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Rhetorical Strategies. If Rhetoric = and Strategy = Then Rhetorical Strategy =. Effective or skillful use of language. A careful plan or method. The careful planning of language to achieve a desired effect on the audience (e.g. convince, persuade, create emotion). The Big Three.

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rhetorical strategies

Rhetorical Strategies

If Rhetoric =

and Strategy =

Then Rhetorical Strategy =

Effective or skillful use of language

A careful plan or method

The careful planning of language to achieve a desired effect on the audience (e.g. convince, persuade, create emotion)

the big three
The Big Three
  • Three strategies are found in all rhetoric:
    • Diction
    • Syntax
    • Tone
  • These strategies are found in ALL speech and writing; the trick is to figure out how and why they are used.
an important note
An Important Note
  • Diction, syntax, and tone work together to form rhetoric. They do not act separately, but rather as interlocking pieces of the whole.





  • Definition: word choice

Formal Diction: Informal Diction:

“These are people with whom I’ve “She’s like, my best friend

formed a strong genial bond.” ever.”

  • Definition: the arrangement of words in a sentence

The clock struck eight. She As the clock struck eight she waited. Nobody came. gazed longingly at the door, but nobody came.

  • Definition: the speaker’s attitude toward the subject or audience

Humorous tone: Passionate tone: Disinterested Tone:

“This is boring.”

“But they’ll never take our freedom!”

so where do we go from there
So, where do we go from there?
  • There are many other rhetorical strategies, but it’s good to think of diction, syntax, and tone as umbrella terms.
  • The other rhetorical terms will mostly fall under one of those three umbrellas
  • The following list of rhetorical strategies is not all inclusive!!!
  • What does that mean? It means that you already know a lot of terms not included here...repetition (syntax), imagery (diction), passionate (tone), etc…
  • This list is focused on expanding and refining your knowledge not repeating what you already know
  • Definition: placement of two things closely together to emphasize comparisons or contrasts

We live in a world of love and of hate.

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: a brief reference to a person, event, or place, real or fictitious, or to a work of art (hint: allusions must refer to common knowledge; different from a reference)

She’s as crazy as Britney Spears. I am no Judas.

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: a statement that seems contradictory but is nevertheless true.

We will continue to fight for peace.

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: a paradoxical juxtaposition of words that seem to contradict one another

Jumbo shrimphonest lawyer (note: this is a joke)

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: similarity in structure of a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses

"Let every nation know, whether

it wishes us well or ill, that we

shall pay any price, bear any

burden, meet any hardship,

support any friend, oppose

any foe to assure the survival

and the success of liberty.“

- John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is, either for ironic emphasis or for politeness and tact

“It isn't very serious. I have

this tiny little tumor on the brain.”

- J.D. Salinger,

The Catcher in the Rye

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: excessive demonstration of emotions; bubbly or gushy emotions

“OMG! The sky is so blue and

I am so happy. Today is such

a great day! It just makes me

want to jump up and down and

throw my hands in the air!


- Random Effusive

Teenage Girl

Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: raising one or more questions and then proceeding to answer them, usually at length

"Since we have come so far, whom shall be rash enough to set limits on our future progress? Who shall say that since we have gone so far, we can go no farther? Who shall say that the American dream is ended? For myself, I believe that all we have done upon this continent is but a prelude to a future in which we shall become not only a bigger people but also a wiser people, a better people, an even greater people."

- Adlai Stevenson (Politician)

1953 Stump Speech

Umbrella Term:Syntax

rhetorical question
Rhetorical Question
  • Definition: a question posed for rhetorical effect rather than for the purpose of getting an answer

Why are you so stupid?Are you trying to fail this class?

Umbrella Term:Syntax

metaphor simile
  • Definition: compares one thing to another in order to explain by comparison. Similes use “like” or “as”; metaphors do not.

Simile: “You’re as cold as ice…” Metaphor: “No man is an island.”

- Foreigner (song) - John Donne

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: phrase, quote, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or text

Epigraph to Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer:

“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in a sequence

“Step forward, Tin Man. You dare to

Come to me for a heart do you? You

clinking, clanking, clattering collection

of caliginous junk… And you,

Scarecrow, have the effrontery to ask

for a brain! You billowing bale of

bovine fodder!"

- delivered by the "Wizard of Oz"

from the movie The Wizard of Oz

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: use of overstatement for rhetorical effect

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: boldly rude or disrespectful

“You act like a teenager, so why don’t you get a curfew?!?”

- Insolent teenager to her mother

Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: using mocking, contemptuous, or ironic language to mark scorn or insult

I really love homework. There’s nothing

I would rather do than stay up until 2 in

the morning finishing Calculus work.

