Education and Information Site VirtualSalt A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, Page 7 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. Of course, I modestly recommend my book, Writing with Clarity and Style, Second Edition, that contains all 60 of the devices discussed below, and many sidebars on style and writing effectiveness. Get a copy from here: Writing With Clarity and Style, Second Edition. The book has been newly updated, expanded, and improved for 2018. As a bonus free gift to purchasers of the book, a supplement is available for download that contains hundreds of examples of the devices as used in the Bible. Get the supplement here (requires Adobe Reader).

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

Self Test

Identify the rhetorical device or devices used in each of the following examples. Answers are at the end of the test.

1. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. --Philippians 4:8

2. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? --Job 2:10b

3. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. --Ephesians 6:2-3

4. Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made should say to its maker, "He did not make me"; or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? --Isaiah. 29:16

5. ". . . For in your days, 0 rebellious house, I shall speak the word and perform it," declares the Lord. --Ezek. 12:25

6. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. --Matt. 5:17b

7. . . . We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances. --Daniel 9:5

8. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-for we walk by faith, not by sight--we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. --2 Corinthians 5:6-8

9. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. --I Chron. 28:9b

10. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. --l Corinthians 13:11

11. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? --l Corinthians 12:29

12. But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also . . . in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes. --2 Corinthians 2:10-11

13. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?) and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. --l Timothy 3:4-6

14. Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. --Daniel 9:6

15. But if possibility of evil be to exclude good, no good ever can be done. --Samuel Johnson

16. It is in art as in morals: no character would inspire us with an enthusiastic admiration of his virtue, if that virtue consisted only in an absence of vice; something more is required; a man must do more than merely his duty to be a hero. --Joshua Reynolds

17. What, then, is the effect of imagery when it is used in oratory? Among other things, it can infuse much passion and energy into speeches, but when it is combined with the argumentative passages it not only persuades the hearer, but actually masters him. --Longinus

18. The true nature of man, his true good, true virtue, and true religion are things which cannot be known separately. --Pascal

19. Now, what advantage do we derive from hearing a man say that he has shaken off the yoke, that he does not believe that there is a God who watches over his actions, that he regards himself as sole judge of his conduct, and that he does not think of accounting for it to anyone but himself? Does he imagine that by saying this he is encouraging us to feel great confidence in him in the future and to expect comfort, advice, and help from him in the difficult situations of life? Do such men imagine that they have greatly rejoiced us by telling us that they think our soul is only a puff of wind or smoke, and still more by telling us so in an arrogant, self-satisfied tone? Is it a thing to be said cheerily? Is it not rather something to be admitted mournfully as though it were the saddest thing in the whole world? --Pascal

20. Greatness, in the works of architecture, may be considered as relating to the bulk and body of the structure. . . . Not to mention the Tower of Babel, of which an old author says there were the foundations to be seen in his time, which looked like a spacious mountain . . . . --Joseph Addison

21. . . . Let them recognize that there are only two kinds of person whom we can describe as reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they have found him, and those who seek him with all their heart because they have not found him. --Pascal

22. Other things may be seized by might, or purchased with money, but knowledge is to be gained only by study, and study to be prosecuted only in retirement. --Samuel Johnson

23. Man seeth the face, but God beholdeth the heart. --Thomas a Kempis

24. 0 soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open, visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh? Will you never taste the sweetness of a loving and affectionate heart? Will you never be filled full and unwanting; craving nothing, yearning for no creature or thing to minister to your pleasures, no prolongation of days to enjoy them, no place or country or pleasant clime or sweet human company? --Marcus Aurelius

25. Shame on the soul, to falter on the road of life while the body still perseveres. --Marcus Aurelius

Answers To Self Test

1. anaphora (and parallelism)
2. sentential adverb (and antithesis)
3. parenthesis
4. rhetorical question (and analogy, with personification)
5. metonymy (and zeugma of S-V-V)
6. antithesis
7. scesis onomaton
8. parenthesis and antimetabole
9. antithesis and parallelism
10. epistrophe and anyndeton (and parallelism and zeugma of S-V-V)
11. rhetorical question and symploce
12. litotes
13. parenthesis and rhetorical question
14. appositive, enumeratio and anaphora
15. anadiplosis
16. analogy, anadiplosis, sententia
17. hypophora
18. anaphora
19. zeugma (verb + subordinate clauses), rhetorical question, and metaphor
20. alliteration, apophasis, and simile
21. parallelism and antithesis
22. anadiplosis
23. antithesis
24. apostrophe, simile, rhetorical question, metaphor, anaphora, polysyndeton (and enumeratio or scesis onomaton)
25. metaphor

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Now You Can Buy the Book
If you enjoy learning rhetorical devices, you should get the book. Writing with Clarity and Style: A Guide to Rhetorical Devices for Contemporary Writers takes you far beyond the material here, with full discussions of 60 devices, what they are, and how to use them effectively in modern writing. The book includes more than 390 examples, as well as practice exercises, review questions, sample applications (six appendices), and more. Learn how to use these devices in your own writing.  Get a copy from here: Writing With Clarity and Style, Second Edition. The book has been newly updated, expanded, and improved for 2018. As a bonus free gift to purchasers of the book, a supplement is available for download that contains hundreds of examples of the devices as used in the Bible. Get the supplement here (requires Adobe Reader).

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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