Grammar: Rhetorical Device

Posted December 22, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Rhetoric is the art of discourse in which the writer (or speaker) uses different methods to convince, influence, or please an audience.

Rhetorical Devices, Along with Figures of Speech and Word Play, are All Literary Devices

A rhetorical device is used in the art of discourse in which the writer (or speaker) uses different methods to convince, influence, or please an audience. This helps explain why rhetorical devices and figures of speech occasionally swap categories.

A literary device is a linguistic or literary technique that creates specific effects, plots, styles, and more in the overall category for figure of speech, rhetorical device, and word play.

A figure of speech is a specific term and uses words or language that goes beyond its literal interpretation, like simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and more.

Word play is a verbal game of wit and fun that brightens and enhances the reader’s understanding.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Rhetorical Device
Part of Speech: Literary Device
Definition: Used to achieve particular emphasis and effect in speech or in writing aimed at persuading the readers or listeners to the speaker’s point-of-view.

Commonly found in religious sermons, political speeches, and advertising.


Difference between Rhetorical Device and Figures of Speech
While rhetorical device seems very similar to figure of speech, the primary difference is that a rhetorical device does not change the meaning of the sentence while the figure of speech does change its meaning.

Rhetorical Device Figure of Speech
I am never ever going to rob anyone for you and never, never ever give in to your sinful wish. He is a tiger.

He is brave.

Why don’t you leave me alone?
Examples of Rhetorical Device:
How did this idiot get elected? Verbal question to convince others that the “idiot” does not deserve to be elected.
Here comes the Helen of our school. An allusion to “Helen of Troy” to emphasize the beauty of a girl.
I would die if you asked me to sing in front of my parents. Hyperbole to persuade others not to use force to make you do something which you don’t want to do.
All blonde-haired people are dumb. Uses a stereotype to develop a general opinion about a group.
Algoism Definition: An illogical or irrational statement or notion.

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His right eye was black; the left, for some strange reason, green.

Black eyebrows, but one higher that the other.

Anacoluthon Definition: Either a grammatical fault or a stylistic virtue, depending on its use, it begins a sentence in a way that implies a certain logical resolution, but concludes it differently than the grammar leads one to expect. Think of it as a grammatical interruption or a verbal lack of symmetry within a sentence.

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It is characteristic of spoken language or interior thought, and thus suggests that when it occurs in writing.

Brigham Young University

Athletes convicted of drug-related crimes — are they to be forgiven with just a slap on the wrist?
Anadiplosis Definition: The repetition of a word or words in successive clauses in such a way that the second clause starts with the same word which marks the end of the previous clause.

A.k.a., epanastrophe

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When I give, I give myself.

The land of my fathers and my fathers can have it.

“…you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love” – Bible, II Peter 1:5–7

Examples courtesy of Literary

Anapodoton Definition: Occurs when the subordinate clause is incomplete because the main clause:

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  • Trails off
  • Never occurs
  • The speaker interrupts himself/herself to revise the thought, leaving the initial clause grammatically unresolved, but making use of it nonetheless by recasting its content into a new, grammatically complete sentence

Brigham Young University

Anacoenosis Definition: Asking the opinion or judgment of the judges or audience, usually implying their common interest with the speaker in the matter.

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“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could I have done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” – Isaiah 5:3-4

Now I ask you to decide: Given the persecution my client has undergone, does he not deserve to have some justifiable anger?

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University

Anaphora Writers must constantly explore. Writers must want to know all. Writers must read more in the post, “Figure of Speech: Anaphora“.

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If you think I’m going to sit here and take your insults…

When you decide to promote me to manager — when you see more clearly what will benefit this corporation — I will be at your service.

Anastrophe Definition: A scheme in which normal word order is changed for emphasis.

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Anastrophe is also regarded as a simile of hyperbaton.

A.k.a., inversion

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

“Of Man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,
Sing Heav’nly Muse…” – Milton, Paradise Lost
Anthimeria Definition: Substitutes of one part of speech for another, such as a noun used as a verb.

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I’ve been Republicaned all I care to be this election year.

Did you see the way those blockers defenced on that last play?

Feel bad? Strike up some music and have a good sing.

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Anthorism Definition: A description or definition contrary to that which is given by one’s opponent.

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Anthypophora Definition: A reasoning in which one asks and then immediately answers one’s own questions, raises and then settles imaginary objections, or states an opponent’s probable but as yet unstated objection.

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Reasoning aloud.

Anthypophora sometimes takes the form of asking the audience or one’s adversary what can be said on a matter, and thus can involve both anacoenosis and “Figure of Speech: Apostrophe“.

A.k.a., antipophora, hypophora, subjectio, subiectio, rogatio, contradictio, figure of responce

“But there are only three hundred of us,” you object. Three hundred, yes, but men, but armed, but Spartans, but at Thermoplyae: I have never seen three hundred so numerous.” – Seneca

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Anticlimax Bet you’re disappointed that you’ll have to click over to another page to learn more in the post, “Figure of Speech: Anticlimax“.
Antisagoge Definition: Making a concession before making one’s point or using a hypothetical situation or a general rule to illustrate antithetical alternative consequences, typically promises of reward and punishment.

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Yes, it is most difficult to learn languages, but most necessary.

“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” – Deuteronomy 30:15-19

Definition and examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Antistrophe Definition: A rhetorical device that involves the repetition of the same words at the end of consecutive phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs.

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Antistrophe is similar to epistrophe, which also involves the repetition of words at the end of successive clauses or sentences. However, it is opposite to “Figure of Speech: Anaphora“, which is repetition of words at the beginning of sentences or clauses.
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break the bonds of fellowship,
but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day. This day we fight…” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things…” – Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:11

Example courtesy of Literary

Antistrophon Definition: A rhetorical device which turns an argument against the one who advanced it.

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Antithesis Definition: Contrary ideas expressed in a balanced sentence, using a contrast of opposites or a contrast of degree.

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By keeping the structure balanced, it draws in the readers’ attention, and makes antithesis a parallelism of scheme.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech, as when considered as a scheme.
“One small step for a man, one giant leap for all mankind.” A contrast of opposites between “small step” and “giant leap” using a landmark event to emphasize it.
“Evil men fear authority; good men cherish it.” A contrast of opposites.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice. Listen more, talk less.
Man proposes, God disposes. It’s in God’s hands.
Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing. Marriage is a reality that love may not survive.
Speech is silver, but silence is gold. Speaking is good but saying nothing is better.


A contrast of degree in which discretion is shown as being worth more than even eloquent words.

Americans in need are not strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities.” A contrast of degree, stating that Americans who need aren’t recategorized as problems to ignore.
Antimetabole Definition: A verbal pattern which reverses the EXACT SAME words in the sentence: a-b-c, c-b-a.

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It is similar to and sometimes overlaps with chiasmus.

A.k.a., epanados

“Stops static before static stops you.” (Advertising slogan of Bounce fabric softener sheet, 1990s)

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” – Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 1, Scene 1

“Many who are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” Matthew 20:16

“I am stuck on Band-Aid, and Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” (advertising jingle for Band-Aid bandages)

“One should eat to live, not live to eat.”

