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Understanding Rhetorical Strategies and Devices

Be it writing or speaking, when precise words are strung together, the picture you are trying to paint can look extremely colorful and descriptive. There are countless ways to express your thought, opinion or emotion but using the right words can make it sound better. Rhetorical devices along with rhetorical strategies can be used to make communication more efficient, in terms of quality and tenor of the conversation or message. There might be some phrases and strategies that you use every day but there are others that might help you in your quest to become a better writer or speaker or to just simply understand the English language better. In this article, we will dive into what exactly are rhetorical devices and strategies, a few examples and how you can benefit from them and use them in your day-to-day life.

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. What are rhetorical devices?
  2. Types of rhetorical devices
  3. Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion
  4. Rhetorical question
  5. Commonly used Rhetorical Strategies

What are rhetorical devices?

Rhetorical devices are phrases that are used to convey meaning. They are also used to put emphasis on what you are trying to say and to try and get a response from the listener. Traditionally, rhetorical writing techniques are used in order to convey sensibility to one of four parameters which also helps persuade the listener. Read on to find out the different types of rhetorical devices.

Types of rhetorical devices

Logos: Logos relies on your argument’s logic and reasoning. It can be further subdivided into inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning and both these rely on heavy amounts of evidence. Inductive reasoning takes a specific case and draws generalizations while deductive reasoning does the opposite; takes generalizations in order to apply them to specific cases. An example of inductive reasoning would be “Trade agreements have helped raise the standard of living for coffee farmers. Therefore, trade agreements will help other farmers as well.” An example of deductive reasoning would be, “All men are mortal. Jim is a man. Therefore, Jim must be mortal.” This is coming to a specific deduction from a generalization. However, in both cases, there is sufficient amount of evidence to support the claim.

Ethos: This relies on the character, personality and integrity of the writer or speaker. As a writer, there are a few ways to ensure his/her credibility. These include the usage of reliable sources, proper citations, establishing a relationship with the reader based on beliefs, organizing their thoughts and arguments in a logical manner, mentioning your personal agenda with the write up and most definitely, proofreading the argument so that simple, grammatical errors do not exist.

Pathos: Pathos is what appeals to a reader’s beliefs, values and emotions. Most conversations or arguments are led by logic but writers and readers often find themselves also being emotionally invested in the topic. Emotional stories help paint a more realistic picture and help you connect on a different level or even to illuminate the truth. For example, singling out and telling a story of a child being abused can make a better argument than to simply provide statistics. However, emotional stories should only be used if they truly support your cause. It is easy to sway decisions and opinions by providing an emotional, heartfelt story and people should not take advantage of this.

Kairos: Kairos talks about making the right statement at the right time. The timing of what you write or say must be impeccable so as to deliver the message with the greatest amount of efficiency. It might be hard to specifically call out the right moment considering how timing is very subjective, meaning, different people might have different opinions on what is the right time. However, this is a technique and something that might need trial and error in order to get better at. A rough example would be sending a complaint email to your boss. The timing and content of this might be different from what you might send to a friend and different again if you were to send it to your mother.

Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion

The devices that we mentioned above can be used in conjunction with rhetorical writing strategies in order to persuade readers or listeners to indulge in a conversation. It might seem like something that you have never heard of but a lot of people use these strategies without knowing that they are using them. In order to improve the efficiency of your message, these strategies can be used. Here is our list of rhetoric strategies that you can utilize for persuasion.

Accismus: This refers to the refusal of something in order to convince others or themselves of a different opinion. Example: The tiny badger tried to reach some low hanging fruits but could not jump up and get to them. As he walked away, he thought to himself “You’re not even ripe yet, I don’t need any sour fruits!”

Adnomination: In order to make statements sound more persuasive, Adnomination is used through the same root word in a sentence. Example: “News is what somebody, somewhere wants to suppress. The rest is advertising.” Here, repetition of the word some is Adnomination.

Adynaton: This is a popular strategy that you might be using without even knowing. It is just a metaphor that is used to describe something that is impossible. Example: when pigs fly.

Alliteration: Repetition in the initial consonant sound of words or a phrase is Alliteration. This is different from consonance wherein the consonants are repeated anywhere in subsequent words. Example: Texting Tom took too much time today.

Anacoluthon: The idea behind this is to include a sudden change in ideas through unrelated topics. It is used to add emphasis on topics that are being discussed. Example: I agree that children should-Wait! Did you just see that car run the red light?

Anadiplosis: This is the repetition of words from the end of one sentence to the start of the next. Example: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Were famous words by Yoda in the movie Star Wars.

Anaphora: Similar to the previous strategy, Anaphora is different because it is the repetition of words at the beginning of subsequent sentences. Example: Who is the one giving us freedom? Who is the one unbounding these chains? Who is going to put a roof over our heads?

