bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 15, 2016 - 10:13am

Pretty much none of my English classes taught me about rhetorical tropes, throughout highschool and college, up until I took Postmodern Lit with one older professor. It was like getting the keys to the writing kingdom. I've been hooked ever since. Anybody have any formal or informal education with these, or any favorites they'd like to share?

Some of mine that he taught us are:

  • Antanagoge (an ta na Go ge; "leading up, bringing against"): You balance out the fault or difficulty of something with a benefit/favorable aspect.
    “The bad news is, all we have to eat is buffalo shit. The good news is, there’s lots of it!”
  • Parataxis (pa ra TAX is; "placing side by side"): A sequence of clauses with no conjunctions, to convey immediacy, set a lively pace, grab the reader's attention, or suggest that an experience hasn't been fully processed.
    "I came, I saw, I conquered."
  • Zeugma (ZEUG ma; "yoking"): A kind of Ellipsis where one instance of one word is used in multiple senses in congruent words in the same sentence.
    "He took his hat and his leave."
  • Apostrophe ("turning away"): Interrupting a discourse to directly address an audience that's either absent or can't respond.
    “Death, where is thy sting?”
  • Hyperbaton (hy PER ba ton; "transposed"): A departure from normal word order.
    "The dark side of the Force are they."
  • Acryologia (a cy ro LO gi a; "incorrect in phraseology"): The inexact, inappropriate, or illogical use of a word.
    "Do you think he's going to capitulate?" "I don't know -- but stand back in case he does."

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 15, 2016 - 11:44am

Can we define trope, rhetorical device, etc.? It almost seems to me there is more than one type, or the word is misused a lot. 

Or maybe there are tropes for plot, tropes for characters, tropes for prose, tropes for world building...

For example, the "braided roses" trope is a plot thing and a character thing.

Hyperbation is apparently a prose and character (potentially) thing.


bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 15, 2016 - 1:46pm

The sense in which I'm using the word comes from the study of rhetoric. So there are 2 main kinds of rhetorical devices from what I've studied: Figures of Thought and Figures of Speech/Words.

Figures of thought are to do with strategies and tactics in writing (large scale tropes/schemes, like allegories). Figures of words are to do with word order. Tropes are a kind of figure of words; they're turns away from the literal, where you use a word for something other than its meaning (a metaphor is one example). I'm using "trope" as a blanket term out of convenience. I'm talking about figures of thought and speech specifically within the study of rhetoric.

This is how it's defined in rhetoric. Obviously, there are different meanings of the word "trope" in other fields. A trope in the sense of a common element in a plot or story type (like what you see on, aka motifs and cliches, is something different from what I mean.

So, basically: strategies/tactics/word orders. Fancy Latin and Greek names for things like how Yoda talks or giving someone the bad news first and then the good news.

I don't think I've heard of hyperbation before. What is it?

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 15, 2016 - 3:04pm

It's hyperbaton with an instinctively typed "i" in the word on accident.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 15, 2016 - 3:04pm

So anyway, okay, we're basically talking rhetoric, which when applied to fiction, goes to prose. Yeah?

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 16, 2016 - 2:06pm

Rhetoric isn't something that is restricted to prose. Poetry uses these devices more often than not. The difference is they add meter, rhythm, etc. (Cheap way to not think about all that is in poetry.) 

So you can have,

Polysyndetons, which is simply adding the coordinating conjunction between each word instead of using punctuation marks.

EX: Jim ate fried chicken and mash potatoes and gravy and corn and biscuits and washed it all down with a tall bourbon. 

It sets up a rhythm, an unending feel to what is being expressed. It creates a semi-sense of anxiety in the reader whom doesn't appreciate things to be so taxing.

On the opposite side you have...

Asyndeton, which is a removal of any coordinating conjunction.

EX: She puts her hands into the sludge, slime, goop.

This allows you to do many things. By piling words on top of each other, you force the reader to slow down and consider each one doubling the effect. 

This is not all that Polysyndeton and Asyndeton do, these are just brief examples. But these two are really useful. They can really help you sell a list of things. Most importantly, Rhetoric is useful in manipulating a reader to think and feel and pause and speed up where you want them to. They are vital for pacing.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel August 25, 2016 - 5:11pm


because this is important.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann August 26, 2016 - 8:24pm

Thanks for sharing! I hadn't heard of polysyndeton or asyndeton. I've saved your explanations of them to my little rhetoric folder. I see those within other tropes, like parataxis and hypotaxis.