“You like it; it likes you.”

“Nice to see you … to see you nice.” – Bruce Forsyth’s catchphrase (British TV entertainer)

“I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” – David Foster Wallace

“I flee who chases me, and chase who flees me.” – Ovid

“For ’tis a question left us yet to prove, whether love lead to fortune, or else fortune love.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.” Shakespeare, Hamlet

Examples courtesy of and SoftSchools.

Chiasmus Definition: A verbal pattern in which the grammatical structure of a sentence or phrase is reversed in the following sentence or phrase, but not necessarily using the same words.

It is similar to and sometimes overlaps with antimetabole.

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I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.” – A. J. Liebling

“Women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937

“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.” – Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address

“By day the frolic, and the dance by night.”

Examples courtesy of and SoftSchools.

Aparithmesis Definition: A rhetorical device that is an answer to a proposition.

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Apophasis Definition: A rhetorical device that talks about something without directly mentioning it.

A.k.a., paralipsis, paraleipsis, paralepsis, occupatio, praeteritio, preterition, antiphrasis, parasiopesis

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I’m just going…er…to the…um…little room…back soon.

You know who is doing you know what with you know who else!

He’s not going out with Jane, and not with Susan. But I’m not allowed to say who he is going out with.

Examples courtesy of Changing Minds.

Aposiopesis Definition: The speaker or writer breaks off as if unable to continue due to being overcome by passion, excitement, or fear. It leads the reader into determining his own meanings.

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It’s useful in creating dramatic or comic effects when you want to express ideas which are too overwhelming to finish and make dialogues seem sincere and realistic.

The most effective use is when the readers successfully figure out the missing thoughts that the writer has left unfinished (Literary

Dr. K. Wheeler

“The fire surrounds them while — I cannot go on.”
Audience-Respecting Aposiopesis Definition: Based on the removal of thoughts which are unpleasant to the readers or offensive to the audience.

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“I will have revenges on you both
That all the world shall — I will do such things —
What they are yet, I know not; but they shall be
The terrors of the earth! – Shakespeare, King Lear

King Lear is furious with his daughters and breaks down as he cannot declare a punishment hard enough.

After the suspect… Well, you’ve read the court documents. After the heinous crime was completed, the suspect fled the scene.

Examples courtesy of Literary Terms and Literary

Calculated Aposiopesis Definition: Based on the conflict of missing thought and its opposing force that rejects the substance of that thought. Hence, the idea is removed that is explicitly expressed afterwards.

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Hotspur: O, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue. No, Percy, thou art dust,
And food for —
Prince Hal: For worms, brave Percy: fare thee well, great heart! – Shakespeare, Henry IV

Examples courtesy of Literary

Emotive Aposiopesis Definition: Used in conditions of conflicts between emotional outbursts of a speaker and environment that does not react. Usually, the writer or speaker pauses in the middle of a sentence.

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“O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me,
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me…” – Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

I’m so angry, I could — I could —!

Examples courtesy of Literary Terms and Literary

Emphatic Aposiopesis Definition: Does not give information that the audience wants or expects to receive. This gains the audience’s interest in the information that will later be revealed.

A.k.a., surprising aposiopesis

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On tonight’s newscast, we will begin to discover what happens when two animals become unlikely friends… More on this story on The Evening News at 8.

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary

Transitio Aposiopesis Definition: Removes the ideas from the end part of a speech in order to immediately get the audience interested in the subsequent section.

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“She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud enough for the furniture to hear:
‘Well, I lay if I get hold of you I’ll —’
She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath to punctuate the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat…” – Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

And, in conclusion… Well, enough of that. Let’s move on to the next point.

Examples courtesy of Literary Terms and Literary

Appeals Definition: A persuasive strategy used to enhance the plausibility of one’s argument, support claims, and respond to opposing arguments. A good argument will generally use a combination of all … appeals to make its case (Purdue OWL).

There are four types of persuasion:

  1. Ethos
  2. Kairos
  3. Logos
  4. Pathos
Ethos Definition: A mode of persuasion intended to convince others through the credibility of a persuader to inspire trust.

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It’s one of Aristotle’s artistic proofs.

The other three types of persuasion are:

  1. Kairos
  2. Logos
  3. Pathos
As a doctor, I am qualified to tell you that this course of treatment will likely generate the best results.

If his years as a Marine taught him anything, it’s that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation.

Our expertise in roofing contracting is evidenced not only by our 100 years in the business and our staff of qualified technicians, but in the decades of satisfied customers who have come to expect nothing but the best.

He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government — if anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him.

Based on the dozens of archaeological expeditions I’ve made all over the world, I am confident that those potsherds are Mesopotamian in origin.

If my age doesn’t convince you that my opinion matters, at least consider that I am your grandfather and I love you dearly.

Examples are courtesy of

Kairos Definition: Picking exactly the right time to say or do a particular thing. Think of “the right place and the right time” phrase.

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Another way to think of it is: what is appropriate for the time [period]. Literary provides two great examples:

  1. Decorum, as in what can be said with good manners
    • An anti-American speech on the 4th of July would be rude
  2. Pertinence, as in what is relevant and to the point
    • That same speech would be impertinent and inappropriate with the audience unlikely to listen

Literary Terms did make another good example of times when an “impertinent” speech made at an “inappropriate” time can make a greater impact, i.e., Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, in which King insists on making people understand how urgent it was to end racial discrimination, and his critics thought it wiser to work in the background and change things gradually.

The other three types of persuasion are:

  1. Ethos
  2. Logos
  3. Pathos
With technology beginning to become more personal to the individual, via smartphones and wearable technology, the movie The Matrix delivered its message right at the moment of a genuine revolution in our relationship to technology.

After the Battle of Gettysburg with its horrific losses, Americans needed to believe they were fighting for a higher purpose. Hence Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address making the war a moral quest.

The 2013 film Her deals with issues of isolation, artificial intelligence, and the artificiality of life in a digital world when so many of us are absorbed by our personal technology…and the correspondingly higher rates of depression and loneliness in our society.

Published in 1949, George Orwell’s 1984 came out when the concept of totalitarianism was being explored. Using the story approach made it easier for people to understand the horrors of a totalitarian system at a time just after World War II and the start of the Cold War.

Examples are courtesy of Literary Terms.

Logos Definition: A mode of logical persuasion intended to convince others by employing reason as part of an argument or reasoned discourse in an appeal to emotion.

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It often depends on the use of:

  • Deductive reasoning
    • …begins with a generalization — based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence — and then applies it to a specific case.
  • Inductive reasoning
    • …takes a specific representative case or facts and then draws generalizations or conclusions from them. It must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence, facts you draw on that fairly represent the larger situation or population.

It’s one of Aristotle’s artistic proofs.

