"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
-J. K. RowlingHarry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical Device


Abnormal Word Order gives variety and emphasis to your writing by changing the usual subject-verb sentence pattern. normal word order (subject-verb): “The actor’s worst nightmares stood laughing at him from the shadows.” abnormal word order (verb-subject): “Laughing at him from the shadows stood the actor’s worst nightmare.”
Allegory is a narrative in which the caracters and sometimes the setting represent general concepts and ideas. fables in which personified animals are used allegorically to teach lessons of human conduct (e.g., “The Hare and the Tortoise”)
Alliteration draws attention to a string of words through repetition of their initial sounds. “As Frankenstein, Boris Karloff rambled, raged, and roared.”
Allusion is an indirect reference to a well-known event, person, thing, place, or quality. By suggestion, it may enhance the significance of a poetic image or prose passage. T.5. Eliot’s The Wasteland alludes to the Garden of Eden after the fall (and includes many other allusions to mythology, the Bible).
Analogy helps the reader understand something unfamiliar by comparing it to something well-known. Comparing an anthill to an urban centre helps to convey the fact that anthills are heavily populated, busy, and have regular patterns of movement.
A balanced sentence expresses two or more equal and parallel ideas. “Many TV actors work hard all through the season; they play in films all through the hiatus.”
Climactic Word Order presents several facts in order from least to most important. “The young politician’s career rise was meteoric; after begihning as a municipal councillbr, she became mayor, and three short years later a Member of Parliament.”
Denotation is the thing or situation to which the word specifically refers; connotation is the associated meanings it implies or suggests. Home denotes the place where a person lives, but connotes intimacy, privacy, coziness.
Exaggeration (Hyberbole) emphasizes a fact. “He was going to live the life of a tree or vegetable.” (University of Toronto Convocation Address by George Faludy, 1978)
Image/Imagery appeals to one or more of the senses by creating a vivid impression through the use of concrete details, adjec- tives, and figures of speech (e.g., metaphor, simile, personification). The beauty of the daisy is conveyed using imagery such as “a nun demure” and “a silver shield with boss of gold.” (William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”)
Metaphor compares two things without the use of like or as; it is more subtle than the simile and thus requires more interpretation. “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright” (from William Blake’s poem “Tyger! Tyger!”)
Opposites contrast two opposing ideas. “Clint Eastwood, a star in front of the camera, has also had a successful career behind the camera as a director.”
Onomatopoeia draws attention to the sound of the word by imitating or suggesting sounds that correspond to its meaning. “buzz,” “splash,” “slurp”
Oxymoron places words that mean the opposite of one another side by side so that they create a new meaning. “jumbo shrimp,” “wise fool”
Parallel Structure (Parallelism) repeats specific words, phrases, or clauses in a series, giving emphasis to key words and making them memorable. Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people” (preposition, definite article, and nourt are repeated in a series)
A periodic sentence withholds an important part of the sentence until the end so that it doesn’t make complete sense until the last word is read. “Whether playing a young wild adventurer, a fugitive from the law, or a u.s. president, there is one actor whose films always make money – Harrison Ford.”
Personification gives human traits to an inanimate object or animal. “The fingers of ice scraped the window.”
A pun is a play on words with the same sound but different meanings. “Sticks float. They would.”
Repetition is used for emphasis and rhythm. “It was a strange night, a hushed night, a moonless night, and all you could do was go to a movies.”
Reversals (Chiasmus) make a balanced sentence even more memorable by repeating the words in reverse order. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” (John F. Kennedy)
A rhetorical question is one whose answer is already known or implied. “Can anyone deny that the microchip has revolutionized communication?”
Rhyme makes two or more words memorable by having endings that sound the same. “With might and right on his side, he approached the challenge.”
Rhythm is the movement implicit in an arrangement of words, e.g., a regular beat deriving from the patterns of stress on the syllables, a rising or a falling inflection, a series of phrases that move quickly or slowly. “the moment comes … bringing back all have recently experienced to be explored and slowly understood, when I can converse again with my hidden powers, and so grow, and so be renewed, tin death do us part.” (May Sarton, “The Rewards of Solitary Life”)
A sentence fragment places emphasis on key words to create an overall effect, such as humour or suspense. “A cold room. A lonely room. A bare room. No place to spend twenty years of a life.”
A simile points out a similarity between two unlike things using like or as. “The cold stabbed like a driven nail through the parka’s fold.”
A symbol is an object or action that represents something other than what it is. The green light at the end of the dock in fhe Great Gatsby represents the verdant hope of the new world and is therefore associated with the American Dream.
Understatement (Litotes) creates the reverse effect (and adds a touch of irony) by making the fact seem less significant. “Bruce Willis’s onscreen characters frequently find themselves in a bit of a jam.”

Source: Alliston, Karen. Guide to Language, Literature, and Media. Canada: Oxford University Press, 2001.