Here is a matching pair of tropes, for the sake of keeping the thread going:

  • Parallelism: ABAB construction. This is a trope of balance. It dictates that, when you have equivalent things, they should be put in equivalent forms.
    “To listen, to pause, to restate, and then to speak is to communicate well.”
  • Chiasmus (key AS mus; "crossing"): The opposite of parallelism; a trope of mirror inversion. ABBA construction. Here, you relate two or more clauses to each other through a reversal of structures.
    “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
    “Anyone who thinks he has a solution does not comprehend the problem and anyone who comprehends the problem does not have a solution.”
    “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”

I'll come back periodically with more.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 26, 2016 - 9:51pm

I like chiasmus...There's something poetic sounding whenever it's done.

_'s picture
_ August 26, 2016 - 10:55pm

Great topic! These defintions are all new to me, but reading the examples, I recognize them. Thanks for posting.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel September 3, 2016 - 2:51pm

Note: And please delete this post if there is an issue with plagiarism. Not sure of the consequences of this. I just felt that the information is great for the community....

From Writing with Clarity and Style: 

GO BUY THE BOOK. IT IS VITAL!  There are exercises and explanations and examples and just all around a book that every writer should own.

Parallelism: … is the presentation of several ideas of equal importance by putting each of them in to the same kind of grammatical structure. Each of the ideas is ordered or phrased similarly:

Example: To think clearly and to write precisely are interrelated goals.

Chiasmus: … is a type of a type of parallelism (where similar elements of a sentence are balanced with each other) in which the balanced elements are presented in reverse order rather than in the same order. Chiasmus is useful for creating a different style of balance from that offered by regular parallelism. Where parallelism balances elements in the same order (A, B is balanced by A, B), chiasmus reverses the order (A, B is balanced by B, A).

Example: The code breakers worked constantly but rarely succeeded.

Antithesis: … contrasts two ideas by placing them next to each other almost always in a parallel structure. You may have noticed in reading about parallelism and chiasmus above that those structures lend themselves easily to setting up contrasts. Developing contrasts is important for clear writing because a powerful way to clarify an idea is to show how it differs from another idea. (You may have read the advice about creating good explanations: First, say what something is like; then say what it is not like.)

Example:  To err is human; to forgive, divine. –Alexander Pope
That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. –Neil Armstrong.

Climax: … is the presentation of ideas (in words, clauses, sentences, etc.) in the order of increasing importance. At the level of an entire essay, climatic order is commonly used for arranging the points presented to produce the effect of increasing strength and emphasis. The same feeling of turning up the volume works at the sentence level also.

Example: When the bucket fell off the ladder, the paint splashed onto the drop cloth, the small rug, the sofa, and the Rembrandt painting.

Asyndeton: … consist of omitting conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses in a list. A list of items without conjunctions gives the effect of unpremeditated multiplicity, of a spontaneous rather than a labored account.

Example: When he returned, he received medals, honors, riches, titles, fame.

Polysyndeton: ... is the use of a conjunction between each word, phrase, or clause and it is thus structurally the opposite of asyndeton. The rhetorical effect is different as well. While asyndeton usually creates the feeling of spontaneous, even hurried enumeration or an enumeration where one term seems out to replace another, Polysyndeton produces the feeling of a deliberate piling up, a one-added-to-another multiplicity.

Example: They read and studied and wrote and drilled. I laughed and played and talked and flunked.

Expletive: ... is a word or short phrase, often interrupting a sentence, used to lend emphasis to the words immediately before and after the expletive. The forced pause created by the expletive, together with the expletive itself, brings focus and emphasis to that part of the sentence.

Example: The lake was not, in fact, drained before April.

Irony: … involves a statement whose hidden meaning is different from its surface or apparent meaning. Often, the ironic or implied meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning.

Example: When a truck driver pulled up, he saw the girl sitting in the rain on the spare tire, her prom dress ripped, grease on her face, mud on her shoes. As he stepped out of the truck, she asked him, “Does this mean my fun is over?”

Understatement: … deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it is. The degree, significance, or quantity involved is reduced (usually substantially), either for the purpose of ironic emphasis or for the sake of politeness. A common application is to emphasize something that already involves an extreme situation. Taking something that is already extreme and attempting to exaggerate it for emphasis would not be effective, so the opposite approach is taken. For example, suppose parents wish to caution their children to drive carefully and not to stay out too late. They could not effectively use exaggeration to describe the grief they would feel if something went wrong, so they understate it, as the following example shows.

