Public Speaking is a combination of several skills, these
are the skills that we are not necessarily born with, but arguably anyone can
learn and excel.
Whether it’s presenting yourself for a job opportunity,
outlining big ideas to colleagues, training staff, or going bigger and stepping
onto a stage; your brother’s wedding or an audience of thousands. Everything
you need to know about preparing and delivering an outstanding speech or verbal
delivery of any kind can be learned and develop with us in a safe and friendly
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Effective communication is essential
to be able to inspire, influence and persuade your audience either one-on-one
or more significant audience. There are tools identified, developed and used to
develop those skills.
The word “canon” is most commonly used
in music to describe a piece in which a melody is introduced in different parts
successively, or in an expression like “the canon of literature”: a collection
of books which comprise a set such as Scripture or the Great Books.
means “a general rule”, “law”, or “principle.”
Rhetoric is the third liberal art, the
top of the trivium, the noble art of persuasion, a skill in the tradition of
Plato and Paul, Cicero and Augustine, which since ancient times has been practised
and applied for noble (as well as ignoble) purposes. From ancient times up
through the early 20th century, most believed learning the art of rhetoric was
a noble pursuit and considered it an essential element of a well-rounded
education. While some saw rhetoric as a vital tool to teach truth more
effectively and as a weapon to protect themselves from those who argued
unfairly and for nefarious purposes, others see rhetoric as the manipulation of
truth or associate it with an overly fastidious concern with how things are
said over what is said.
is simply the art of persuasion through effective speaking and writing.
There are two different views on the teaching
of the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric).
The first group argues that;
When children are young, they can memorise quickly
(“poll-parrot”), so give them lots of memorisation to develop their grammar;
When children are a bit older and inevitably
begin to argue (“pert”), teach them logic so they can argue well;
When teenage students have enough knowledge
and skill, they will wax creative (“poetic”), so we should cultivate
eloquence—how to recognise and understand beautiful language as well as how to
write and speak skillfully.
The other group argues that we cannot
follow this “stages of development” approach, lest analytical grammar becomes a
bane to the elementary school student, logic without meaningful application
become a tedious exercise to the middle school student, rhetoric becomes the
exclusive domain of the high school student. Therefore, the skills of the
trivium should be learned and refined throughout one’s life and in parallel.
The Five Canons of Rhetoric give us
five general principles, or divisions, which, when we come to understand and
apply them, will make our communication more effective. Therefore, you can use “five
principles of persuasion” or “five principles of effective communication.” These
principles are commonly known as;
The process of developing and refining
The invention, according to Aristotle,
involves “discovering the best available means of persuasion.” It may sound
simple, but Invention is possibly the most challenging phase in crafting a
speech or piece of writing as it lays the groundwork for all the other phases;
you must start from nothing to build the framework of your piece. During the
Invention phase, the goal is to brainstorm ideas on what you’re going to say
and how you’re going to say it in order to maximise persuasion. Any good orator
or writer will tell you they probably spend more time in the Invention step
than they do any of the others.
So, what sorts of things should you be
thinking about during the Invention phase? Without some direction and guidance,
brainstorming can often be fruitless and frustrating. There are four key things
to consider during this stage:
Audience: One of
the key factors in crafting a persuasive piece of rhetoric is tailoring your
message to your specific audience. If you identify the needs and desires of
your audience, it will help you to determine which means of persuasion would be
the most effective to employ.
could be facts, statistics, laws, and individual testimonies. It’s always good
to have a nice blend, as you can persuade different audiences by different
types of evidence. Therefore, getting to know your audience is figuring out
what kinds of evidence they will find most credible and compelling is essential.
of persuasion: You probably heard three means of persuasion from Aristoteles; pathos
(emotion), logos (logic) and ethos (credibility). Again, it would help if you
determined, which means of persuasion fits best for your audience. Ideally,
you’d have a nice mixture of all three, but again, different audiences will be
better persuaded by different appeals.
