effluent water from the plant will be actually cleaner than the water coming in.

85. 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:  •All work and no play is as harmful to mental health as all play and no work.  •Ask not what you can do for rhetoric, but what rhetoric can do for you.

86. Antiphrasis: one word irony, established by context:  •"Come here, Tiny," he said to the fat man.  •It was a cool 115 degrees in the shade.

87. Apophasis (also called praeteritio or occupatio) asserts or emphasizes something by pointedly seeming to pass over, ignore, or deny it. This device has both legitimate and illegitimate uses. Legitimately, a writer uses it to call attention to sensitive or inflammatory facts or statements while he remains apparently detached from them: 
We will not bring up the matter of the budget deficit here, or how programs like the one under consideration have nearly pushed us into bankruptcy, because other reasons clearly enough show . . .

88. Aporia expresses doubt about an idea or conclusion. Among its several uses are the suggesting of alternatives without making a commitment to either or any:  •I am not sure whether to side with those who say that higher taxes reduce inflation or with those who say that higher taxes increase inflation.  •I have never been able to decide whether I really approve of dress codes, because extremism seems to reign both with them and without them.

89. Aposiopesis: stopping abruptly and leaving a statement unfinished:  •If they use that section of the desert for bombing practice, the rock hunters will--.  •I've got to make the team or I'll--.

90. Assonance: similar vowel sounds repeated in successive or proximate words containing different consonants:  •A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. --Matthew 5:14b (KJV)   •Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. --Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

91. Asyndeton consists of omitting conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses. In a list of items, asyndeton gives the effect of unpremeditated multiplicity, of an extemporaneous rather than a labored account:   On his return he received medals, honors, treasures, titles, fame.  The lack of the "and" conjunction gives the impression that the list is perhaps not complete. Compare: She likes pickles, olives, raisins, dates, pretzels.  She likes pickles, olives, raisins, dates, and pretzels.

92. Catachresis is an extravagant, implied metaphor using words in an alien or unusual way. While difficult to invent, it can be wonderfully effective:  I will speak daggers to her. --Hamlet [In a more futuristic metaphor, we might say, "I will laser-tongue her." Or as a more romantic student suggested, "I will speak flowers to her."]  One way to write catachresis is to substitute an associated idea for the intended one (as Hamlet did, using "daggers" instead of "angry words"): "It's a dentured lake," he said, pointing at the dam. "Break a tooth out of that grin and she will spit all the way to Duganville."

93. Chiasmus might be called "reverse parallelism," since the second part of a grammatical construction is balanced or paralleled by the first part, only in reverse order. Instead of an A,B structure (e.g., "learned unwillingly") paralleled by another A,B structure ("forgotten gladly"), the A,B will be followed by B,A ("gladly forgotten"). So instead of writing, "What is learned unwillingly is forgotten gladly," you could write, "What is learned unwillingly is gladly forgotten." Similarly, the parallel sentence, "What is now great was at first little," could be written chiastically as, "What is now great was little at first." Here are some examples:  He labors without complaining and without bragging rests.    Polished in courts and hardened in the field, Renowned for conquest, and in council skilled. --Joseph Addison     •For the Lord is a Great God . . . in whose hand are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are his also. --Psalm 95:4 
Chiasmus is easiest to write and yet can be made very beautiful and effective simply by moving subordinate clauses around:  If you come to them, they are not asleep; if you ask and inquire of them, they do not withdraw themselves; they do not chide if you make mistakes; they do not laugh at you if you are ignorant. --Richard de Bury

94. Conduplicatio 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.  If this is the first time duty has moved him to act against his desires, he is a very weak man indeed. Duty should be cultivated and obeyed in spite of its frequent conflict with selfish wishes.

95. Diacope: repetition of a word or phrase after an intervening word or phrase:  We will do it, I tell you; we will do it.  •We give thanks to Thee, 0 God, we give thanks . . . . --Psalm 75:1 (NASB)

96. Distinctio is an explicit reference to a particular meaning or to the various meanings of a word, in order to remove or prevent ambiguity.  To make methanol for twenty-five cents a gallon is impossible; by "impossible" I mean currently beyond our technological capabilities.