The other three types of persuasion are:

  1. Ethos
  2. Kairos
  3. Pathos
Deductive Reasoning
Genetically modified seeds have caused poverty, hunger, and a decline in bio-diversity everywhere they have been introduced, so there is no reason the same thing will not occur when genetically modified corn seeds are introduced in Mexico. The statement starts with a large claim, that “genetically modified seeds have been problematic everywhere”, and from this draws the more localized or specific conclusion that “Mexico will be affected in the same way”.
Inductive Reasoning
Fair trade agreements have raised the quality of life for coffee producers, so fair trade agreements could be used to help other farmers as well. The specific case of fair trade agreements with coffee producers is being used as the starting point for the claim. Because these agreements have worked the author concludes that it could work for other farmers as well.
“The data is perfectly clear: this investment has consistently turned a profit year-over-year, even in spite of market declines in other areas.”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: we have not only the fingerprints, the lack of an alibi, a clear motive, and an expressed desire to commit the robbery… We also have video of the suspect breaking in. The case could not be more open and shut.”

“More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss.”

“History has shown time and again that absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

“You don’t need to jump off a bridge to know that it’s a bad idea. Why then would you need to try drugs to know if they’re damaging? That’s plain nonsense.”

Examples are courtesy of

Pathos Definition: A mode of emotional persuasion intended to appeal to the the audience and inspire pity or sorrow towards a character — typically, it does not counterbalance the target character’s suffering with a positive outcome.

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It’s one of Aristotle’s artistic proofs.

The other three types of persuasion are:

  1. Ethos
  2. Kairos
  3. Logos

Rule: Emotional appeal can be accomplished in a multitude of ways:

  • By a metaphor or storytelling, common as a hook
  • By passion in the delivery of the speech or writing, as determined by the audience
  • Personal anecdote
“Made in the U.S.” stickers on various products make a subtle appeal to patriotism.

Ads encouraging donations, show small children living in pathetic conditions to evoke pity in people to urge them to donate for the cause.

Referring to Germany as the fatherland rallied the Germans into supporting World War II.

There are viable theories that violent games encourage violent tendencies in children.

In Romeo and Juliet, the two main characters each commit suicide at the sight of the supposedly dead lover, however the audience knows these actions to be rash and unnecessary. Therefore, Shakespeare makes for the emotional appeal for the unnecessary tragedy behind the young characters’ rash interpretations about love and life.

Atticism Definition: A rhetorical expression characterized by conciseness and elegance.

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Bathos For details, wander through the post, “Figure of Speech”, descending that grand staircase of the “pathetic” bathos.
Bomphiologia Definition: The speaker brags excessively.

A.k.a., verborum bombus, bombastic

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I know everything.

I am never wrong.

Can you believe how poorly she dresses? She is so lower class.

I make so much more money than you do. In fact, I just bought my son a new Porsche when he got his driver’s license.

Catastasis Definition: That part of a speech, usually the beginning, in which the orator seeks to dispose his hearers to a view of the case favorable to his own side, especially by removing from their minds what might prejudice them against it.

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Macbeth: “I bear a charmed life, which must not yield, / To one of woman born.”

Macduff: “Despair thy charm; / And let the angel whom thou hast served / Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb / Untimely ripp’d (Mills, 267).”

It’s Macduff’s confrontation with Macbeth in which he reveals the witches’ third prophecy about Macbeth not being killed by a man born of woman.

Circumlocution Definition: Ambiguous or roundabout speech that uses many words rather than a few, as it circles around a specific idea:

  • It can be necessary when trying to communicate with someone who speaks another language
  • Its ambiguity means that information can have multiple meanings, be obscure
  • Often used by people with aphasia or learning a new language

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Euphemism
  3. Literary Devices: Innuendo
  4. Equivocation

2 Types of Circumlocution:

  1. Ambage
  2. Periphrasis

A.k.a., circumduction, circumvolution


grandfather the father of one’s father
scissors a tool used for cutting things such as paper and hair
Ambage Definition: Indirect, roundabout, circuitous ways of expressing things.

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Periphrasis Definition: A type of circumlocution using a round-about or indirect expression to convey a meaning which could have been conveyed with a shorter expression or in a few words.

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I am displeased with your behavior. The manner in which you have conducted yourself in my presence of late has caused me to feel uncomfortable and has resulted in my feeling disgruntled and disappointed with you.
I will… I am going to…
Diallage Definition: The consideration of arguments from different viewpoints and then turned to make a single point.

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John says we need to go South. Jane wants to go West. What is important is that we can’t stay here.

If we put up our prices, then revenue may increase but sales will drop. If we put effort into marketing, then we may well more, but margins will be thinner. Maybe we can combine these, funding marketing through an increase in prices.

Examples courtesy of Changing Minds.

Diallelus Definition: A circular argument that can be endlessly questioned.

A.k.a., regress argument

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In what space did God exist before he created the universe?
Dialogism Definition: In prose fiction, words have two meaning, etymological and social, however, it is also about two or more characters speaking in recognizably different voices, and engaging with each other in debating worldviews, rather than affirming a single worldview.

The idea was first brought out by Mikhail Bakhtin in the 1920s.

Bloomsbury Literary Studies

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“Oh, yeah. She’s smart all right.”

Part of a dialogue between two students with the etymological definition of “smart” being quick-witted intelligence and the social meaning intended as sarcasm.

Diasrym Definition: Condemning through faint praise.

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“You’re lucky you got blessed with good genes because you certainly don’t do anything to help.” Petra in Fashionably Dead by
Robyn Peterman

“And, dear, are you sure about the vest?”
“Well, I suppose you know best.”
“You look very nice, but could you straighten your collar?
“Perhaps not the wisest move, but I won’t criticize your choices.
Diatyposis Definition: Recommending useful precepts or advice to someone else.

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“In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.” – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“Think Small.” – Volkswagen slogan

“Look up, laugh loud, talk big, keep the color in your cheek and the fire in your eye, adorn your person, maintain your health, your beauty and your animal spirits.” – William Hazlitt

Examples courtesy of diatyposis (rhetoric).

Dicaeology Definition: Defending oneself in argument by claiming justification.

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Dilemma Definition: in rhetoric, forcing a choice between two equally unfavorable choices.

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Do I stay here for the job security, or do I risk it all for the chance of a better career?

We are faced with two choices, neither of which I like.

“Honey, I was just offered that professorship at Harvard,” he exclaimed.”
“But I thought you wanted the think tank position with DARPA…” she said slowly.

He owes the senator a favor, but his constituency would want the opposite…what choice should he make?

I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

Dilogy Definition: Intentional ambiguousness in which a word is used in an equivocal sense.

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Dinumeration Definition: Numbering of rhetorical points one by one.

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Ecbole Definition: A verbal aside or divergence in which a person utters words of his or her own making.

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Echolalia Definition: Echo-like repetition of another’s words.

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“You’ll never guess! I had dinner at L’Ecole last night.”
“You had dinner at L’Ecole last night!?”
Echopraxia Definition: Echo-like repetition of another’s actions.

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Janie and Helen raise their hands just so, as if it were some kind of ritual. It’s creepy.

Rover howls at the moon for precisely 3.5 seconds every night.

Gene, George, and Geoffrey all hold their forks the same way.

Ecphasis Definition: An explicit declaration or interpretation.

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Ecphonesis Definition: Rhetorical exclamation.

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Ekphrasis Definition: You can take this one of two ways:

  1. A clear and vivid description of a work of art as rhetorical exercise
  2. Plain interpretation of a thing

A.k.a., ecphrasis

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“Some scholars consider the Imagines to be ‘our most extensive account of what a Roman picture gallery, a Roman catalogue of pictures, and the Roman viewing of pictures may have been like.” – Bryson, 255

Another and perhaps more important reason is “that paintings convey the dramatic actions of human and divine events represented as an illusion by means of perspective and naturalistic imitation. A knowledge of these events, which are drawn from literature and mythology, is prerequisite to a full understanding of the artist’s representation of them” – Land, 33

The artist Dégas is a visual example of ecphrasis, for he explored modern life and painted images of middle class leisure in the city. He captured strange postures from unusual angles under artificial light. He rejected the academic ideal of the mythical or historical subject, and instead sought his figures in modern situations, such as at the ballet.

It was a black wallet.

She wore red Keds.

It was a white Cadillac.

Examples courtesy of JAC Online.

Ekphrastic Definition: A form of writing, mostly poetry, wherein the author describes another work of art, usually visual. It is used to convey the deeper symbolism of the corporeal art form by means of a separate medium.

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A photograph of an empty landscape, phrases such as an empty doorway or a childless nursery can convey desolation, abandonment, and loss.

Examples courtesy of Literary Devices.

Emphasis Definition: Gives special importance or attention to something through the repetition of key words or phrases and/or through the careful arrangement of words to give them special weight and prominence. It may provide a forceful quality in the way something is said or written.

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Rhetorical Device

The most emphatic spot in a sentence is usually the end.


“Curiosity is one of the lowest human faculties.” – E.M. Forster

“So the great gift of symbolism, which is the gift of reason, is at the same time the seat of man’s peculiar weakness — the danger of lunacy.” – Thomas Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing

“What applies to the sentence also applies to the paragraph.” – Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools

Epanalepsis The post, “Word Play”, will provide more detail in the entry, Epanalepsis, in the post.
Epizeuxis Definition: The repetition of a word or phrase in immediate succession, for vehemence or emphasis, drawing the focus to a particular thought, idea and emotion.

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It adds freshness and rhythm and gives artistic effect to a piece, making it more memorable.

For maximum effect, there should not be too many words between the repeated word(s) in a epizeuxis.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Word Play

It is similar to epanalepsis.

The opposite of hypozeuxis.

A.k.a., hyperzeuxis, diacope

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last!” – Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 August 1963

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never! – Shakespeare, King Lear

Phil Spector tamps his frontal lobes and closes his eyes and holds his breath. As long as he holds his breath, it will not rain, there will be no raindrops, no schizoid water wobbling, sideways, straight back, it will be an even, even, even, even, even, even, even world…” – Tom Wolfe, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby

“Even” is repeated at the end, making this text notable for the readers and brings an emotional effect within the text.

“The people everywhere, not just here in Britain, everywhere — they kept faith with Princess Diana. They liked her, they loved her, they regarded her as one of the people. She was the people’s princess. And that’s how she will stay, how she will remain, in our hearts and in our memories, forever.” – Tony Blair, 31 August 1997

Examples courtesy of Literary and Manner of Speaking.

Hypozeuxis Definition: A sentence or expression in which every clause has its own subject and verb.

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If the same words are repeated in each clause, it is also an example of “Figure of Speech: Anaphora“.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Emphasis
  2. Figure of Speech

Its opposite is epizeuxis, which may also be a form of zeugma.


“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.” – Winston Churchill
Enantiosis Definition: Expresses an idea by way of a word or words opposite in meaning.

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Little John was Robin Hood’s second in command.

“[Frank Curtis] Lynch was a huge man who played tackle for the navy football team. Naturally he acquired the nickname ‘Tiny.'” – Michael Sturma, Death at a Distance: The Loss of the Legendary USS Harder

“There was strength against nimbleness, rage against resolution, fury against virtue, confidence against courage, pride against nobleness; love, in both, breeding mutual hatred, and desire of revenging the injury of his brothers’ slaughter, to Anaxus, being like Philoclea’s captivity to Pyrocles. . . . The Irish greyhound against the English mastiff, the sword-fish against the whale, the rhinoceros against the elephant, might be models, and but models, of this combat.” – Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia

Examples courtesy of About: Enantiosis.

Epanodos Definition: Recapitulation of chief points in a discourse while presenting, after digression, or returning to and providing additional detail for items mentioned previously (often using parallelism).

A.k.a., epanadis, epanodis
reditus ad propositum, regressio, the figure of retire, regression

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“Love, hope, and death, do stir in me such strife,
As never man but I led such a life:
For burning love doth wound my heart to death:
And when death comes at call of inward grief,
Cold lingering hope doth feed my fainting breath:
Against my will, and yields my wound relief,
So that I live, and yet my life is such:
As never death could grieve me half so much.” – Puttenham for F.J.

Examples provided by Brigham Young University.

Epanorthosis Definition: Retraction of a statement in order to intensify it.

A retraction (or pseudo-retraction) is a type of epanorthosis.

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“Maybe there is a beast…. What I mean is…maybe it’s only us.” – Simon in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

“With a heave of his chest, Croker rose and came walking — or, rather, limping — toward him.” – Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full

“[A] good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly.” – Shakespeare, Henry V, Act V, Scene 2

“I don’t like the majority of what I do. I shouldn’t say I don’t like it, but I’m not satisfied with almost everything that I do.” – Paul Simon

Examples courtesy of About: Epanorthosis.

Epexegesis Definition: The addition of words to make the sense more clear.

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“We have no great affection for your government. You would please not take offense at this. But the fact remains that we would cooperate only if the alleged crime is a penal offense, or, as you would say it, a felony.” – Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street

“I moved into a monastic four-room floor-through on Seventy-fifth Street. ‘Monastic’ is perhaps misleading here, implying some chic severity; until after I was married and my husband moved some furniture in, there was nothing at all in those four rooms except a cheap double mattress and box springs, ordered by telephone the day I decided to move, and two French garden chairs lent me by a friend who imported them.” – Joan Didion, “Goodbye to All That.” Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Examples courtesy of About: Epexegesis.

Epiphonema Definition: And exclamation, finishing phrase, or reflection.

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“Thus is the haughty miller soundly beat, And thus he’s lost his pay for grinding wheat, And paid for the two suppers, let me tell, of Alain and of John, who’ve tricked him well, His wife is taken, also his daughter sweet; Thus it befalls a miller who’s a cheat.” – Chaucer, The Reeve’s Tale

“So weighty a matter it was to set up the Romane nation.”

“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” Acts 19:20

“Of matters approved, an example of Peter saying thus to his Lord: ‘Lo, we have forsaken all and followed thee.'” Matthew 19:27

Examples courtesy of Rhetorical Figures.

Epiploce Definition: One striking circumstance is added, in due gradation, to another.

It’s “Figure of Speech: Climax” combined with epanastrophe.


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“He not only spared his enemies, but continued them in employment; not only continued, but advanced them.

Examples courtesy of Wiktionary.