Example: You know, we would be a little disappointed if you were to be hit by a drunk driver at 2:00 A.M., so we hope you will come home early.

Litotes: … is a form of understatement, created by denying the opposite of the idea in mind. Depending on the context and the subject matter, litotes either retains the effect of understatement or intensifies the expression.

Example: Those who examine themselves will gain knowledge of their failings. (will not remain ignorant of their failings.)

Hyperbole: … is exaggeration; it is the opposite of understatement. This is a challenging device to use because we live in such an overly exaggerated information environment. Between the excesses of marketing, journalism, and emotional venting, we are exposed to a constant barrage of hyperbole and have become numb toward much of it. Nevertheless, hyperbole can still be an effective tool of writing, if used carefully.

Example: Waiter, about this steak. I said rare, not raw. I’ve seen cows hurt worse than this get up and get well.

Metabasis: … consists of a brief statement of what has been said and what will follow. It functions as a kind of hinge, a transitional summary that links sections of writing together. As such, it provides great clarity by keeping the discussion ordered and focused in the reader’s mind.

Example: We have to this point been examining the proposal advanced by Jurdane only in regard to its legal permissibility, but now we need to consider the effect it would have on research and development work in private laboratories.

Procatalepsis: … anticipates an objection that might be raised by a reader and responds to it, thus permitting an argument to continue moving forward while taking into account opposing points. Skillfully used, the device can create almost a conversational effect to an argument, where opposing comments are introduced and responded to in a back-and-forth dialog.

Example: It is usually argued at this point that if the government gets out of the mail delivery business, small towns like One Tree will not have any mail service. The answer to this can be found in the history of the Pont Express…

Hypophora: … involves asking one or more questions and then proceeding to answer them, usually at some length. A common usage is to ask a question at the beginning of a paragraph and then use the rest of the paragraph to answer it.

Example: Where else can this growing region look to augment its water supply? One possibility is the deep aquifer beneath the southeastern corner….

Distinctio: ... is the presentation of a specific meaning for a word (or reference to various meanings of a word) in order to prevent ambiguity or confusion. Its use calls the reader’s attention to the need for clarity much more deliberately than other methods of definition, such as providing synonyms during a discussion.

Example: Ambiguous: It is impossible to make methanol for twenty-five cents a gallon.
Clarified with distinctio: To make methanol for twenty-five cents a gallon is impossible; by impossible I mean currently beyond our technological capabilities.

Exemplum: … provides a specific example. Examples often include the visual, concrete, specific details that a reader can see in the mind’s eye. Our minds process ideas more easily if those ideas are connected to pictures. Purely abstract discussions are often difficult to follow, but they can be made easier by the presence of a pertinent case, an application, or other kind of example.

Example: Snow cone flavors, such as bubblegum and mango, are often named after candy or fruit.

Amplification: … consists of restating a word or idea and adding more detail. This device allows a writer to call attention to an expression that may otherwise be passed over, and is therefore useful for both clarity and emphasis. The effect is also one of slowing down the process of thought, as the writer seems to back up a bit, restate a term, and provide detail about it before continuing the discussion.

Example: In my hunger after ten days of overly rigorous dieting, I saw visions of ice cream—mountains of creamy, luscious ice cream, dripping with gooey syrup and calories.

Metanoia: … qualifies a statement or part of a statement by rejecting it or calling it back and expressing it in a better, milder, or stronger way.

Example: the most important quality to look for in impact sockets is hardness; no, not so much hardness as resistance to shock and shattering.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel September 3, 2016 - 2:48pm

Simile: … compares two very different things that have at least one quality in common. While similes are used in poetry principally for artistic effect, in formal writing they serve not only to increase interest but also clarify an idea in an imaginative way.

Example: After long exposure to the direct sun, the leaves of the houseplant looked like pieces of overcooked bacon.

Analogy: …, like a simile, compares two different things by identifying points of similarity. The differences between simile and an analogy are several:
• An analogy usually identifies several points of similarity, rather than just one or two identified in a simile.
• An analogy is created for the purpose of giving conceptual clarity, explaining an unfamiliar idea by comparing it to a familiar one.
• An analogy is a practical device used to help the reader’s thought process, and is therefore usually chosen for its close similarity to the subject, so that the qualities in common offer helpful illumination of the subject. Similes more often strive for effect through the use of images very different from the subjects.

Example: Flash memory chips work like a chalkboard, in that, when information is written on it, the information remains present even when the power is turned off. Only when the information is deliberately erased will it disappear. And like the chalkboard, flash memory can be written on and erased many times.

Metaphor: …, like its relatives simile and analogy in the sections described above, compares two different things. The significant difference, though, is that a metaphor identifies the subject with the image: That is, instead of saying that the subject is like the image, a metaphor asserts that the subject is the image in some sense.

Simile: A good book is like a friend.
Metaphor: A good book is a friend.

Catachresis: … is a striking, even extreme, implied metaphor that often makes use of grammatical misconstruction. The combination of a metaphor and the unusual expression can be dramatically effective. One way to construct a catachresis is to substitute an associated thing for the intended idea.

Example: I will speak daggers to her, but use none—

Metonymy: … is a type of metaphor in which something closely associated with another thing is named instead of the other thing. In other words, an associated idea is substituted for the subject idea.

Example: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Synecdoche: … is also a metaphor of substitution like metonymy. However, rather than substituting something associated with the subject, a part of the subject is substituted for the whole, or the whole for the part. (The substitution can also be the genus for the species, the species for the genus, the material for the thing made, or any other portion for a whole or whole for a portion.) The beatnik slang of the 1950s was rich with synecdoche. As the following example shows.

Example: If I had some wheels, I’d put on my best threads and ask for Jane’s hand.

Personification: … metaphorically gives human attributes to animals, objects, or ideas. The human attributes can be those of form, behavior, feelings, attitudes, motivation, and so forth.

EXPAND: Personification attributes some trait, specific in nature, to create imagery; anthropomorphism aims to make something actually act or become a human.

Example: The ship began to creak and protest as it struggled against the rising sea.

Allusion: … is a short, informal reference to a famous person or event. The allusion often functions as a brief analogy or example to highlight a point being made.

Example: Plan ahead: It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.

Eponym: … is a specific type of allusion, substituting the name of a person famous for some attribute in place of the attribute itself. The person can be a historical, mythological, literary, or biblical figure.

Example: This lid is stuck so tight I need a Hercules to open it.

Apostrophe: ... is a direct address to someone, whether present or absent, and whether real, imaginary, or personified. Its most common purpose is to permit the writer to turn away from the subject under discussion for a moment and give expression to built-up emotion. In the example below, Richard de Bury interrupts his praise of books to talk about books themselves:

Example: O books who alone are liberal and free, who give all who ask of you and enfranchise all who serve you faithfully!

Transferred Epithet: … An ordinary epithet is an adjective or adjective phrase that describes a key characteristic of the noun. Epithets can also be metaphorical, usually with personified characteristics. A transferred epithet is an adjective modifying a noun that it cannot normally modify, but that makes figurative sense.

Example: At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth of thieves and murderers ….

Zeugma: … and its related forms, all involve linking together two or words, phrases, of clauses by another word that is stated in one place and only implied in the rest of the sentence. The simplest example is the use of one verb to link two subjects, as in the following example, where Jane and Tom share the verb jogged.

Example: Jane and Tom jogged along the trail together.

Diazeugma: ... consists of a single subject linking multiple verbs or verb phrases. The phrases are usually put into parallel form to make the sentence easier to follow and to give it a balanced feel. In the example below, the word book links the verb phrases beginning with reveals, discusses, and argues.

Example: The book reveals the extent of counterintelligence operations, discusses the option for improving security, and argues for an increase in human intelligence measures.

Prozeugma: … the linking word is presented once and then omitted from the subsequent sets of words or phrases linked together. The linking word is often a verb. In the following example, the verb excelled is stated in the first clause and then implied in the subsequent clauses.

Example: The freshman excelled in calculus; the sophomore, in music; the senior, in drama.

Mesozeugma: … the linking word (often a verb) comes in the middle of the sentence. In the example below, the linking words are is included, connecting a center speaker at the beginning of the sentence and a subwoofer at the end. Note that removing the verb in the second part of the sentence shifts the emphasis from the verb idea (included) to the object of inclusion (subwoofer).

Example: A center speaker is included, and a subwoofer.