Timing: Duration of
your speech is essential; in some cases, a long, well-developed, and nuanced
speech is appropriate; other times, a shorter, and more dynamic presentation
will be more effective. It depends on your audience and the context of your
It takes time to develop an idea, or
subject for your speech, do not force yourself to speed up this stage. Once you
have a clear idea of your speech, then you need to develop this raw idea and
organising it into a solid storyline of building your argument. Ancient rhetoricians
develop and a natural structure to create a compelling case which called
Stasis is a
procedure designed to help a rhetorician develop and clarify the main points of
his case. Stasis consists of four types of questions a speaker asks himself.
of fact: What is it exactly that I’m talking about? Is it a person? An
idea? A problem? Does it really exist? What’s the source of the problem? Are
there facts to support the truth of this opinion?
of definition: What’s the best way to define this idea/object/action? What are
the different parts? Can it be grouped with similar ideas/objects/actions?
of quality: Is it good or bad? Is it right or wrong? Is it frivolous or
of procedure/jurisdiction: Is this the right venue to discuss this
topic? What actions do I want my reader/listener to take?
These questions may sound completely
elementary, but trust me, when you’re struggling to get your mind around an
idea for a speech or writing theme, stasis has an almost magical way of
focusing your thinking and helping you develop your argument.
The process of arranging and organising
your arguments for maximum impact.
The arrangement is simply the organisation
of a speech or text to ensure maximum persuasion. Classical rhetoricians
divided a speech into six different parts. They are:
of Facts (narratio)
If you’ve taken debate or philosophy
classes, you’ve probably seen this format for organising a speech or paper.
a) Introduction: There are
two aspects of an effective introduction: 1) introducing your topic and 2)
Your introduction is crucial for the
success of your speech; your audience will determine whether your speech is
worth listening to in the first few seconds. Therefore, I would suggest starting
your speech by telling a captivating story that draws your audience in and
engages them emotionally.
You have to establish your credibility
by using ethos rules to appeal to your character or reputation to persuade your
audience. Remember, it doesn’t matter how logical your argument is if people
don’t think you’re trustworthy or a credible source, you’ll have no chance to influence
of Facts: The statement of facts is the background information needed to
get your audience up to speed on the history of your issue. The goal is to
provide enough information for your audience to understand the context of your
argument. If your rhetoric is seeking to persuade people to adopt a specific
course of action, you must first convince the audience that there really is a
problem that needs to be addressed. Things to remember, do not just give some
facts and numbers, make your audience to listen by creating a compelling story.
c) Division: After
stating your facts, the most effective way to transition into your argument is
with a partition: a summary of the cases you’re about to make. The division is
your audience’s roadmap; you will take them on a journey of logic and emotion,
so give them an idea of where they are going, so it’s easier to follow you. As an
example, “I have three points to make tonight.”
d) Proof: The proof is the body of your speech; you need
to construct logical arguments that your audience can understand and follow. Your
evidence should relate back to the facts you mentioned in your statement of
facts to back up what you say. If you’re suggesting a course of action, you
want to convince people that your solution is the best one for resolving the
problem you just described.
e) Refutation: It might
be surprising, but when you crafted a strong and convincing argument of your
case, you need to highlight the weaknesses in your argument to your audience. This
tactic would seem to be counterproductive, sharing the gaps of your arguments
will actually make you more persuasive in two ways.
First, it gives you a chance to pre-emptively
answer any counterarguments an opposing side may bring up and resolve any
doubts your audience might be harbouring. Bringing up weaknesses before your
opponent or audience takes the bite out of a coming counterargument.
Second, highlighting the weaknesses in
your argument is an effective use of ethos. No one likes a know-it-all. Recognising
that your case isn’t iron-clad is an easy way to gain the sympathy and trust of
f) Conclusion: The goal
of your conclusion is, to sum up, your argument as forcefully and as memorable
as possible. If you want people to remember what you said, you have to inject
some emotion into your conclusion.
The process of determining how you
present your arguments using figures of speech and other rhetorical techniques.
When we prepare to give persuasive
speeches, the focus is usually on what we are going to say. While it’s essential
that you have something substantive to say, it’s also important how you present
your ideas. The canon of style will help you present your ideas and arguments
so people will want to listen to you.