Antanagoge: This involves countering one allegation with another. The second allegation may not necessarily solve the first one but provides an alternative. Example: “Ah it’s raining today but that’s fine, I wanted to stay indoors anyway.” Someone might use antanagoge to justify something to themselves.

Anthimeria: It is the intentional misuse of a word in a statement with a verb or a noun. Examples include adulting or even Facebooking.

Antiphrasis: This basically means the opposite of what the sentence might appear to say. Example: “You can say that again” or “Tell me about it”.

Antonomasia: An Antonomasia is essentially a metaphorical nickname. This has been in use for centuries and examples include “The Boss” or how The Beatles were known as “The Fab Four”.

Apophasis: Since a lot of rhetoric is based off irony, Apophasis is bringing up a topic or a subject by denying that it should be brought up. Example: “Why would Danny DeVito call me old when I would never call him short and bald”.

This is a strategy that uses an insincere rhetoric of doubt. In the case of a new mobile phone release, the person will most likely use this rhetoric. Example: “Now, how do we use this? We can’t carry around a tiny phone, right? What do we do?”

This is just the rhetoric version of trailing off at the end of your statement. This, too, leaves the listener or reader hanging. Many people might use this rhetoric strategy in their day-to-day life without realizing it. Example: “Get out! Or else…”

Asterismos: This is a statement that begins with an exclamation. It was used a lot more in archaic English but an example would be “Behold! My kingdom and my subjects!”

Asyndeton: This uses the removal of conjunctions from a statement like “and”, “or” or even “but”. This strategy is intentionally confusing. Example: “After seeing all the evidence, I agree. They disagree.”

Bdelygmia: This is a rhetorical insult which is better when it’s longer and more descriptive. Example: “He is hateful from head to toe, disgusting people with his ill-mannered ways, poisonous tongue and carefree demeanor.”

Cacophony: It is the use of words that do not sound good together. Usually, cacophony goes hand-in-hand with euphony, where words are used together such that they sound good. Example: In a gruff voice, he said “give me all the garbage and I’ll throw it out!”.

Chiasmus: This is the repetition or reversal of words across two different statements. For example: This phrase from Mary Leapor’s Essay on Woman, “Despised, if ugly; if she's fair, betrayed.”

Climax: Using words to create a peak and saving the important bits for the end. Example: “There are only three things that will last the test of time: love, faith and hope. But the greatest of these is love.”

Dysphemism: This is something that is explicitly offensive to the subject. This is different from euphemism wherein the manner of speech tries to stay away from the vulgar or obscene. A lot of racial epithets could be considered nowadays as Dysphemism.

Meiosis: Understating something usually refers to Meiosis. The opposite of this rhetorical strategy is known as auxesis. A good example of Meiosis is the assertion of how The UK is “across the pond” from the Americas.

Onomatopoeia: A sound that phonetically represents itself is known as Onomatopoeia. The 1966 Batman uses Onomatopoeia very effectively in its finale. Examples include Wham! Crunch! Kablam!

Personification:  When certain things are described with human characteristics, it becomes easier to relate to and this is exactly what that is. Example: “The alarm screamed” or “the wind howled”.

Pleonasm: Phrases that emphasize the nature of the subject even though they might be redundant. We often find ourselves using words that do not need to be clubbed. Example: “black darkness”.

Rhetorical comparisons: This includes speeches like similes and metaphors. Similes use the word “like” while metaphors compare them directly to something. Example: You are like a crazy person and you are a crazy person.

Rhetorical question: A question that is asked to make a point instead of being answered. There are a couple of different types of rhetorics, namely, hypophora and anacoenosis. Example: “Is the Pope Catholic?”, “Is rain wet?”. These are questions with obvious answers and are used to drive a point.

  1. Synecdoche: This is a clever rhetoric device where one part of something represents the whole thing. Example: “New wheels” refers to a new car that someone might have purchased. This is different from metonymy, where one thing is representative of a much larger institution.
  2. Tmesis: Many people, in a fit of rage, tend to split one word into two parts, with the third part in between the two. A good example would be “fan-frickin-tastic!” This can be done with other words too and the message is driven with more emphasis.
  3. Zeugma: This is a bit of a tough one. It is also known as syllepsis and it places two nouns which have different meanings, in the same kind of position in a statement. It is a grammatical trick that can be used rhetorically as well. A good example is “the man covered himself in dust and glory.”

Commonly used Rhetorical Strategies

Different types of rhetorical strategies are used on a daily basis by a lot of people but they don’t even realize it. They can come in handy to better understand the language and help you communicate with more efficiency. Rhetoric is a great way to send across a message and get a response in return. We hope our list has made you a bit more knowledgeable and that you will be able to use these common rhetorical strategies in your speech or writing.

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