Hypozeugma: … the linking word follows the words it links together. A common form is the presentation of multiple subjects.

Example: monkey’s giraffes, elephants, and even lions had escaped from the zoo after the earthquake.

Syllepsis: … is a device similar to ordinary zeugma, except that the terms are linked (almost always by a verb) in different senses or meanings of the linking word.

Example: She was unwilling to drive to that party because she was afraid to damage her car or her reputation.

Hyperbaton: … refers to any departure from normal word order. The unexpected arrangement of words calls sharp attention to the word or words that are out of their usually expected place, thus emphasizing them. Displacing a word to the end or beginning of the sentence (the positions of greatest emphasis) further stresses them, as seen in the two examples below.

Example:  Disturb me not!
  Books they have demanded and books they will get.

Anastrophe: … involves the reversal or transposition of words. A common form involves placing an adjective behind the noun it modifies instead of in front of it. The usual effect is to emphasize the adjective because it now becomes the last word in the sentence or clause. Such a construction is useful when the adjective is more important than the noun.

Example:  Normal: His was a sad countenance.
  Anastrophe: His countenance was sad.

Appositive: … is a noun that re-describes another noun standing next to it. The two nouns are in apposition (not opposition) to each other.

Example: Mrs. Wilkins, the manager, told me about the plans for expansion.

Parenthesis: ... consists of a word, phrase, or entire sentence inserted as an aside into the middle of another sentence.

Example: But the new calculations—and here we see the value of relying on up-to-date information—showed that man-powered flight was possible with this design.

Parataxis and Hypotaxis:
Parataxis holds equal importance to the words and phrases; Hypotaxis puts one idea as more important than the others.

Anaphora: … involves the repetition of the same words or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences, often using climax and parallelism. The structure of anaphora can be shown in a diagram, where Xs represent the repeated words, and dashes represent the other, non-repeated words: X _ _ X _ _ X _ _.

Often the word or phrase repeated embodies a concept that the writer desires to emphasize. In the following example, the idea of ignorance or lack of knowledge is stressed.

Example: Slowly and grimly they advanced, not knowing what lay ahead, not knowing what they would find at the top of the hill, not knowing that they were so near the outpost.

Epistrophe: … forms the counterpart to anaphora: The repetition of words or phrases comes at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences, rather than at the beginning. The structure of epistrophe can be shown here in a diagram, where the Xs represent the repeated words, and the dashes represent the other, non-repeated words: _ _ X _ _ X _ _ X.
In modern prose, the repetition is usually limited to two or three iterations, with four being used rarely for a particularly dramatic effect.

Example: In order for us to gain an understanding of the situation, the photographs and the electronic intercepts must be carefully analyzed, and the reports of the operatives on the ground must be carefully analyzed.

These cars are taking market share because their engineering is superior, the quality of their materials is superior, and the workmanship of their assembly is superior.

Symploce: … combines anaphora and epistrophe by repeating words at both the beginning and the ending of phrases, clauses, or sentences. The structure of symploce can be shown in a diagram, where Xs represent some repeated words, the Os represent other repeated words, and the dashes represent the non-repeated words: X _ _ O X _ _ O.

Example: Whenever Chef Robaire cooked, his soup du jour began with chicken broth and garlic, his soup a la Chef included vegetables and garlic, and his soup Florentine was made with onions, cheese, and garlic.

Anadiplosis: … is formed by the repetition of the last word or words of a sentence or clause at or very near the beginning of the next. The immediate repetition calls attention to the words, reinforcing them, Remember too, that the end and the beginning of sentences are positions of emphasis. The structure of anadiplosis can be shown in a diagram where Xs represent the repeated words, and the dashes represent the other, non-repeated words: _ _ X X _ _.

Example: The treatment plant has a record of uncommon reliability, a reliability envied by every other water treatment facility on the coast.

Conduplicatio: … repeats a key word from a preceding clause or sentence at or near the beginning of the next. (Anadiplosis repeats the last word, but conduplicatio repeats a key word or words of the key idea to be continued in the next sentence, regardless of the position in the previous sentence.) The structure of conduplicatio can be shown in a diagram, where the Xs represent the repeated words, and the dashes represent the other, non-repeated words: _ X _ _ X _ _.

Example: Working adults form the largest single group of customers for on-line courses in the United States. On-line courses allow them to schedule academic assignments around full-time jobs and family responsibilities.

