Rhetorical devices and figures of speech
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RHETORICAL DEVICES AND FIGURES OF SPEECH. Following is a list of stylistic devices that writers can use for various purposes. It can impress people if you can recognise and identify some of these and such recognition can alert you to what a writer is trying to achieve:.

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RHETORICAL DEVICES AND FIGURES OF SPEECH

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RHETORICAL DEVICES AND FIGURES OF SPEECH


  • Following is a list of stylistic devices that writers can use for various purposes. It can impress people if you can recognise and identify some of these and such recognition can alert you to what a writer is trying to achieve:


  • Repetition: as the name suggests, using the same word, phrase or structure repeatedly for emphatic effect, often but not only in poetry:

  • What rubbish you talk, what drivel, what brainless garbage!


  • Irony: the main meaning of irony in writing is where the writer means the opposite of what he/she actually says (verbal irony):

  • Isn’t the Scottish education system wonderful?


  • Situational irony might be defined as where a very bad situation overlaps with a more pleasant situation, but one which fails to compensate for the bad situation.

  • The doctor tells you you are not dying and you are so pleased that you run out into the road and get killed by a bus.


  • Dramatic irony is where the audience at a play/ readers of a text know more than the characters.


  • Alliteration: where a group of words all begin with the same sound, to generally emphatic ends:

  • You muddling, malingering malefactors!


  • Oxymoron: the juxtaposition of two apparently paradoxical words, with the effect of drawing the reader’s attention and making them realise the truth contained therein:

  • Parting is such sweet sorrow.


  • Rhetorical question: a question which either requires no answer

  • Are you completely mad?

  • or which has the purpose of allowing the writer to provide the answer

  • So what are we to do about this? Let me tell you...


  • Bathos: deliberate anticlimax, usually, but not always, for humorous effect:

  • He returned from the war with medals, glory and a strong desire for a cold beer.


  • Antithesis: the placing of conflicting ideas alongside each other to sharpen meaning:

  • A fool trusts everyone; a wise person trusts herself alone.


  • Cliché: overused and hackneyed expression and as such to be avoided- at the end of the day, it was a game of two halves- although the sophisticated can have some fun playing with cliches. Films such as Naked Gun mock the cliches of the police thriller, for example.


  • Emotive language: language designed to stir the emotions rather than the brain. Politicians are expert in the use of this- listen to Tony Blair- but there is nothing wrong with it as such. Language which is matter of fact is called referential language.

  • The scumbag has sold the jerseys and his name will live for ever in the lists of infamy.

  • The player has committed an error and the fans are somewhat annoyed.


  • Euphemism: a “nice” way of putting something unpalatable.

  • The company is downsizing (we’re giving you the bullet)

  • While going to powder her nose she popped her clogs.


  • Idiom: an expression in a language which is not to be taken literally and therefore which often confuses foreigners. Often a cliche also. Almost always a metaphor.

  • The headmaster was caught with his hand in the till. (What teel ees zees?)


  • Invective: very emotive language, always with the purpose of expressing utter fury about some issue. The Reverend Ian Paisley is a rich mine of invective:

  • To allow the murdering scum of Sinn Feinn/IRA to sit round the democratic conference table...(all in a very loud voice).


  • Metaphor: which you all know...but just in case, an implicit comparison between two things:

  • Anyone caught with fireworks will get a rocket.

  • If it’s not metaphorical, it’s literal:

  • He went to the shop and got a rocket.


  • Metonymy: getting complicated here: the use of an attribute or quality of something instead of that something:

  • I really like Shakespeare. (No you don’t- he’s dead. You like his plays...?)


  • Onomatopoeia: which you all know... but just in case, where the sound of a word or group of words mimics the meaning:

    The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

    The furrow followed free...


  • Paradox: normally, two ideas which cannot be held together. In writing, often a turn of phrase which suggests two irreconcilable ideas which on closer inspection prove to go together. A kind of extended oxymoron:

  • She was concentrating very hard on being relaxed.


  • Personification: giving the inanimate some human qualities, such as calling ships “she”. In narrative, it is often used to create an expressionist effect, where the reader sees everything through the eyes of a character, not necessarily the narrator:

  • The windows of the house stared menacingly towards their party...


  • Litotes: deliberate understatement, often for ironic effect, usually involving a negative or double negative:

  • I was not undrunk on the night in question...


  • Tone: very important, this one. The way in which a text conveys the mood of the writer, the counterpart of tone-of-voice in speech. The two main divisions are between formal and informal tone, but it can be friendly, hostile, humorous or whatever. The question is- how do you know, from the writer’s language, what the tone is.


  • Synecdoche: the use of the part for the whole:

    We need more hands in the kitchen...


  • Zeugma: when one verb governs two objects of different types, used usually for humorous effect:

  • As an artist, he drew many fine pictures and a dole cheque each week.


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