Epistrophe Definition: The repetition of the words at the end of successive sentences or clauses.

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The opposite of “Figure of Speech: Anaphora“.

CAUTION: Don’t overuse this, as it will dilute its effectiveness. It also uses passive voice which can be weak.

A.k.a., epiphora

“… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 19 November 1863

“There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.” – Lyndon Johnson, Washington, D.C., 15 March 1965

“I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities here in this country. And I knew nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries.” – Bill Gates, Harvard University address, 7 June 2007

“Where now? Who now? When now…,” – Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable.

“Hourly joys be still upon you! Juno sings her blessings on you…
Scarcity and want shall shun you,
Ceres’ blessing so is on you.”

“Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where — wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… An’ when our folk eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build — why, I’ll be there…” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

“The big sycamore by the creek was gone. The willow tangle was gone. The little enclave of untrodden bluegrass was gone. The clump of dogwood on the little rise across the creek — now that, too, was gone….” – Robert Penn Warren, Flood: A Romance of Our Time

Examples courtesy of Manner of Speaking and Literary

Epitrope Definition: A figure in which one turns things over to one’s hearers, either pathetically, ironically, or in such a way as to suggest a proof of something without having to state it.

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It often takes the form of granting permission, submitting something for consideration, or simply referring to the abilities of the audience to supply the meaning that the speaker passes over.

Epitrope can be either biting in its irony or flattering in its deference.

A specific form of epitrope is the (apparent) admission of what is wrong in order to carry our point.

A.k.a., epitropis, concessio, permissio, admission, figure of reference, figure of submission

“Go ahead, make my day…” – Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry

“If you seeke the victorie take it, and if you list, triumph.” – A. Fraunce

“Because all things [be] taken away, only is left unto me my body and mind. These things, which only are left unto me of many, I grant then to you and to your power.” – R. Sherry

Oh no, oh no, what have you done!

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” – Ecclesiastes 11:9
The horror, the horror” in Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Waitress: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Bloody vikings. You can’t have egg, bacon, Spam and sausage without the Spam.
Mrs. Bun: I don’t like Spam!
Mr. Bun: Shh dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your Spam. I love it. I’m having Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam. – Monty Python, the Spam sketch

And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never! – Shakespeare, King Lear

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, – Shakespeare, Richard II

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea.” – Samuel Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


  1. Green indicates the epizeuxis

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Equivocation Definition: A logical fallacy, it is an ambiguous term using roundabout language in more than one sense, thus making an argument misleading.

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Exception: Equivocation works great when deliberate attempts at humor are being made.

Tip: When you suspect equivocation, substitute the word with the same definition for all uses and see if it makes sense.

A.k.a., doublespeak

I want to have myself a merry little Christmas, but I refuse to do as the song suggests and make the yuletide gay. I don’t think sexual preference should have anything to do with enjoying the holiday.

The word, “gay”, is meant to be in light spirits, joyful, and merry, not in the homosexual sense (although why “I” has to fixate on only one interpretation, I don’t know).

The priest told me I should have faith.
I have faith that my son will do well in school this year.
Therefore, the priest should be happy with me.

The term “faith” used by the priest, was in the religious sense of believing in God without sufficient evidence, which is different from having “faith” in your son in which years of good past performance leads to the “faith” you might have in your son.

Erotema Definition: A question that is asked without expecting an answer because the answer is strongly implied.

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It is frequently used as a transition or as a thought-provoking tool before proceeding.

A well-structured erotema will lead the audience to the conclusion that the speaker wants them to reach.

A.k.a., erotesis, eperotesis, interrogation

Rhetorical Device: Erotema

What should honest citizens do?

“Was I not born in the realm? Were my parents born in any foreign country? Is not my kingdom here? Whom have I oppressed? Whom have I enriched to other’s harm? What turmoil have I made in this commonwealth that I should be suspected to have no regard to the same?” – Queen Elizabeth I, response to a Parliamentary delegation

Examples courtesy of Dr. K. Wheeler and About: Erotesis.

Euphemism Definition: The substitution of a more favorable word or phrase for a pejorative or socially delicate term.

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It’s a type of ambiguous and roundabout language.

A.k.a., euphemismus

downsizing When a company fires or lays off a larger number of employees
friendly fire Used by the military when soldiers are accidentally killed by other soldiers on the same side
tipsy A soft way to say that someone has had to much to drink
golden years Describes the later period of life when someone is of old age
gone to heaven A polite way to say that someone is dead
enhanced interrogation A modern euphemism to minimize what by many people would be viewed as torture

King Richard: What says he?
Northumberland: Nay, nothing, all is said.
His tongue is now a stringless instrument – Shakespeare, Richard II Act 2, Scene 1, 147-149

Richard inquires after John of Gaunt with his “stringless instrument”, a euphemism for “he died” (Brigham Young University).

Paradiastole Definition: Something usually thought of as a vice is treated as a virtue, or (less often) vice versa.

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“‘I wouldn’t call it a lie,’ Clement said thoughtfully, looking at Sheila. ‘I’d say it was a fantasy. A protective fantasy. Mother was editing her past in order to make it bearable.'” – Brian Aldiss, Forgotten Life (The Squire Quartet, 2)

Avril Talbot: Would you like him to know you’re blackmailing me?
Snell: Blackmail is an old-fashioned word, Miss Talbot.
Avril Talbot: Well, what would you call it?
Snell: It’s business. I’m selling; you’re buying. I’m selling a little commodity known as silence.” – Naomi Chance and Harold Lang, Wings of Danger

“You will stand out heroically in our foulmouthed, angry culture. Or, rather, our frank, passionate culture.” – Jay Heinrichs, Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines that Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever

Definition and examples courtesy of About: Paradiastole.

Hendiadys Definition: The expression of a single idea by two words connected with and when one could be used to modify the other.

a.k.a., hendyadis, endiadis, endiaduz,
figure of twinnes, two for one

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nice and warm nicely warm
He came despite the rain and weather. He came despite the rainy weather
the heat and sun of midday the hot midday sun
sound and fury, signifying nothing furious sound, signifying nothing
The man and the strength and the joy of it all. the joyful, strong man
Come up to see me Come up and see me sometime

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University and Changing Minds.

Heterosis Definition: One form of verb is exchanged for another form, for example, changing the temporal nature of the verb, you can change associated emotion.

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This substitution can happen when:

  • Used to describe changes, such as gender, emotion, and mood
    • Anger and sadness are often about the past
    • Fear and hope are about the future
  • What happened in the past is described using present tense, because present tense is more immediate and sustains greater attention — think of how kids use verbs!
  • A character is speaking a language that is not his/her native language
I know the game has not yet started, but I know we have won.

“Well, I says to him, I says. ‘What are you doing?’ Then he looks at me and I think, ‘Duh!'”

I throwed the ball over the fence.

Definition and examples courtesy of Changing Minds.

Homeoteleuton Definition: The repetition of endings in words that are similar or the same, either intentionally for rhetorical effect or by mistake during copying of text.