Epanalepsis: … repeats the beginning word or words of a clause or sentence at the end. The structure of epanalepsis can be shown in a diagram, where the Xs represent the repeated words, and the dashes represent the other, non-repeated words: X _ _ X.
Placing the same idea in the two major positions of emphasis in the sentence calls attention to it, while the echo of the beginning at the end creates a feeling of return to the first thought, in spite of the intervening words.

Example: Water alone dug this giant canyon, yes, ordinary water.

Diacope: … is the repetition of a word or phrase after an intervening word or phrase. In some uses, diacope might be thought of as a reshaped epanalepsis, where the repeated beginning and ending are stretched out and the middle is condensed.

Example: They dynamited the statue, those villains; they dynamited the statue.

Epizeuxis: … is the repetition of one word or short phrase. The most common and most natural effect is produced by three occurrences of the word or phrase, while two can be effective as well.

Example: The best way to describe this portion of South America is lush, lush, lush.

Antimetabole: … reverses the order of repeated words or phrases to call attention to the final formulation, present alternatives, or show contrast. The structure is loosely chiastic using an AB-BA form.

Example: All play and now work can be as stressful as all work and no play.

Scesis Onomaton: … emphasizes an idea by expressing it in a string of generally synonymous phrases or statements. The repetition garners attention for an idea by dwelling on it, and at the same time the various restatements allow the writer to present a richer view of the idea through multiple ways of expressing it.

Example: Wendy lay there, motionless in a peaceful slumber, very still in the arms of sleep.

Alliteration: … is formed by repeating the same sound at the beginning of successive words or words related to teach other in some way. The most familiar for or alliteration is the repetition of consonants in word pairs.

Example: The late delivery of parts resulted in a disheartening delay in production.

Onomatopoeia: … is a word that, when pronounced, imitates the sound the word names. Another way of saying this is that the word imitates its meaning. For example, when spoken, the word plop is intended to resemble the sound of a small object splashing into water or another liquid. The resemblance between the word and the actual sound is often more conventional than actual, so that some degree of imagination must be used. For example, the word slam is a rather poor mimic of the actual sound made by closing a door swiftly, yet the pronunciation makes a closer imitation of the sound that the word close.
Onomatopoeias add not only interesting and lively sounds to writing, but they also often involve distinctive movements of the mouth to pronounce, thereby adding to their effect. In the following examples, compare the increased aural (sound) sensation contributed by the onomatopoeias, and note also how much your mouth moves to pronounce them.

Example: Someone yelled, “Look out!” just as I heard the screeching of tires followed by the grinding, wrenching crash.

Assonance: … is created by repeating vowel sounds in the stressed syllables of successive words or words relatively close to each other. In either case, the vowels occur next to different ending consonants, as in dote, soul, moan. (If vowels were next to the same ending consonants, rhyme would result: dole, soul, mole.)
Assonance creates a subtle but elegant effect. In the following example, note how the repetition of the short i in city, hill, and hid contributes to the rhythm and music of the sentence.

Example: A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

Consonance: … is formed by repeating the same consonant sound at the end of stressed syllables (or short words) with different vowels before the consonants. Note the repeated p sound at the end of rip, cap, and top in the example below.

Example: He was so thirsty that he tried to rip the cap off the top.

Rhetorical Question: … differs from hypophora in that the writer does not answer it because the answer is self-evident. In other words, the expected answer is implied by the question itself, and is often just a yes or no. In the example below, the expected answer is clearly, No, because businesses cannot function by losing ever-increasing amounts of money.

Example: So, then, do we want to continue to join with the school in the children’s summer reading program? After all, parents and guardians will be the ones who must monitor and encourage their children’s reading at home.

Aporia: … expresses doubt about a fact, idea, or conclusion. The doubt may be real or pretended. An expression of uncertainty is useful for presenting alternatives without favoring one or the other, as in the following examples.

Example: I cannot decide whether I approve of dress-codes for middle-school children: Dress codes prevent gang clothing and conspicuous consumption, but they also produce a gray uniformity that suppresses personality and individual taste.

Apophasis: … brings up a subject by pretending not to bring it up. Its legitimate use is to call attention to something briefly, mentioning the existence of an idea without going into it.

Example: I will not mention Houdini’s books on magic, nor the tricks he invented, nor his well-known escapes, because I want to focus on the work he did exposing swindlers and cheats.