Five virtues of style developed by Aristoteles
followers would help you to deliver your message in style:
a) Correctness: An effective speaker uses words correctly and follows the rules of grammar and syntax for clear and precise communication. Most importantly, correctly using language establishes credibility (ethos) with an audience because it indicates the speaker or writer is well-educated, understands the nuances of language, and pays attention to details.
b) Clarity: Many people think to be persuasive they need to “look smart” by using big words and complex sentence structures. The reality is that the simpler you write, the more intelligent you seem to others. It’s hard to be persuasive when people can’t even understand what you’re trying to say. A couple of quick tips:
Use strong verbs. Avoid is,
are, was, were, be, being, been. So instead of saying “Diane was killed by
Jim,” say, “Jim killed Diane.” Shorter, clearer, and punchier.
Keep average sentence length to about 20
words. Ideas can get lost in super-long sentences.
Keep paragraphs short. Shoot for
an average of five to six sentences a paragraph. Ideally, each paragraph should
contain just one idea.
c) Evidence: Most people are persuaded more by emotion (pathos) than by logic (logos). One of the best ways to elicit an emotional response from people is to appeal to their physical senses by using vivid descriptions.
For example, let’s say you’re making
the case to your state legislator that your state needs to devote more funds
towards fighting childhood hunger. Instead of starting your speech or letter by
spouting off a bunch of dry facts, it would be more persuasive to tell a story
of a specific child who’s a victim of hunger. In your story, describe the
conditions this child is living in–the smells, the sights, the sounds. Describe
the pangs of hunger that gnaw on his stomach every night while he lies crying
softly, curled in ball on a urine-soaked mattress.
Who wouldn’t want to help this kid?
That’s the quality of evidence in action.
d) Propriety: Propriety means saying the right thing, at the right place, at the right time. It is the quality of style that determines which words could be fit for purpose and appropriate for the specific audience or occasion.
e) Ornateness: It involves making your speech enjoyable to listen by using figures of speech and manipulating the sound and rhythm of words. Classical rhetoricians focused on incorporating different figures of speech to decorate their statements. Here is an example of using Alliteration by Bill Clinton;
“Somewhere at this very moment, a
child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child a Happy
Home, a Healthy family, and a Hopeful future.” — Bill
Clinton, 1992 Democratic National Convention Acceptance Address
The process of learning and memorising
your speech so you can deliver it without the use of notes. Memory-work not
only consisted of memorising the words of a specific speech, but also storing
up famous quotes, literary references, and other facts that could be used in
When people know that a speaker constantly
needs his notes for his speech, it weakens their credibility and the confidence
the audience has in the speaker’s authenticity. Also, notes put distance
between the speaker and the audience. The ancients called memory “the
furnishing of the mind”; one may have a million-dollar mansion, but without
beautiful and useful furniture, it is somewhat useless.
Which one you would prefer; a man with
his nose buried in his notes, reading them behind a lectern or the one who
seemed like he was giving his speech from the heart and who engaged the
audience visually with eye contact and natural body language? It pays to memorise
as St. Basil said, is “the cabinet of the imagination, the treasury of reason,
the registry of conscience, and the council chamber of thought.”
For our communication to be truly
persuasive and effective, we need to ensure that our audience remembers what
we’ve communicated to them. The first step in getting people to remember what
you’ve said is to have something interesting to say.
Once you’ve formulated a compelling
message, follow the basic pattern discussed in the canon of arrangement to make
your speech easy to follow. Give a solid introduction where you set out clearly
what you plan on sharing with your audience. As an example, “I have three
points to make tonight; inspiration, persuasion and leadership.”
Throughout your speech, stop and give
your audience a roadmap of where you’re at in your speech. If you’ve just
finished the first part of your speech, say something like, “We’ve just covered
inspiration. We’ll now move on to my second point, persuasion.” This constant
reviewing of where you’ve been and where you have left to go will help burn the
main points of your speech into the minds of your audience. Use compelling
stories, anecdotes and quotes to add credibility and connect your audience with
The process of practising how you
deliver your speech using gestures, pronunciation, and tone of voice.
Similar to the canon of style, the
canon of delivery is concerned with how something is said. While the canon of
style focuses primarily on what sort of language you use, delivery focuses on
the mechanics of how you impart your message such as body language, eye
contact, hand gestures and how you use your tone of voice during the speech.
Here are a few key tips for increasing
the effectiveness of your oratorical delivery:
pause. The key with a pause is timing; use it only in spots where it
will be effective places where you really want to highlight what comes after
body language. When you’re speaking, your voice isn’t the only thing talking.
Your body is also communicating. Your posture, head tilt, and the way you walk
on stage all convey a message. Some occasions may require a formal while other
occasions will require a more laid back approach.
tone. Nothing will put your audience to sleep faster than a flat and monotonous
voice regardless of the content of the speech. Use inflexions to reveal that
you’re asking a question, being sarcastic, or conveying excitement.
gestures flow naturally. Let your hands flow naturally inline with
your speech and message. If you use it effectively, hand gestures can give
added emphasis to your words. Otherwise, you might lose credibility.
speed with your emotion. How fast or slow you speak can affect the
emotion you’re trying to convey. There are six different speech speeds and the
corresponding emotions they’re meant to elicit;
Very slow: use to express the strongest and
force of your voice. Playing with the strength and weakness of
your voice will allow you to express different emotions. You can express anger,
ferocity and seriousness with a strong and loud voice or a softer voice can
convey reverence and humility. Varying the force of your voice can also help
draw listeners into your speech.
Enunciate. It’s easy
to trip over your tongue and slur words together when you’re speaking in
public. But really focus on enunciating your words as this will make you easier
to understand. You can use articulation practices by using tongue twisters.
As an example, if you want to target “s”
and “sh” sounds, say the following tongue twister three times; start slowly and
slightly increase your speed each time.
“The sun was shining on Sharon Street,
where I saw Shane and Sarah sitting near the shoe shop.”
audience in the eye. When you look people in the eye, you make a
connection. You cannot possibly look an entire audience in a big meeting room,
in this case, adapting “W” or “M” method could be very useful; While you are
delivering your speech, scan the entire audience naturally while you are
drawing invisible “M” or “W” word. Maintain contact for a few seconds. If it’s
too short, you’ll seem nervous and shifty. If you look too long, you’ll start
creeping people out.
I hope you find this article useful, by understanding the Five Canons, you can see how each of these fundamental components can help you to develop a lifelong aptitude for effective writing and speaking—hopefully communicating the truth winsomely and persuasively in a world that so desperately needs it.
Rhetorical devices are as useful in writing or public
speaking as they are in life. Also known as persuasive devices, stylistic
devices, or just rhetoric, rhetorical
devices are techniques or language used to convey a point or convince an
audience. Moreover, they’re used by
everyone — politicians, businesspeople, and even, you guessed it, your favourite novelists.
You may already know some of them: similes, metaphors,
onomatopoeia. Others, maybe not (bdelygmia, we’re talking to you). However, at the end of the day, you’ve probably
run into all of these devices some time or another. Perhaps, you’ve even used
them yourself. Moreover, if you haven’t,
don’t let their fancy Greek names fool
you — they’re pretty easy to implement, too. However,
before you dive in, let’s identify the different categories of rhetorical
devices out there.
Types of Rhetorical
Although there exists plenty of overlap between rhetorical
and literary devices, there’s one significant difference between the two. While
the latter is employed to express ideas
with artistic depth, rhetoric is designed to appeal to one’s sensibilities in
four specific ways:
Logos, an appeal to logic;
Pathos, an appeal
Ethos, an appeal
to ethics; or,
Kairos, an appeal
These categories haven’t changed since the Ancient Greeks
first identified them thousands of years ago. This
makes sense, however, because the ways we make decisions haven’t changed,
either: with our brain, our heart, our morals, or the feeling that we’re
running out of time.
So without further ado, here is a list of rhetorical devices
designed to tug at those strings, and convince a listener to give you what you
want — or a reader to continue reading your book.
List of Rhetorical
Of the hundreds of rhetorical devices currently classified, we’ve compiled 30 of the most useful ones, as well as some examples of these devices in action. Get ready to master the art of rhetoric for yourself, and your audience or readers.
feigning disinterest of something while actually desiring it or the rhetorical
refusal of something you want. Like in
one of Aesop’s Fables:
Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leapt with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked ‘Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes.’ People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves. “
Many rhetorical devices are linguistic tricks that make
statements sound more persuasive, like adnomination:
the repetition of words with the same root in the same sentence. The difference
lies in one sound or letter. A nice euphony can be achieved by using this
This rhetoric is sure to somehow work on someone, somewhere, someday.
He is nobody from nowhere and knows nothing
purposefully hyperbolic metaphors to suggest that something is impossible —
like the classic adage when pigs fly.
Moreover, hyperbole, of course, is a rhetorical device in and of itself: an excessively exaggerated statement for effect. Or in simple terms, Adynaton is the simple art of exaggeration to gain more influence.
the repetition of consonants across successive,
stressed syllables… get it? This most often means repeating consonants at
the beginning of multiple words, as opposed to simple consonance, which is the repetition of consonants regardless of which
syllable they’re placed on.
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven makes use of both: “And the
silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.” “Silken” and “sad” are
alliterative, but the consonance continues into “uncertain” and “rustling.” And as a bonus, it contains assonance — the
repetition of vowel sounds — across “purple curtain.”
Hover through the fog
and filthy air.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair
“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling
dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”
The opening sentence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis is famous
because it ends somewhere entirely different than where it started. This means it is an anacoluthon, used to
challenge a listener or reader to think deeply and question their assumptions.
Anacoluthon is a grammatical interruption or lack of implied
sequence within a sentence. That is, beginning a sentence in a way that implies
a certain logical resolution, but concluding it differently than the grammar
leads one expect. It is an interruption or a verbal lack of symmetry.
Anadiplosis is the repetition of the word from the end of
one sentence to the beginning of the next, and it has been used by everyone from Shakespeare to Yeats to Yoda:
(Source: Lucasfilm Ltd.)
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
On the other hand, anaphora is the repetition of words or
phrases at the beginning of following
sentences. Like in Ginsberg’s Howl — no, not that famous opening line, but
instead the ones that follow it:
“Who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up
smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the
tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw
Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war…”
… and so on for the
next hundred or so lines. Then, there’s epiphora or epistrophe: the repetition
of words at the end of sentences. Moreover,
if you combine both, you’ve got a symploce.
Or from Obama;
“People of the world – look at Berlin!
Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans…
Look at Berlin, where the determination…
Look at Berlin, where the bullets holes…
People of the world – look at Berlin…!
Rhetoric is employed to persuade, convince, or convey — in other words, to get your way. So, it’s only natural that flattery would have its rhetorical device in the form of antanagoge: the inclusion of a compliment and a critique in the same sentence. In simple terms, Antanagoge, to follow a negative point with a positive point.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
I failed my test, but I will pass the next one.
Hurricane Sandy caused a lot of damage, but at least it wasn’t like Katrina.
Anthimeria is the misuse of one word’s part of speech, such
as using a noun for a verb. It’s been around for centuries but is frequently used
in the modern day, where “Facebooking” and “adulting” have seamlessly become
part of the lexicon.
Feel bad? Strike up some music and have a good sing (Verb used as noun)
Antiphrasis is a sentence or phrase that means the opposite
of what it appears to say. Like how the idiom, “Tell me about it” generally
means, “Don’t tell me about it — I already know.” It’s also known by a much more common name: irony.
Antonomasia is, essentially, a rhetorical name. Antonomasia
is a figure of speech that employs a suitable epithet or appellative to cite a
person or thing rather than the original name. Like “Old Blue Eyes,” “The Boss,” or “The Fab
Four” — affectionate epithets that take the place of proper names like Frank
Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, or the Beatles.
You may have noticed by now that a lot of rhetorical devices
are rooted in irony. Apophasis — also known as paralipsis, occupatio, praeteritio, preterition, or parasiopesis — is one of these: bringing up a
subject by denying that it should be brought up. This is a classic if oft-maligned political tactic and one frequently utilised
by the 45th President of the United States, particularly in his interesting tweets. For example:
“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I
would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’”
Aporia is the eloquent
expression of the doubt — almost always
insincerely. This is a common tool used
by businesses to connect with a consumer base, particularly when regarding new
inventions that might be met with a
“To be or not to be; that is
the question” or
For instance, take
Steve Jobs’ introduction of touchscreen technology:
“Now, how are we gonna communicate this? We don’t wanna carry around a mouse, right? What are we gonna do?”