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Antiptosis
  2. Figures of Repetition
  3. Figures of Parallelism
  4. Figures of Conjunction

A.k.a., near rhyme, homoeoteleuton, homoioteleuton

Free Dictionary

He is esteemed eloquent which can invent wittily, remember perfectly, dispose orderly, figure diversly, pronounce aptly, confirm strongly, and conclude directly.

No marvell though wisedome complaineth that shee is either wilfully despised, or carelesly neglected, either openly scorned, or secretely abhorred.

In activitie commendable, in a commonwealth profitable, and in warre terrible. (Peacham)

Art thou in povertie? seeke not principality, but rather how to relaeve thy necessitie. (Peacham)

Examples courtesy of Perseus Digital Library and Rhetorical Figures.

Homoeoptoton Definition: Repetition of a series of words sharing the same verb or noun inflections, etc., at the end of phrases.

Phrontistery; The Free Dictionary

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“Be cheerful with those that are glad,
Be tearful with those that are sad.” – Romans 12:15

Examples courtesy of StudyLight.

Hypallage Definition: Reverses or rearranges two words in a sentence, requiring the reader to work out the real meaning.

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It often creates a metaphor that can add depth to the meaning, such as the implication that as the person is happy then everything else, even the inanimate road, is infected by his or her happiness.

A.k.a., transferred epithet

He danced the happy road home. He is happy, not the road.
Male entrance. The entrance does not have gender.
A careless remark left her crying in the dark. The remark is not careless — the person who said it was.
Melissa shook her doubtful curls. Melissa may be doubtful; her curls sure aren’t.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. To waste a mind is a terrible thing.

Examples courtesy of Changing Minds.

Hyperbaton Definition: Playing with the normal position of words, phrases, and clauses in order to create differently arranged sentences interrupting their natural flow, but which still suggest a similar meaning. This unconventional placement can result in intriguing and complex sentence structures.

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It’s useful for emphasis and is greatly used as inflected language.

In rhyming and metered poems, it’s useful in fitting a sentence into the structure of a poem properly.

In sentences, it can result in emphasis at the desired place.

Hyperbaton is also known as a broader version of hypallage and is similar to anastrophe.

“Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall… – Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

By using “some by virtue fall” instead of the expected “some fall by virtue”, Shakespeare places the emphasis on “virtue fall”.

“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” Yoda in Star Wars

Off of the horse, Katie did fall.

Into the box went the homework and onto the playground went the class.

She hit him, and he fell — this only can I report.

Alone he walked on the cold, lonely roads.

Examples courtesy of SoftSchools and Literary Devices.

Hysteron Proteron Definition: Breaks the rule of narrating events in sequence in order to put the important events first, a reversing of the temporal sequence in order to put important ideas first.

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With this deliberate reversal, hysteron proteron draws attention to the important point.

A.k.a., prothysteron

Changing Minds.

I conquered, I saw, I came.

We can win by fighting hard.

She brought me up well and gave birth to my life.

Putting on my shoes and socks.

Examples courtesy of Changing Minds.

Hyperbole There are pages and pages to read in the post, “Figure of Speech”, about hyperboles.
Hypobole Definition: A figure in which several things are mentioned in argument of things apparently damaging to one’s side, with the successive refutation of each.

Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary

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Hypostrophe Definition: A return to a primary argument after digression — think of it as an insertion or parenthesis.

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Hypotyposis Definition: Lively description of an action, event, person, condition, passion, etc., used for creating the illusion of reality.

A.k.a., hypotiposis, demonstratio, evidentia, adumbratio, representatio the counterfait representation, word-picture

Brigham Young University

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Litotes There may be more to explore in the post, “Figure of Speech: Litotes“.
Macrologia Definition: Longwindedness. Using more words than are necessary in an attempt to appear eloquent.

A.k.a., macrology

Brigham Young University

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“My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;
Therefore, [since] brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it, for to define true madness,
What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?” – Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2, 86-94
Perissology Definition: The use of more words than are necessary to convey meaning.

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At this point in time we can’t ascertain the reason as to why the screen door was left open.

My sister, who is employed as a nutritionist at the University of Michigan, recommends the daily intake of megadoses of Vitamin C.

Basically, in light of the fact that Congressman Fuenches was totally exhausted by his last campaign, there was an expectation on the part of the voters that he would not reduplicate his effort to achieve office in government again.

Examples courtesy of Dr. Grim

Meiosis Definition: A kind of humorous understatement that dismisses or belittles, especially by using terms that make something seem less significant than it really is or ought to be. One word is frequently sufficient.

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“The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” – Oscar Wilde on fox hunting

rhymester poet
grease monkey mechanic
shrink psychiatrist
slasher surgeon
right-wing nutjobs Republicans
left-wing pansies Democrats
pecker checker urologist

Examples courtesy of

Tapinosis Definition: A term for name calling using undignified language that debases a person or thing.

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You may also want to take a peek at “Literary Device: Smear Word Epithet“.

A.k.a., abbaser, humiliatio, depreciation

Listen up, you maggots.

You, jerk, get back here and clean that up!

Around here, we call him Dr. Moron.

Metabasis Definition: A transition from one subject or topic to another in a statement in which one explains what has been and what will be said.

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8 Kinds of Metabasis, categorized according to the sort of relationship being announced between the preceding and subsequent matter:

  1. Equal
  2. Unequal
  3. Like
  4. Contrary
  5. Differing
  6. Anticipating Objection
  7. Reprehension
  8. Consequence

A.k.a., transitio, transicio transition

Brigham Young University; Phrontistery

“You have heard how the proposed plan will fail; now consider how an alternative might succeed.”

The matters you have heard were wonderful, and those that you shall hear are no less marvelous.
You have heard very grievous things, but you shall year more grievous.

I have spoken of his notable enterprises in France, and now I will rehearse his worthy acts done in England.

As I have spoken of his sad adversity and misery, so will I now speak of his happy prosperity.
I have spoken of manners; now it remains that I speak concerning doctrine.

You may think me too long in the threatenings of the law; I will now pass to the sweet promises of the gospel.

Why do I dwell on these things? I shall hasten my speech unto that which is the principal point of the matter in question.

You have heard how he promised, and now I will tell you how he performed.

Metaphrase Definition: A literal word-by-word, line-by-line translation.

It also refers to the translation of prose into verse OR verse into prose.

It is the opposite of paraphrase.

Oxford Dictionaries

Metaplasmus Definition: Misspelling a word to create a rhetorical effect:

  • Emphasize dialect
  • Emphasize that something is unimportant
  • Emphasize the feminine nature of something normally considered masculine
  • Modernize something old

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dawg dog godlet diminutive for deity
princeling prince usherette usher
majorette major bimbette bimbo
gawd god Hermenator Hermes
shagedelic shag fembot robot
Epenthesis Definition: Adds an extra syllable or letters in the middle of a word.

A.k.a., infixation

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A visitating spirit came last night.

Highlights the unnatural status of the visit.

Gosh-diddly-darn-it, honey.
Prosthesis Definition: Adds an extra syllable or letters to the beginning of a word to creates a poetic effect, turning a run-of-the-mill word into something novel.

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All alone, I beweep my outcast state.