Anacoluthon: … is a sentence whose two pieces do not fit together grammatically. That is, the writer begins a sentence and changes from one sentence construction to another halfway through. When intentional, anacoluthon produces the effect of sudden change in mind by the writer captured on paper. The result is a sense of immediacy, that the reader is right there with the writer as the prose is being constructed.

Example: Suddenly we heard an explosion from the direction of the hut. I turned to see the windows blowing out and the roof coming off. I began to – we were all knocked down.

Oxymoron: … is a condensed paradox, usually reduced to two words. (A paradox, you will recall, is an apparent contradiction that may nevertheless be true or appropriate in some way.)

Example: Wolf whimpers and scratches to be picked up, but when I pick him up, he turns his head away as if he doesn’t care that he’s being held. It’s clearly a case of clinging aloofness.

Pun: … plays with the multiple meanings of a word or words. One word may be used in a way that suggests several meanings, or two words that sound alike (or almost alike) may be used, with their different meanings. Silly puns have in modern times reduced the pun to its current status as “the lowest for of humor,” but historically puns were often considered witty and elegant because they were often well done.

Example:  Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness
  Though foster child of silence and slow time …. Keats

Anthimeria: … uses a part of speech as if it were another. The most common form of anthimeria is the use of a noun as if it were a verb.

Example: I can keyboard that article this afternoon.

bethwenn's picture
bethwenn from Milwaukee is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann September 3, 2016 - 9:57pm

Nice! You've got some of my favorites in there. I'll try to type up some more tomorrow. I'm currently chained to homework.

If you're looking to buy something to learn these, I'm told Richard Lanham's is one of the most complete compilations out there for rhetorical terms: I'm pretty happy with it. There's about 160 pages of terms with descriptions and examples, then also some pages of in depth discussions of rhetoric, its branches, and the art of argument and logical fallacies, and then further discussion of the terms and divisions of them by type. About 200 pages.

Supposedly, Shakespeare knew around 500 of them like the back of his hand. A lot of the power in his writing comes from combinations of multiple tropes in single lines. If you really want to stretch your rhetoric muscles, read up on your Shakespeare plays too to see the tropes artfully in action. Trying to close read and find all the tropes woud be a great but exhausting learning exercise. (I see at least 5 in just the first 2 or 3 lines of this. Apostrophe, personification, hyperbaton, metaphor, epimone, and alliteration. The name for the construction of the first line, where a condition/hypothetical is stated and a consequence follows, escapes me.)


    Give me the glass, and therein will I read.
    No deeper wrinkles yet? hath sorrow struck
    So many blows upon this face of mine,
    And made no deeper wounds? O flattering glass,
    Like to my followers in prosperity,
    Thou dost beguile me! Was this face the face
    That every day under his household roof
    Did keep ten thousand men? was this the face
    That, like the sun, did make beholders wink?
    Was this the face that faced so many follies,
    And was at last out-faced by Bolingbroke?
    A brittle glory shineth in this face:
    As brittle as the glory is the face;

    Dashes the glass against the ground

    For there it is, crack'd in a hundred shivers.
    Mark, silent king, the moral of this sport,
    How soon my sorrow hath destroy'd my face.


    The shadow of your sorrow hath destroy'd
    The shadow of your face.


    Say that again.
    The shadow of my sorrow! ha! let's see:
    'Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
    And these external manners of laments
    Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
    That swells with silence in the tortured soul;
    There lies the substance: and I thank thee, king,
    For thy great bounty, that not only givest
    Me cause to wail but teachest me the way
    How to lament the cause. I'll beg one boon,
    And then be gone and trouble you no more.
    Shall I obtain it?


    Name it, fair cousin.


    'Fair cousin'? I am greater than a king:
    For when I was a king, my flatterers
    Were then but subjects; being now a subject,
    I have a king here to my flatterer.
    Being so great, I have no need to beg.

Kedzie's picture
Kedzie from the SF Bay Area is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien September 3, 2016 - 11:39pm

Wow. I'm just saying thanks. Seriously, THANKS. There's so much I don't know. It's humbling and exciting.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 4, 2016 - 1:43pm

Anyone else notice that rap uses anthumeria all the time?

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 4, 2016 - 10:23pm

I think I'm going to pick one, maybe two of these, for one of my minor characters, and make him do it all the time. I'm thinking he'll do anthimeria all the time like his favorite rap star.

This could be a very easy way to establish some unique character voices...