Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rhetorical Devices

Hey everyone, Annette here this Grammar-O Wednesday. Thanks for praying for Ocieanna. Please continue as she recovers from a cardiac arrest in January.

Are we ready to glean some great grammar tools? (Ooooh, I just demonstrated a rhetorical device. Can you name it?) Let's dive into today's topic.

I sat in on a workshop a few years ago and learned about anaphora, a rhetorical device of purposely repeating the same word or phrase. You've no-doubt seen this or used it in your own writing:

She didn’t see how choosing surrender could lead to life. She didn’t see how dying could mean living. She didn’t see how losing herself in Jesus could mean finding herself.

[Note, if you only repeat twice, your editor may wonder if you’re just fond of a specific word (weasel word) and have you find a synonym or rework your sentence.]

The discovery of anaphora led to study of rhetorical devices in general. You may be asking, how are these grammar relevant? Well, grammar is defined as: the study of the way the sentences of a language are constructed, so since rhetorical devices affect sentence structures (they’re really just strategic ways of communicating in writing or speaking), this is a great topic for this Grammar-O Wednesday.

You run into rhetorical devices everywhere. Here are a few examples:

Alliteration: using words with the same initial consonant sound: She slipped swiftly down South Hill (A little overkill, but you get the idea. The use of two words applies, as well. The point is to cause the phrase to remain in the reader’s mind.)

Onomatopoeia: pronunciation of a word demonstrates the sound the word describes: crash, ring, buzz

Personification: to depict inanimate objects as having human traits: The truck sputtered and choked.

Which ones are your favorites? Raise your hand if you know more than twenty. Thirty? I’m guessing we could all use a refresher course on these literary devices we’ve likely seen before but have been unable to name. Why not study rhetorical devices (I’ve included a link below) and begin using more of them in your own writing? Of course, don’t overdo it. But you have to know what they are and how to use them before you can use them accurately. By the way, simile and metaphor are also rhetorical devices.

Here’s a link to a handy guide of sixty rhetorical devices. I like this site because it seems thorough, and they often use Scripture as examples. Yesterday, remember how I spoke of freebies for writers, this link is one of them. *smile*

Challenge of the week: choose a rhetorical device (or two) and include it (them) in your WIP. Enjoy!


  1. Hi this is a fantastic post. I'm going to email this to my buddies. I stumbled on this while exploring on aol I'll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing.

  2. Hey Rhetorical Devices, what a fitting name. :) Glad you like the post and that you found our blog. Happy writing!


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