I was all afrightened at the thought of that long and lonely walk through the woods.

Metastasis Definition: A shifting of responsibility or blame or turning an objection back against itself.

A.k.a., transmotionem, the flitting figure, remove

About: Metastasis

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Dr. Lisa Cuddy: “You idiot! I was free and clear. Now he’s coming and it’s your fault!
Dr. James Wilson: “Since when has your failed attempt at communication through lies become my fault?”
Dr. Lisa Cuddy: “Since you forgot how to keep your mouth shut! You messed it up, and now you fix it! And you’re gonna keep my name out of it!” – “Unfaithful,” House M.D., 2009

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.” – 1 Kings 18:17-18

Examples courtesy of About: Metastasis and Brigham Young University.

Metonymy Read a boring post, “Figure of Speech: Metonymy“, in my blog.
Mimesis Definition: Imitating the action of life.

Encyclopædia Britannica

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Might be found in a play with a realistic setting or in a particularly life-like statue.

Referring to the purpose of playing as being “…to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature.” – Shakespeare, Hamlet

Examples courtesy of Encyclopædia Britannica.

Noema Definition: Obscure speech or speech that only yields meaning upon detailed reflection.

Wikipedia: Noema

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Hortentius said, that he was never made friends with his mother and his sister.

Meaning that there was never any debate or contention between them.

Example courtesy of Perseus Digital Library.

Onomatopoeia Click on over to the clatter of the post, “Figure of Speech: Onomatopoeia“.
Palillogy Definition: The repetition of a phrase or word.

Collins Dictionary

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He cannot be good, knows not why he is good, but stands good.

That answer is wrong, wrong, wrong!!!

You should’ve seen his face; he was very, very surprised.

Ah, me darlin’, it was a long, long, long time ago…

Parabola Definition: Rhetorical use of simile or metaphor.


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Paradigm Definition: Rhetorical comparison by resemblance to another thing

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Paradox Discover more in the post, “Figure of Speech“, and have less to lose.
Paraenesis Definition: Material characterized by ethical instruction and exhortation. It’s popular for preaching or exhortation.

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Epistle of St. James

The moralizing parts of the Old Testament

Found in Apostolic Fathers as Clement I and the Shepherd of Hermas.

Also used by James and St. Paul in his letters to the Galatians and Ephesians

Examples courtesy of Catholic Culture.

Paraphrasis Definition: Rewording a text or passage giving the meaning in another form, as for clearness.

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Students will be most familiar with paraphrasing, as it is part of the lecture on plagiarism and cheating.

The opposite is metaphrase.

A.k.a., paraphrase

Parenthesis Definition: Insertion of an explanatory phrase that doesn’t require a connection to the subject of the sentence.

You may want to explore the post, “Parenthetical Elements” as well.

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“So I was telling Mary — no, don’t set that there — that she couldn’t be my bridesmaid.”
Parathesis Definition: A parenthetical notice, usually of matter to be afterward expanded.

Your Dictionary

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Parembole Definition: Insertion of an explanatory phrase (having a closer connection with the context than a parenthesis) related to the subject into a sentence.

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Aanacoluthon
  2. Correctio
  3. Epanorthosis

A.k.a., paremptosis

Brigham Young University

“Even that privilege which they enjoy of exclusively trying their own members, in case of any accusation that may affect their life (a privilege which we might at first sight think repugnant to the idea of a regular government, and even alarming to the rest of the people), has constantly been made use of by the lords to do justice to their fellow subjects (Kendall, 412).”
Parecbasis Definition: A digression that often comes following the narratio and has some bearing on the case, although it appears to be a departure from the logical order.

A.k.a., parecnasis, pareonasis, digressio, egressus, egressio, the stragler or figure of digression

Brigham Young University

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In a suit whose issue was the Roman citizenship of an individual, Cicero provides a long discussion on the virtues of literature and their cultural value. – Cicero, Pro Archia Poeta

This both diverts attention from the issue at hand (whether Archias was indeed a Roman or whether he should be expelled) and leads effectively back to it: to the extent that Cicero prompts his hearers to value literature, they will be inclined to sympathize with someone who professes literature (and has written positively for the Roman Republic).

Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub, in which he meta-rhetorically devotes an entire chapter, a digression, in praise of digressions (Section VII), thus comically combining encomium with digressio.

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Paromologia Definition: Admitting a weaker point in order to make a stronger one.

A.k.a., paramologia, concessio, confessio,
the figure of admittance, confession

Brigham Young University

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Yes, I may have been a petty thief, but I am no felon.

Yes, I may have been a petty thief, but I am no felon.

“The poorest man in his cottage may bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter it; but the King of England can not enter it. All his power dares not cross the threshold of that ruined tenement.” – William Pitt

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University and Rhetorical Figures.

Parrhesia Definition: Saying something boldly and freely without leaving any doubt behind. It involves not only the freedom of speech, but also implies the use of truth in speech or writing.

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The writers open their minds and hearts fully to the readers or audience through discourse, and a speaker makes it clear what his opinion is.

“The muddy streets were gay. He strode homeward, conscious of an invisible grace pervading and making light his limbs. In spite of all, he had done it. He had confessed and God had pardoned him… It was beautiful to live in grace a life of peace and virtue and forbearance with others…” – James Joyce, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

Pathopoeia Definition: A general term for speech that moves hearers emotionally, especially as the speaker attempts to elicit an emotional response by way of demonstrating his/her own feelings, by making reference to any of a variety of pathetic circumstances: the time, one’s gender, age, location, etc.

A.k.a., pathopeia, adfectus, affectus expressio, description of feelings

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“O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” – Jeremiah 9:1-2

“An author once offered a manuscript story for publication, which the publisher returned with a letter saying he would accept it if certain changes were made, which he had indicated in the margin. Every one of his marginal memoranda was, ‘Describe the feelings of the parties at this time.’ The author, in a spirit of fun, kept the manuscript by him for some time, and whenever the humor took him he put in a few ‘feelings’. When all was done, the story was accepted and paid for (Johnson, 103-107).” Something for writers to keep in mind…

Examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Periergia Definition: Overuse of words or figures of speech and the language appears over-labored.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Aschematiston
  2. Hyperbole
  3. Macrologia

Rhetorical Figures

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Ploce Definition: Repetition of a word or name, often with a different sense, after the intervention of one or more other words, including:

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May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Word Play
  3. Antanaclasis
  4. Rhetorical Device: Antistasis
  5. Conduplicatio
  6. Epanalepsis
  7. Word Play: Paronomasia
  8. Pun
  9. Figure of Speech: Symploce
  10. Traductio
  • Repetition of the same word under different forms (also known as “Figure of Speech: Polyptoton“)
  • Repetition of a proper name
  • Any repetition of a word or phrase broken up by other words (also known as diacope)

About: Ploce

“In that great victory, Caesar was Caesar!”