Aposiopesis is essentially the rhetorical version of
trailing off at the end of your sentence, leaving your listener (or reader)
hanging. Like the ending of Mercutio’s famous “Queen Mab” speech in Romeo &
“This is the hag, when
maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she—”
Or in simple: “If you do that again, I will…”
Asterismos is simply a
phrase beginning with an exclamation. A word that gives weight or draws
attention to the words that follow. Like every other sentence in Moby-Dick:
“Book! You lie there; the fact is, your
books must know your places.” But if no
sentence follows, it’s exclamatio: an explicit expression like “My word!” that
warrants no follow-up.
If you’ve ever removed conjunctions like “or,” “and,” or
“but” from your writing because the sentence flowed better without them, you’ve
This is a favourite of Cormac McCarthy, like in this
passage from Outer Dark: “A parson was labouring over the crest of the hill and coming
toward them with one hand raised in blessing, greeting
fending flies.” And like most of the
enigmatic author’s preferred rhetoric, it is almost intentionally confusing —
whether the parson is blessing or
greeting or swatting flies is never clarified. Alternatively, he also makes
extensive use of polysyndeton: the intentional use of conjunctions to affect
sentence flow, like replacing commas with the word “and.”
“The car crashed, exploded, burned, melted”
“In the cave there was a bear, a puppy, a tiger, a moose”
“I came, I saw, I conquered”
“The government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” A. Lincoln
Befitting its ugly spelling, bdelygmia or abominatio is a rhetorical insult — the uglier
and more elaborate, the better. Like most rhetorical devices, Shakespeare was a
big fan. So was Dr. Seuss:
“You’re a foul one, Mr.
Grinch; You’re a nasty wasty skunk, Your heart is full of unwashed
socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr.
Grinch. The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
‘Stink, stank, stunk!’”
“I’ve got a staff meeting to go to and so do you, you elitist, Harvard, fascist, missed-the-dean’s-list-two-semesters-in-a-row Yankee jackass”
Cacophony is one of the most loosely defined devices out
there — simply, it is the use of words that sound bad together. That probably
sounds pretty ambiguous, until you remember that Lewis Carroll invented words for
his poem “Jabberwocky” just to make it
sound harsh and unmelodious:
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
And it goes hand in
hand with euphony — the use of words that sound good together, like this
passage from an Emily Dickinson poem:
“Oars divide the Ocean, / Too silver for a seam.”
“There will be a time when you believe everything is
That will be the beginning” Louise L’Amor
A Sentence in which two words in the first half are criss-crossed
in the second half. “Despised, if ugly; if she’s fair, betrayed.” This excerpt
from Mary Leapor’s Essay on Woman is a great
example of chiasmus: the reversal of grammatical structure across two phrases,
without repeating any words. So, no, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” does not
count. Rather, that is antimetabole: the repetition of words or phrases in
reverse grammatical order to suggest logical truth… even if it’s infallic. Ask
not what rhetorical devices can do for you. Ask what you can do for rhetorical
“All for one, and one for all” The Three Musketeers
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do
for your country” JFK
The turning point in the story. The main character may learn
something new, a change takes place, now the conflict can be addresses. Narrative
arcs aren’t just for novels. Sentences can have a climax, too — the initial
words and clauses build to a peak, saving the most important point for last.
We’ve been using climaxes rhetorically since at least Corinthians:
“There are three things that
will endure: faith, hope, and love. But
the greatest of these is love.”
It is also a figure of speech in which series of words, phrases
or ideas is arranged in an ascending order of importance or emphasis.
“We’ll hear him, we’ll follow him, we’ll die with him”
Dysphemism is a description that is explicitly offensive to
its subject, or, perhaps, even its audience. It stands in contrast to a
euphemism, which is implicitly offensive or suggestive. Basically, a dysphemism
is a word or phrase people use to make something or someone sound negative, bad
and unlikeable. Most racial epithets started as the latter, but are recognised today as the former.
To make it more understandable; A euphemism is a figure of
speech that makes something bad sound good and a dysphemism is a figure of
speech that makes something sound bad or worse that it really is. This is the
Any verbal effort to make something or person less
significant than really is, is a form of meiosis. So, if you’ve ever
understated something before, that’s meiosis — like the assertion that Britain
is “across the pond” from the Americas. The opposite — rhetorical exaggeration
— is called auxesis.
“Not bad” for an excellent performance
“I guess they like each other” upon seeing a couple kissing
“One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day”
Wham! Pow! Crunch! These are all examples of onomatopoeia, a
word for a sound that phonetically resembles the sound itself. Which means the finale of the 1966 Batman is the most
onomatopoeic film scene of all time.
A pig grunts or goes “Oink! Oink””
A strong wind groans or cries “Whoo, whoo, whoo!”
It’s a lot easier for humans to understand a concept when
it’s directly related to them. And since
rhetoric is used to convey your point more effectively, there’s naturally a
rhetorical device for that: personification, which assigns human characteristics
to an abstract concept.
Personification is present in almost all forms of literature, especially mythology, where concepts like war, love, and wisdom are given humanity in the form of gods such as Ares, Venus, Saraswati. But anthropomorphism, which assigns human characteristics to animals, is almost as common, in everything from Peter Rabbit and Winnie-the-Pooh to The Hobbit and Watership Down.
Did you know that being redundant can be rhetorically
useful? Certain words are so overused that they’ve lost meaning — darkness, nice, etc.
However, “black darkness” or “pleasantly nice” reinvigorate that meaning, even
if the phrases are technically redundant. Redundant phrases like these are
called pleonasms, and they are persuasively rhetorical.
Some of the most prevalent
rhetorical devices are figures of speech that compare one thing to another. Two
of these, you surely know: the simile and
the metaphor. But there is a third,
hypocatastasis, that is just as common… also, useful.
The distinctions between the three are pretty simple. A
simile compares two things explicitly: “You are like a monster.” A metaphor
compares them by asserting that they’re the same: “You are a monster.” And with hypocatastasis, the comparison itself
is implied: “Monster!”
You’ve probably heard of a rhetorical question, too: a question asked to make a point rather than to be answered. Technically, this figure of speech is called interrogatio, but there are plenty of other rhetorical devices that take the form of questions.
If you pose a rhetorical question to answer it yourself,
that’s anthypophora (or hypophora… they
mean the same thing). And if your
rhetorical question infers or asks for a broad
audience’s opinion (“Friends, Romans, countrymen […] Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?”), that’s anacoenosis — though it
generally doesn’t warrant an answer, either. Some sample questions;
“Why are we here”
“What are you, insane”
“How can we expect him to give more than we ourselves are willing to give”
Synecdoche, meaning simultaneous understanding. You know how
a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square? If you
referred to all rectangles as “squares,” you’d have a synecdoche: a rhetorical
device in which part of one thing is used to represent its whole. This
differs slightly from metonymy, which refers to one thing by something related
to it that is nevertheless not part of it. If you referred to an old king as
“greybeard,” that would be the former. If you referred to him as “the crown,”
it would be the latter. As an example:
The word “coke” means carbonated drink and people could
easily understand for Coca-Cola or Pepsi
The word “Kleenex” is the universal word for anything you blow your nose on.
Have you ever, in a fit of outrage, referred to something
un-effing-believable? If you have, congratulations on discovering a
surprisingly useful rhetorical device: tmesis, the separation of one word into
two parts, with a third word placed in between for emphasis.
Zeugma often used synonymously with syllepsis, is a grammatical trick that can be used rhetorically as well: placing two nouns with very different meanings in the same position in a sentence. Mark Twain was a master at this:
“They covered themselves with dust and glory.”
This might feel a bit
like a list of fancy names for things you already do. If so, that’s great!
You’re already well on your way to mastering the art of rhetoric. And, now that you know the specifics, you can
take the next step: implementing it in your writing and public speaking swaying
your audience onto your side.