Education and Information Site VirtualSalt A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, Page 2 Robert A. Harris
January 5, 2010


To go directly to the discussion of a particular device, click on the name below. If you know these already, go directly to the Self Test. To learn about my book, Writing with Clarity and Style, see the Advertisement.
 

Alliteration Antithesis Climax Epizeuxis Metanoia Polysyndeton
Allusion Apophasis Conduplicatio Eponym Metaphor Procatalepsis
Amplification Aporia Diacope Exemplum Metonymy Rhetorical Question
Anacoluthon Aposiopesis Dirimens Copulatio Sentential Adverb Onomatopoeia Scesis Onomaton
Anadiplosis Apostrophe Distinctio Hyperbaton Oxymoron Sententia
Analogy Appositive Enthymeme Hyperbole Parallelism Simile
Anaphora Assonance Enumeratio Hypophora Parataxis Symploce
Antanagoge Asyndeton Epanalepsis Hypotaxis Parenthesis Synecdoche
Antimetabole Catachresis Epistrophe Litotes Personification Understatement
Antiphrasis Chiasmus Epithet Metabasis Pleonasm Zeugma


6. Parallelism is recurrent syntactical similarity. Several parts of a sentence or several sentences are expressed similarly to show that the ideas in the parts or sentences are equal in importance. Parallelism also adds balance and rhythm and, most importantly, clarity to the sentence.

Any sentence elements can be paralleled, any number of times (though, of course, excess quickly becomes ridiculous). You might choose parallel subjects with parallel modifiers attached to them:

Or parallel verbs and adverbs: Or parallel verbs and direct objects: Or just the objects: Or parallel prepositional phrases: Notice how paralleling rather long subordinate clauses helps you to hold the whole sentence clearly in your head: It is also possible to parallel participial, infinitive, and gerund phrases: In practice some combination of parts of speech or sentence elements is used to form a statement, depending as always on what you have to say. In addition, the parallelism, while it normally should be pretty close, does not have to be exact in its syntactical similarity. For example, you might write, Here are some other examples of parallelism:


7. Chiasmus might be called "reverse parallelism," since the second part of a grammatical construction is balanced or paralleled by the first part, only in reverse order. Instead of an A,B structure (e.g., "learned unwillingly") paralleled by another A,B structure ("forgotten gladly"), the A,B will be followed by B,A ("gladly forgotten"). So instead of writing, "What is learned unwillingly is forgotten gladly," you could write, "What is learned unwillingly is gladly forgotten." Similarly, the parallel sentence, "What is now great was at first little," could be written chiastically as, "What is now great was little at first." Here are some examples: Chiasmus is easiest to write and yet can be made very beautiful and effective simply by moving subordinate clauses around: Prepositional phrases or other modifiers can also be moved around to form chiastic structures. Sometimes the effect is rather emphatic: At other times the effect is more subdued but still desirable. Compare the versions of these sentences, written first in chiastic and then in strictly parallel form. Which do you like better in each case? Chiasmus may be useful for those sentences in which you want balance, but which cannot be paralleled effectively, either because they are too short, or because the emphasis is placed on the wrong words. And sometimes a chiastic structure will just seem to "work" when a parallel one will not.

8. Zeugma includes several similar rhetorical devices, all involving a grammatically correct linkage (or yoking together) of two or more parts of speech by another part of speech. Thus examples of zeugmatic usage would include one subject with two (or more) verbs, a verb with two (or more) direct objects, two (or more) subjects with one verb, and so forth. The main benefit of the linking is that it shows relationships between ideas and actions more clearly.

In one form (prozeugma), the yoking word precedes the words yoked. So, for example, you could have a verb stated in the first clause understood in the following clauses:

A more important version of this form (with its own name, diazeugma) is the single subject with multiple verbs: Notice that two or three verb phrases are the usual proportion. But if you have a lot to say about the actions of the subject, or if you want to show a sort of multiplicity of behavior or doings, you can use several verbs: Two or more subordinate relative pronoun clauses can be linked prozeugmatically, with the noun becoming the yoking word: You could have two or more direct objects: Or a preposition with two objects: Sometimes you might want to create a linkage in which the verb must be understood in a slightly different sense: In hypozeugma the yoking word follows the words it yokes together. A common form is multiple subjects: It is possible also to hold off a verb until the last clause: Hypozeugma can be used with adjectives or adjective phrases, too. Here, Peacock uses two participial phrases, one past and one present: The utility of the zeugmatic devices lies partly in their economy (for they save repetition of subjects or verbs or other words), and partly in the connections they create between thoughts. The more connections between ideas you can make in an essay, whether those connections are simple transitional devices or more elaborate rhetorical ones, the fewer your reader will have to guess at, and therefore the clearer your points will be.

9. Antithesis establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between two ideas by joining them together or juxtaposing them, often in parallel structure. Human beings are inveterate systematizers and categorizers, so the mind has a natural love for antithesis, which creates a definite and systematic relationship between ideas:

Antithesis can convey some sense of complexity in a person or idea by admitting opposite or nearly opposite truths: Antithesis, because of its close juxtaposition and intentional

contrast of two terms or ideas, is also very useful for making relatively fine distinctions or for clarifying differences which might be otherwise overlooked by a careless thinker or casual reader:

Note also that short phrases can be made antithetical: 10. Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences, commonly in conjunction with climax and with parallelism: Anaphora can be used with questions, negations, hypotheses, conclusions, and subordinating conjunctions, although care must be taken not to become affected or to sound rhetorical and bombastic. Consider these selections: Adverbs and prepositions can anaphora, too: 11. Epistrophe (also called antistrophe) forms the counterpart to anaphora, because the repetition of the same word or words comes at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences: Epistrophe is an extremely emphatic device because of the emphasis placed on the last word in a phrase or sentence. If you have a concept you wish to stress heavily, then epistrophe might be a good construction to use. The danger as usual lies in this device's tendency to become too rhetorical. Consider whether these are successful and effective or hollow and bombastic: 12. Anadiplosis repeats the last word of one phrase, clause, or sentence at or very near the beginning of the next. it can be generated in series for the sake of beauty or to give a sense of logical progression: Most commonly, though, anadiplosis is used for emphasis of the repeated word or idea, since repetition has a reinforcing effect: Notice how the main point of the sentence becomes immediately clear by repeating the same word twice in close succession. There can be no doubt about the focus of your thought when you use anadiplosis.

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Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com