10 Commonly Used Rhetorical Strategies (With Examples)
Rhetorical devices exist in essays, speeches, and persuasive writing. They are relevant for effective communication because they can enhance comparisons, emphasize points, and improve narration and descriptions. Understanding rhetorical devices and how to use them can help you improve your communication and writing. In this article, we discuss rhetorical devices and their categories, and identify 10 common examples of rhetorical strategies.
What are rhetorical strategies?
Rhetorical strategies, also known as rhetorical devices, involve words or phrases that convey meaning, provoke responses from readers or listeners, and persuade them during communication. For instance, if you say, "it's raining cats and dogs," you're emphasizing or describing that there's a heavy downpour of rain. While cats and dogs don't fall from the sky, saying this allows you to speak metaphorically for effect.
Rhetorical devices are relevant when writing, when speaking formally, or in everyday conversations. Although their use is sometimes intentional, you can use them in your regular conversations without noticing. In addition, they are of great use if you're interested in literature.
Types of rhetorical devices
Rhetorical devices fall under various categories, including:
Analyzing cause and effect
Some rhetorical devices allow you to analyze the cause or effect of an issue. Usually, cause-tailored devices are forward-looking while effect-tailored devices look to the past. For instance, if you wanted to discuss global warming, you can structure your discussion using this device, identifying the causes leading to a particular effect. These types of rhetorical devices are useful if you're writing an analytical essay.
Comparing and contrasting
Some rhetorical devices compare and contrast two ideas. When checking for comparisons, it assesses the similarities between two ideas. When analyzing for contrasts, it identifies the differences between the ideas. Rhetorical devices in this category are useful if you're writing reports, giving a persuasive speech for a particular course of action, or providing an argumentative piece.
Classifying and dividing
Some rhetorical devices allow you to classify and divide ideas, which usually involves placing ideas into a group or dividing ideas into smaller units. It is useful for organizing information that seems complicated or topics that appear overwhelming. In addition, it allows you to keep the attention of your reader by introducing the idea in a less complicated manner before offering additional information.
Rhetorical devices that fall under this category allow you to define an idea and tell your reader or listener what it means. It helps you provide appropriate context about an idea to your readers or listeners. Devices that fall under this category are useful in argumentative writing as it ensures you can present a concept from a specific perspective.
These types of rhetorical devices help you explain a particular subject. It involves showing how something smells, feels, tastes, sounds, and looks. This strategy lets you show your readers an idea, usually by evoking a mental image with words. Rhetorical devices that fall under this category are useful in descriptive essays, storytelling, and analytical essays.
Explaining a process
Rhetorical devices under this category allow you to explain the operations and processes of an idea. This can include explaining everyday processes and technical activities like playing chess or cooking a specific meal. This type of rhetorical device is useful when writing historical essays and cultural analyses.
10 common examples of rhetorical strategies
Here are some common rhetorical devices that can enhance your communication, including examples showing how you can use these strategies when speaking or writing:
Alliteration involves repeating the initial sound of a word. Typically, this repetition occurs throughout the sentence to create a form of lyricism. This can emphasize a particular word or idea or make the sentence more appealing to the reader.
Example: Talking to Tyler took considerable time today.
In this instance, the speaker or writer alliterates the letter "t" to draw the listener or reader's attention to what occurred.
Amplification involves building on a word, phrase, or sentence to evoke a sense of intensity and urgency in the listener or reader. Typically, this makes a reader more conscious of the word or sentence and its relevance in the speech. Sometimes, this can be through the use of repetition.
Example: They need a beautiful house in a beautiful neighbourhood.
In this instance, the speaker or writer amplifies the word "beautiful" to tell the reader or listener that beauty is important for a good house.
Anacoluthon involves introducing a new idea suddenly within a sentence. It can also be the introduction of a seemingly unrelated topic within a sentence. The goal is to emphasize an idea or topic within a conversation by fabricating a diversion.
Example: I shall have my revenge on you, that every living thing shall—I shall do so much that even I have no idea of yet.
In this instance, the speaker breaks away into a seemingly different thought in the middle of the sentence. Regardless, the topic remains revenge, but the speaker pauses the original flow using anacoluthon, leaving the listener to guess the subject matter.
Anadiplosis involves using the word that ends a sentence to begin a new sentence. This rhetorical strategy allows you to carry a flow of thought from one sentence into the next sentence. It helps your listeners or readers to recognize your emphasis and easily grasp your point or idea.
Example: Pain leads to fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering.
The writer or speaker emphasizes a sequence and uses an anadiplosis to present the idea to the reader or listener.
Antanagoge involves using positive and negative statements in one sentence. This rhetorical device is useful if you're trying to identify a problem then present its solution. It helps you to communicate persuasively, either when speaking in everyday conversation or when writing.
Example: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Here, the sentence conveys negativity through the word "lemons" and then becomes positive by using "lemonade."
Apophasis is similar to irony, and it involves saying something while also denying it. A popular example of an apophasis involves stating that you aren't saying something, then concluding with a narrative that describes what you claimed you aren't saying. Typically, it's useful when explaining a process and trying to present it indirectly.
Example: I am not saying it's your obligation, but you need to take your sibling to school tomorrow.
Here, the writer or speaker isn't telling the reader or listener to take their siblings to school but says they need to do it regardless of what they are saying.
Chiasmus involves changing the order of phrases or words within a sentence to inspire a powerful emotion. The goal is to propel the listener or reader to think emotionally in response to the statement. It is useful for inspirational speeches and write-ups.
Example: "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."
In this instance, President John F. Kennedy used this device during his inaugural speech to provoke a personal and emotional connection between citizens and their country.
Euphemism is a rhetorical device that involves presenting unpleasant situations and conditions more pleasantly. Usually, the use of euphemism is to reduce the effect of negative news or words or to present an issue from a more positive perspective.
Example: "Culturally deprived area" can describe an area that's otherwise a "poor neighbourhood" or "slum;" "genuine imitation leather" can describe "vinyl" or "fake leather;" and "domestic engineering" can describe "house cleaning" services.
Hypophora involves asking a question in a speech or write-up, then immediately providing the answer to the listener or reader. This device is pervasive in everyday conversations. It allows you to provide some context for the answer while emphasizing your point. It is distinct from a rhetorical question because the speaker or writer immediately answers the question.
Example: Why is it vital to arrive at your office early? First, it is essential because it presents you as a professional employee who respects everyone's time.
Here, the speaker or writer uses this device to emphasize punctuality in the workplace.
Simile involves comparing two ideas or subjects by placing them side by side in a sentence. It introduces a subject, then compares the subject with another widely known subject, highlighting a specific point. It is useful for explanations where the attributes of who or what you're trying to present relate to another popular idea.
Example: John is always hungry, just like a lion.
In this example, the speaker or writer compares the eating capacity of John with that of a lion to provide context to how much John loves eating and the strength of his appetite.
Understanding the different types of rhetorical strategies, like the aforementioned devices, and how to use them can help you improve your communication and writing.
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