“Make war upon themselves — brother to brother
Blood to blood, self against self.” – Shakespeare, Richard III

“My lovely one I fain would love thee much, but all my Love is none at all I see.” – Edward Taylor, “Preparatory Meditation 12”

“I know what’s going on. I may be from Ohio, but I’m not from Ohio.” – Heather Graham as Daisy in Bowfinger

“The future is no place to place your better days.” – Dave Matthews, “Cry Freedom”

“If it wasn’t in Vogue, it wasn’t in vogue.” – promotional slogan for Vogue magazine

Examples courtesy of About: Ploce and Wikipedia: Ploce.

Polysyndeton A definition that has been honed, and an example that follows, and can be read in the post, and is titled “Figure of Speech: Polysyndeton
Procatalepsis Definition: The speaker or writer gives response to the objection of an opponent in his speech by repeating his objection, using counterargument.

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It could also be that he responds to his own objection in order to strengthen his argument by using counterarguments. Once the speakers bring attention to a possible rebuttal, they immediately refute or discredit it, for the fear that people may get confused.

It allows writers or speakers to appear honest about the reality that their arguments have problems. As an effective tactic in arguments, its benefits are twofold: the speaker replies successfully to the objection of the audience or opposing arguments, and also builds trust with his audience.

Its usage is common in literary writings, advertisements, specifically in the political arena.

A.k.a., prebuttal, prolepsis

“I can think of no one objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom. This I freely own, and it was indeed the principal design in offering it to the world.” – Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal

Swift brings an argument that no one would object against his proposal, then gives a quick argument that objection would be raised as he has stated.

“I know what you’re going to say…’That if they look at it properly they’ll see that it wasn’t our fault. But will they look at it properly? Of course they won’t. You know what cats they are…” – Hugh Walpole, The Captives

First, the speaker says that if they would look at the matter carefully, they would realize and know the truth. Then he quickly objects to his own argument and asks a question instead.

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary

Pun Drawing a blank? End the stalemate with a click on “Word Play: Pun” instead.
Antanaclasis A readable post, “Word Play: Antanaclasis“, has some immensely readable examples.
Rhyme Read the lead on rhyme in the feed at the post, “Word Play”.
Schesis Definition: The mental habitude of an adversary or opponent is feigned for the purpose of arguing against him, mocking by imitating another’s speech, or deriding an opponent’s argument by referring to his way of thought.

Your; Phrontistery

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Stasis Definition: Used in classical rhetoric, stasis is the process of, first, identifying the central issues in a dispute, and next finding arguments by which to address those issues effectively.

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4 Major Types of Stasis:

  1. Coniectura – conjecturing about the fact at issue, whether or not something had been done at a particular time by a particular person, e.g., Did X actually kill Y?
  2. Definitiva – whether an admitted action falls under the legal “definition” of a crime, e.g., Was the admitted killing of Y by X murder or homicide?
  3. Generalis or qualitas – the issue of “the quality” of the action, including its motivation and possible justification, e.g., Was the murder of Y by X in some way justified by the circumstances?
  4. Translatio – objection to the legal process or “transference” of jurisdiction to a different tribunal, e.g., Can this court try X for a crime when X has been given immunity from prosecution or claims the crime was committed in another city?
May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Figure of Speech
  2. Argumentation
  3. Dissoi Logoi
  4. Exigence
  5. Invention
  6. Judicial Rhetoric
  7. Metastasis
  8. Topoi

A.k.a., stasis theory, stasis system, issues, status, constitutio

About: Stasis

Syllogism Definition: Syllogism is a rhetorical device that starts an argument with a reference to something general, and from this, it draws conclusion about something more specific.

It is a deductive approach to reason and is based on deducing specific conclusions from general facts.

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Major Statement or Premise = General Fact Minor Statement or Premise = Specific Fact Conclusion That is Deduced
All men are mortal, John is a man John is mortal.

“Flavius: Have you forgot me, sir?
Timon: Why dost ask that? I have forgot all men;
Then, if thou grant’st thou’rt a man, I have forgot thee.” – Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act 4, Scene 3

Timon tells Flavius that he must have forgotten him like he has forgotten all other men. It can be expanded in a three-set argument as; “I usually do forget as I have forgotten everyone. Therefore, I have forgotten you as well.”

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary

Enthymeme Definition: An argumentative statement in which the writer or the speaker omits one of the major or minor premises — compresses it by leaving out the Major Statement, does not clearly pronounce it, or keeps this premise implied. However, the omitted premise in enthymeme remains understandable even if is not clearly expressed.

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Its purpose is to influence the audience and allow them to make inferences. They can be easily recognized, as these statements comes after because.

A.k.a., truncated syllogism, rhetoric syllogism

Where there is smoke, there is fire.

The hidden premise: smoke causes fire.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” – Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in U.S. Vice-Presidential debate in 1988.

The hidden premise: Jack Kennedy was a great man, but you are not.

He is a US citizen, so he is entitled to due process.

The hidden premise: All the citizens of US are entitled to due process.

Tommy is a canine because it is a dog.

Is a compressed syllogism, as it implies that “all dogs are canine”.

Examples courtesy of Literary Enthymeme and Syllogism.

Syllogism Fallacy Definition: Forms incorrect conclusions that are odd.

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Major Statement or Premise = General Fact Minor Statement or Premise = Specific Fact False Conclusion
All crows are black The bird in my cage is black. The bird in my cage is a crow.
Some televisions are black and white. All penguins are black and white. Therefore, some televisions are penguins.

Definition and examples courtesy of Literary

Sorites Definition: A string of statements where the end of one is the subject of the next.


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Synchoresis Definition: Conceding one point for the sake of another.

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Anacoenosis
  2. Antisagoge
  3. Epitrope
  4. Figure of Speech

A.k.a., epichoresis, concessio, concession

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Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Definition and examples courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Synecdoche Pull up the article on “Figure of Speech: Synecdoche” for an in-depth look.
Synoeciosis Definition: A coupling or bringing together of contraries, but not in order to oppose them to one another (as in antithesis).

May Use Other Literary Devices including:

  1. Antithesis
  2. Figure of Speech: Oxymoron

A.k.a., syneciosis, contrapositum, crosse copling

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“Thus for your sake I dayly dye
And do but seem to live in deede:
Thus is my blisse but miserie,
My lucre losse without your meede.” – George Puttenham

The contraries include “dye” and “live” in the first two lines, “blisse” and “miserie” in the third line, and “lucre” [gain] and “losse” in the last line.

Definition and example courtesy of Brigham Young University.

Tautology Peruse in greater depth the post on “Figure of Speech: Tautology” and wade through the entry.
Tmesis Definition: Inserts a word in the middle of a word (usually a three-syllable word), compound word, or phrase (usually phrasal verbs).

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“Fan-bloody-tastic” or “abso-blooming-lutely” – George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, Eliza Dolittle

“How-heinous-ever it be.” – Shakespeare, Richard II

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Resources for Rhetorical Devices

Purdue OWL has an excellent post on how to make a good argument using logos along with a useful section on how to establish yourself as a credible person, i.e., using ethos. Could be handy for marketing purposes! Hmmm, it also makes a good case for hiring a proofreader…

Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Martin Luther King, Jr: I Have a Dream Speech”, 28 August 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial is courtesy of the National Archives and is under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.