97. Enthymeme is an informally-stated syllogism which omits either one of the premises or the conclusion. The omitted part must be clearly understood by the reader. The usual form of this logical shorthand omits the major premise:  Since your application was submitted before April 10th, it will be considered. [Omitted premise: All applications submitted before April 10 will be considered.]   •He is an American citizen, so he is entitled to due process. [All American citizens are entitled to due process.]

98. Epanalepsis repeats the beginning word of a clause or sentence at the end. The beginning and the end are the two positions of strongest emphasis in a sentence, so by having the same word in both places, you call special attention to it: Water alone dug this giant canyon; yes, just plain water.  •To report that your committee is still investigating the matter is to tell me that you have nothing to report.

99. Epithet is an adjective or adjective phrase appropriately qualifying a subject (noun) by naming a key or important characteristic of the subject, as in "laughing happiness," "sneering contempt," "untroubled sleep," "peaceful dawn," and "lifegiving water." Sometimes a metaphorical epithet will be good to use, as in "lazy road," "tired landscape," "smirking billboards," "anxious apple." Aptness and brilliant effectiveness are the key considerations in choosing epithets. Be fresh, seek striking images, pay attention to connotative value.  A transferred epithet is an adjective modifying a noun which it does not normally modify, but which makes figurative sense:  At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth of thieves and murderers . . . . --George Herbert

100. Epistrophe (also called antistrophe) forms the counterpart to anaphora, because the repetition of the same word or words comes at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences:  Where affections bear rule, there reason is subdued, honesty is subdued, good will is subdued, and all things else that withstand evil, for ever are subdued. --Wilson     •And all the night he did nothing but weep Philoclea, sigh Philoclea, and cry out Philoclea. --Philip Sidney     •You will find washing beakers helpful in passing this course, using the gas chromatograph desirable for passing this course, and studying hours on end essential to passing this course.      •Epistrophe is an extremely emphatic device because of the emphasis placed on the last word in a phrase or sentence. If you have a concept you wish to stress heavily, then epistrophe might be a good construction to use. The danger as usual lies in this device's tendency to become too rhetorical

101. Epizeuxis: repetition of one word (for emphasis): The best way to describe this portion of South America is lush, lush, lush.   •What do you see? Wires, wires, everywhere wires.

102. False dilemma: reducing a complex problem into an either/or choice. This is a fallacy when there are more than two choices.

103. Freewriting: a technique for generating ideas. It usually takes place during a fixed amount of time.

104. Hendiadys: use of two words connected by a conjunction, instead of subordinating one to the other, to express a single complex idea:  It sure is nice and cool today! (for "pleasantly cool"); I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Psalms 116

105. Hypallage: ("exchanging") transferred epithet; grammatical agreement of a word with another word which it does not logically qualify. More common in poetry.

106. Hyperbaton includes several rhetorical devices involving departure from normal word order. One device, a form of inversion, might be called delayed epithet, since the adjective follows the noun. If you want to amplify the adjective, the inversion is very useful:  From his seat on the bench he saw the girl content-content with the promise that she could ride on the train again next week.

107. 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:  There is a striking and basic difference between a man's ability to imagine something and an animal's failure. . . . Where is it that the animal falls short? We get a clue to the answer, I think, when Hunter tells us . . . --Jacob Bronowski;  What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?. . . What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God. --Rom. 4:1,3 (NIV)

108. Hypotaxis: using subordination to show the relationship between clauses or phrases (and hence the opposite of parataxis):  They asked the question because they were curious.

109. Hysteron Proteron ("later-earlier"): inversion of the natural sequence of events, often meant to stress the event which, though later in time, is considered the more important: Put on your shoes and socks!

110. Litotes, a particular form of understatement, is generated by denying the opposite or contrary of the word which otherwise would be used. Depending on the tone and context of the usage, litotes either retains the effect of understatement, or becomes an intensifying expression. Compare the difference between these statements: Heat waves are common in the summer.  •Heat waves are not rare in the summer.