- Sarcastic statement attributable to many Calculus students

Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: omission of conjunctions between coordinate phrases, clauses, or words

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” “We shall pay any price, bear any - Julius Caesarburden, meet any hardship, support any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

- John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction (hint: juxtaposition + parallelism = antithesis)

"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.“

- Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

(delivered by Jeff Daniels)

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

– Neil Armstrong,

Apollo 11 Moon Landing Speech

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: expressing praise

“Inception was the best movie of the summer due to its dazzling special effects, intellectual screenplay, and its tour de force performances.”

- Any intelligent movie critic giving Inception its much deserved praise

Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: an address or invocation to something inanimate (i.e. talking directly to it)

“Oh you cruel streets of Manhattan! How I detest you!”

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: morally instructive (i.e. teaching in a preachy way)

“So the AP student that never did his homework learned in the end that procrastination is the route to failure.”

- AP teacher didactically instructing his students in the pitfalls of procrastination

Umbrella Term:Tone

chiasmus antimetabole
  • Definition: repetition of words in reverse order

One should eat to live

not live to eat.

You can weatherchange, but

you can’t change the weather.

“Ask not what your country can do for you –

ask what you can do for your country.”

- JFK, Inaugural Address

Stupid weather!

Sad Pluto 

I’ll get through this.

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in

France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans,

we shall fight with growing confidence and

growing strength in the air, we shall defend our

Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight

on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing

grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the

streets, we shall fight on the hills; we shall never


- Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister)

Speech to the House of Commons

June 4, 1940

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: the repetition of a phrase at the end of successive sentences

“If women are healthy and educated, theirfamilies will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work…their families will flourish.”

- Hillary Clinton

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights” September 5, 1995

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: sober thoughtfulness and sadness

Dear Diary,

My life is such a trial. I feel as if

there are dark clouds obscuring

my heart.

- Emo teenager’s

melancholic journal


Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: the use of a conjunction between each word, phrase, or clause in a series (structural opposite of asyndeton, but the effect is often the same – enumeration or building up)

"Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of

war -- not history's forces, nor the times,

nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes,

nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of

government -- nor any other thing. We

are the killers."

- delivered by Katherine Hepburn

(from the movie The Lion in Winter)

Umbrella Term:Syntax

periodic loose sentence
Periodic/Loose Sentence
  • Definition: In a periodic sentence, the main clause is at the end. In a loose sentence, the main clause is at the beginning.

Loose sentence: Periodic Sentence:

The child ran, frenzied and Looking as if she were being

ignoring all hazards, as if being chased by demons, ignoring all

chased by demons. hazards, the child ran.

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: offensively condescending

“Of course you don’t know what love is, you’re just a teenager.”

- Patronizing parent

Umbrella Term:Tone

connotation denotation
  • Definition: Connotation is the implied meaning of a word or phrase. Denotation is the dictionary definition.

Skinny vs. Slender Thrifty vs. Cheap

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: ironic understatement (achieved by saying the opposite of the opposite of what is meant)

They’re not bad dancers. They’re no ordinary family.

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: a mark or series of marks that usually indicate the intentional omission of a word or phrase from the original text…can also be used to indicate a pause in speech, an unfinished thought, or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence…

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: ostentatious or showy in one’s learning

You really should read

War and Peace; it’s

vital to your edification.

Umbrella Term:Tone

extended metaphor
Extended Metaphor
  • Definition: a metaphor that extends throughout a piece of literature (note: a particularly inventive extended metaphor is sometimes called a conceit)

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: the contrast between what it stated explicitly and what is meant. The intended meaning is frequently the opposite of what is stated. Often suggests light sarcasm

Most Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” isn’t ironic…

That’s ironic.


at the gym?


Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: where a word, usually a verb or adjective, is applied to two or more nouns without being repeated. Usually has a comic effect.

The thief took my wallet “He carried a strobe light and the

and the 5th avenue bus. responsibility for the lives of his men.“

- Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried

Umbrella Term:Syntax

  • Definition: blindly obedient and dutiful

I so need to have an iPhone. It’s not

even worth it to have any other phone.

Anybody who’s worth texting has an


Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: mild or less negative usage for a harsh or blunt term

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: characterized by bittersweet longing for things in the past

I remember the golden days of my youth, enjoying cotton candy at the state fair with my family…

Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: a short often amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one

During the 1957 World Series, Yankees

catcher Yogi Berra noticed that Hank Aaron grasped the bat the wrong way. “Turn it

around,” he said, “so you can see the

trademark.” But Hank kept his eye on the

pitcher’s mound: “Didn’t come up here to

read. Came here to hit.”

- Little Brown Book of Anecdotes

Umbrella Term:Diction

  • Definition: scornful; showing contempt

I can’t believe you liked Scott

Pilgrim vs. the World. Only

immature 10 year old gamers

would like that movie.

- Disdainful critic

Umbrella Term:Tone

  • Definition: informal and conversational. Often marked by the use of slang.

OMG! U nd me r so prfct 2gethr…

letz b bf nd gf…LOL jk ;p

Umbrella Term:Tone