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Rhetorical Devices
Based on a handout from Mrs Kim's class

The following devices are used to make writing more persuasive, to encourage readers and listeners to agree with the author. You should know the definitions of these elements, be able to recognize these elements, and use these devices effectively in your own writing.

Alliteration: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in sequence.
Let us go forth to lead the land we love. --J F Kennedy, Inaugural Address

Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or lines.
We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. --Churchill

Antistrophe (an tis' struh fee): 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

Antithesis: opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.
- Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is on virtue. --Barry Goldwater
- Brutus: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Apostrophe: a sudden turn from the general audience to address a specific group or person or personified abstraction absent or present.
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him. --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Chiasmus (kee az' muss): two corresponding pairs arranged not in parallels, but in inverted order (a-b-b-a); from shape of the greek letter chi (X).
- Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my prayers always. --MacArthur
- What is learned unwillingly is gladly forgotten.
- One should eat to live, not live to eat.

Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.
- Collateral damage
- She passed away

Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect.
- There are a thousand reasons why more research is needed on solar energy.
- This stuff is used motor oil compared to the coffee you make, my love.

Irony: expression of something which is contrary to the intended meaning; you say one thing but mean another.
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man. --Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Metonymy (meh ton' i me): substitution of one word or phrase for another, which it suggests.
- He is a man of the cloth.
- The pen is mightier than the sword.
- By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread.

Synecdoche (si nek' duck ee): understanding one thing with another; the use of a part for the whole, or the whole for the part. (A form of metonymy.)
- "The White House said today..."
- I should have been a pair of ragged claws
   Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. --T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Assonance: repetition of the same vowel sound in words close to each other.
- The kingdom come, thy will be done
- Hear the mellow wedding bells... and From the molten-golden notes... (Edgar Allen Poe)

Cacophony: harsh joining of sounds.
We want no parlay with you and your grisly gang who work your wicked will. --Churchill

Onomatopoeia: use of words to imitate natural sounds; accommodation of sound to sense.
- The bee buzzed away, whizzing as he grazed the petals of the blossom.
- In the murky dankness of the darkened cellar...

Oxymoron: apparent paradox achieved by the juxtaposition of words that seem to contradict one another.
- Jumbo shrimp
- Military intelligence
- Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
   heavy lightness, serious vanity;
   Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
   Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health! --Shakespeare

Personification: attribution of personality to an impersonal thing.
- England expects every man to do his duty. --Lord Nelson
- The ship began to creak and protest as it struggled against the rising sea.
- This coffee is strong enough to get up and walk away.

Anecdote: including a personal story or situational example
For instance, when my three-year-old son wants candy but hasn't finished his dinner, I...