111. Metabasis consists of a brief statement of what has been said and what will follow. It might be called a linking, running, or transitional summary, whose function is to keep the discussion ordered and clear in its progress: Such, then, would be my diagnosis of the present condition of art. I must now, by special request, say what I think will happen to art in the future. --Kenneth Clark

112. Metanoia (correctio) qualifies a statement by recalling it (or part of it) and expressing it in a better, milder, or stronger way. A negative is often used to do the recalling:  Fido was the friendliest of all St. Bernards, nay of all dogs.  The chief thing to look for in impact sockets is hardness; no, not so much hardness as resistance to shock and shattering.

113. Neologism: a new word, a word coined recently thus not established in use. A new use for an old word.

114. Paraprosdokian: surprise or unexpected ending of a phrase or series: He was at his best when the going was good. Alistair Cooke on the Duke of Windsor; There but for the grace of God -- goes God. Churchill

115. Parataxis: writing successive independent clauses, with coordinating conjunctions, or no conjunctions: We walked to the top of the hill, and we sat down.  •In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. --Genesis 1:1-2 (KJV)   •The Starfish went into dry-dock, it got a barnacle treatment, it went back to work.

116. Parenthesis, a final form of hyperbaton, consists of a word, phrase, or whole sentence inserted as an aside in the middle of another sentence: But the new calculations--and here we see the value of relying upon up-to-date information--showed that man-powered flight was possible with this design.

117. Pleonasm: using more words than required to express an idea; being redundant. Normally a vice, it is done on purpose on rare occasions for emphasis: We heard it with our own ears.  •And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus Himself alone. --Matthew 17:8

118. Polysyndeton is the use of a conjunction between each word, phrase, or clause, and is thus structurally the opposite of asyndeton. The rhetorical effect of polysyndeton, however, often shares with that of asyndeton a feeling of multiplicity, energetic enumeration, and building up: They read and studied and wrote and drilled. I laughed and played and talked and flunked.   Use polysyndeton to show an attempt to encompass something complex.

119. Procatalepsis, by anticipating an objection and answering it, permits an argument to continue moving forward while taking into account points or reasons opposing either the train of thought or its final conclusions. Often the objections are standard ones: It is usually argued at this point that if the government gets out of the mail delivery business, small towns like Podunk will not have any mail service. The answer to this can be found in the history of the Pony Express . . .

120. Prolepsis: the anticipation, in adjectives or nouns, of the result of the action of a verb; also, the positioning of a relative clause before its antecedent: Consider the lilies of the field how they grow.

121. Scesis Onomaton emphasizes an idea by expressing it in a string of generally synonymous phrases or statements. While it should be used carefully, this deliberate and obvious restatement can be quite effective: We succeeded, we were victorious, we accomplished the feat!  •Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that deal corruptly. --Isaiah 1:4    Scesis onomaton does have a tendency to call attention to itself and to be repetitive, so it is not used in formal writing as frequently as some other devices. But if well done, it is both beautiful and emphatic.

122. Symploce: combining anaphora and epistrophe, so that one word r phrase is repeated at the beginning and another word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences: To think clearly and rationally should be a major goal for man; but to think clearly and rationally is always the greatest difficulty faced by man.

123. Tautology: repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence: With malice toward none, with charity for all. A. Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address

124. Warrant: an assumption or general principle that establishes a connection between the evidence and the claim.

125. Zeugma includes several similar rhetorical devices, all involving a grammatically correct linkage (or yoking together) of two or more parts of speech by another part of speech. Thus examples of zeugmatic usage would include one subject with two (or more) verbs, a verb with two (or more) direct objects, two (or more) subjects with one verb, and so forth. The main benefit of the linking is that it shows relationships between ideas and actions more clearly.  In one form (prozeugma), the yoking word precedes the words yoked. So, for example, you could have a verb stated in the first clause understood in the following clauses: Pride opresseth humility; hatred love; cruelty compassion. --Peacham  •Fred excelled at sports; Harvey at eating; Tom with girls.  •Alexander conquered the world; I, Minneapolis.


For the complete listing with full examples go to http://www.virtualsalt.com/rhetoric.htm


Another site with rhetorical devices is:


(This is Ms. Rambach's site; what I have assembled above is from both sites)

 Wordiness Handout: