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Rhetorical Devices. The art of using language and argumentation effectively. Rhetorical Devices. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." ~Neil Armstrong Think about these famous lines: Would it have been more effective to say, “We took a big step”?

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rhetorical devices

Rhetorical Devices

The art of using language and

argumentation effectively.


Rhetorical Devices

  • "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." ~Neil Armstrong
  • Think about these famous lines: Would it have been more effective to say, “We took a big step”?
  • It is important to ask yourself, “Why is it stated this way?”
what are rhetorical devices
What are rhetorical devices?
  • techniques an author uses to evoke an emotional response to manipulate an audience’s thoughts, reactions, and impressions
  • they are used for emphasis, association, clarification, focus, organization, transition, arrangement, decoration, and variety
  • Repetition of the initial consonant sounds beginning several words in sequence.
    • "....we shall not falter, we shall not fail."   (President G.W. Bush Address to Congress following 9-11-01 Terrorist Attacks.)
    • "Let us go forth to lead the land we love.“

(President J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural 1961)

    • "Veni, vidi, vici.“

(Julius Caesar  - “I came, I saw, I conquered”)

alliteration in advertising
Alliteration in Advertising
  • Can you identify alliteration in this advertisement for Walgreens?
  • A reference to someone or something that is known from history, literature, art, religion, politics, sports, science, mythology, folk tales or some other branch of culture

--“Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates …and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton…To be great is to be misunderstood.” (“Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

        • What figure from mythology is being alluded to in this cartoon?

Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines.


  • “It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained in the grass on his stomach. It rained all over the place” (The Catcher in the Rye)
  • “Anaphora will repeat an opening phrase or word;

Anaphora will pour it out into a mould (absurd)!

Anaphora will cast each subsequent opening;

Anaphora will last until it’s tiring” (Hollander, Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse)


Transposition of normal word order


  • “Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained…This one a long time have I watched… Never his mind on where he was” (Yoda)
  • “Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer” (Churchill)
  • “Gracious she was. By gracious I mean full of graces…

Intelligent she was not. In fact, she veered in the opposite direction” (Shulman)


A contrast of ideas or words in a parallel structure.


  • “Man proposes, God disposes.”
  • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • “To err is human, to forgive is divine” (Pope)

Repetition of vowel sounds in non-rhyming words.


  • “Hear the mellow wedding bells” Poe
  • “I lie down by the side of my bride / Fleet feet sweep by sleeping geese / Hear the lark and harden to the barking of the dark fox gone to ground” Pink Floyd
  • “The crumbling thunder of seas” (Robert Louis Stevenson

Repetition of consonant sounds within words or ending words.

  • He struck a streak of bad luck.
  • Some mammals are clammy.
  • Litter and batter
  • Slither and lathe
  • “All is seared with trade; bleared smeared with toll; and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil” (Hopkins)
  • A way to appeal to logos (logic) by anticipating objections or opposing views
  • Strengthens argument because it shows you’ve carefully considered your subject
  • In acknowledging a counterargument, you agree that an opposing argument may be true, but then you deny the validity of all or part of the argument
euphemisms and dysphemisms
Euphemisms and Dysphemisms
  • Words or phrases that are substituted for other words or phrases to put what is being discussed in a more positive or negative light
  • A euphemism is a polite phrase used in place of a harsher, more offensive expression (a dysphemism is the opposite of a euphemism)

Euphemism: “Used cars” become “pre-owned vehicles”.

Dysphemism: “Music” becomes “noise”.

  • obvious exaggeration for emphasis or effect
    • What I need is a vehicle that can go anywhere.
    • I have a million things to do today.
    • I told you a thousand times!
    • When I was a kid, I had to walk fifteen miles to school uphill in five feet of snow.
  • The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases or words side by side in order to compare/contrast the two
      • Writers often juxtapose gentle characters with violent characters, old characters with young characters, and rich characters with poor characters
      • Set up a character as being popular with the opposite sex then reveal s/he is a virgin
      • Showing images of war, violence, and poverty with the song “What a Wonderful World” playing in the background

Implied comparison through a figurative, not literal, use of words.


  • “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances” (Willy Shakespeare)
  • “All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree” (Einstein)
  • “A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running” (Groucho Marx)

A statement that seems self-contradictory, yet turns out to have a rational meaning.


  • “War is Peace / Freedom is Slavery / Ignorance is Strength” (Orwell, 1984)
  • “I must be cruel in order to be kind” (Hamlet)
  • “A rich man is no richer than a poor man.”
  • Repetition of same or similar grammatical structures
  • One of the most useful and flexible rhetorical devices
    • "....we shall not falter, we shall not fail."   (President G.W. Bush Address to Congress following 9-11-01 Terrorist Attacks.)
    • “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.” (President Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg Address)
    • “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will learn.” (Benjamin Franklin)
  • When an author or speaker repeats a word, phrase, or idea more than once
  • The rhetorical reasons for using repetition are:
      • Emphasizes importance of word, phrase, or idea
      • Ensures audience is paying attention (something important coming)
rhetorical devices in ads
Rhetorical Devices in Ads
  • How many rhetorical devices can you find?




rhetorical question
Rhetorical Question
  • A question asked for effect and that does not actually require an answer because the answer should be obvious
    • “Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?… Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?” (Patrick Henry, “Speech to the Virginia Convention”)
    • “It is really time to ask ourselves, ‘How can we allow the rich and powerful, not only to rip off people as consumers, but to continue to rip them off as taxpayers?” (Ralph Nader, 2000 NAACP Convention Address)
rhetorical devices in ads1
Rhetorical Devices in Ads
  • How many rhetorical devices can you find?


Rhetorical Question


sarcasm verbal irony
Sarcasm (Verbal Irony)
  • Usually a harsh, personally directed comment
  • Saying one thing, yet meaning something else
    • Referring to a someone as “a delight” when he/she is miserable to be around
    • In Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo asks Mercutio if his wound is slight, Mercutio responds, “Aye, a scratch”
  • A statement that says less than what is meant
  • The opposite of hyperbole
    • If you are sitting down to enjoy a ten-course meal and say, “Ah! A little snack before bedtime,” you are using an understatement to emphasize the tremendous amount of food you are about to eat
    • “I have to have an operation. It isn’t very serious. I have this small tumor in my brain.”
rhetorical device review
Rhetorical Device Review
  • What rhetorical device is being used in this line from Sojourner Truth’s speech?

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages … Nobody ever helps me into carriages …And ain’t I a woman?”

      • Alliteration
      • Counterargument
      • Understatement
      • Parallelism
rhetorical device review1
Rhetorical Device Review

2) Change the underlined portion of the sentence below to make the diction more formal.

“He invented a really nifty device called the telephone.”

a) super terrific

b) truly innovative

c) incredibly amazing

d) really useful

rhetorical device review2
Rhetorical Device Review

3) “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” is an example of what rhetorical device?

a) juxtaposition

b) sarcasm

c) hyperbole

d) understatement

rhetorical device review3
Rhetorical Device Review

4) “I’m just taking a little trip up Mount Everest” is an example of what rhetorical device?

a) juxtaposition

b) alliteration

c) hyperbole

d) understatement

rhetorical device review4
Rhetorical Device Review

5) “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat, and a gun”

a) Alliteration

b) Hyperbole

c) Anastrophe

d) Anaphora

rhetorical device review5
Rhetorical Device Review

5) What rhetorical devices are being employed in the following famous book passage?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

~from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

a) Juxtaposition

b) Parallelism

c) Repetition

d) All of the above

rhetorical device review6
Rhetorical Device Review
  • Alliteration
  • Parallelism
  • Repetition
  • Assonance