Rhetoric refers to the study and uses of written, spoken and visual language. It investigates how language is used to organize and maintain social groups, construct meanings and identities, coordinate behavior, mediate power, produce change, and create knowledge.

Rhetoric helps a speaker shape ideas so they appeal to audiences’ sense of logic, emotions, ethics, or passing of time. It is language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience. However, when abused rhetoric can regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content. And sometimes described as grandiloquent language.

Aristotle taught that a speaker’s ability to persuade an audience is based on how well the speaker appeals to that audience in three different areas: logos, ethos, and pathos. Considered together, these appeals form what later rhetoricians have called the rhetorical triangle.

In poetry, rhetoric is the art or power of speaking or writing in a forceful and convincing way “great leaders have often been masters of rhetoric, which they have used for both good and ill.” Effective or persuasive speech, for the purpose of evoking a particular reaction from the listener or reader. Especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical devices are techniques that help a speaker or a writer express feelings about a subject using articulate persuasion, while literary devices help a writer to tell a story with eloquence.

What is difference between rhetorical devices and literary devices?

The way they are used. Rhetorical devices are used for communication on a day to day basis while literary devices, as the name suggests in used in literature. Both literary elements and literary techniques can rightly be called literary devices.

Any rhetorical device can be used in storytelling whereas not all literary devices can be used in speech.

What are the 5 rhetorical factors?

The rhetorical situation can be described in five parts: purpose, audience, topic/message, writer, and context. These parts work together to better describe the circumstances and contexts of a piece of writing, which if understood properly, can help you make smart writing choices in your work.

What are the 9 rhetorical elements?

Nine rhetorical strategies are generally recognized: Narration, description, comparison, example, illustration, definition, process, causal analysis and argument.

What techniques are used in the Gettysburg Address?

In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln uses rhetorical strategies such as allusions, repetition, and antithesis to remind the listeners of the purpose of the soldier’s sacrifice: equality, freedom, and national unity.

List of 42 top rhetorical devices

  1. metaphor: A metaphor is a comparison in which something is said to figuratively be something else.
    • Example: He was a wolf among sheep.
  1. hyperbole: A hyperbole is an intentional exaggeration. Hyperbole is a synonym for amplification. In some cases you can use “Hyperbole” instead a noun “Amplification”. Amplification is the technique of embellishing a simple sentence with more details to increase its significance.
    • Example: The plate exploded into a million pieces.
    • Example: “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” —Roald Dahl, The Twits
  1. alliteration: Alliteration is repeating the same or similar sounds at the beginning of words.
    • Example: She sells seashells by the sea shore.
  1. analogy: An analogy is a comparison between two similar things, typically using figurative language. Metaphors and similes—more on them later—are usually considered to be types of analogies. Sometimes, analogies are considered to be a unique device that is a comparison that explains itself; basically, a complex metaphor or long simile.
    • Example: Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you are going to get.
Related: Heightened Language
  1. onomatopoeia: An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it refers to.
    • Example: The thunder boomed and the lightning crashed.
  1. allusion: Allusion is the act of casually referencing something, usually a work of popular culture.
    • Example: Finishing his memoir was his white whale.
  1. oxymoron: Oxymoron is a figure of speech that uses two opposite words together.
    • Example: The treaty led to a violent peace.
  1. satire: Satire is using humor to criticize public figures or institutions.
    • Example: When Senator Jackson said “numbers don’t lie,” he forgot that his first name wasn’t “Numbers.”
  1. paradox: In rhetoric, the word paradox refers to making a statement that seems self-contradictory or impossible but actually makes sense.
    • Example: Youth is wasted on the young.
  1. simile: A simile is a comparison in which something is said to figuratively be like something else.
    • Example: It was as hot as a desert this morning.
    • Like metaphors, similes also compare two different things to point out their similarities. However, the difference between similes and metaphors is that similes use the words “like” or “as” to soften the connection and explicitly show it’s just a comparison. 
    • Example: “Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water.” —Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Learn more how to write satire with examples here!
  1. irony: In rhetoric, the notoriously confusing word irony means to use words to mean the opposite of their literal meaning.
    • Example: Ashley said it was a beautiful day while drying off from the drenching rain. (Ashley ironically referred to poor weather as “beautiful.”)
  1. personification: Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to abstract ideas, natural phenomena, or inanimate objects in a figurative manner. A writer could employ personification by describing a faulty engine as being “temperamental,” or a harsh wind as being “cruel.” Of course, readers are not meant to believe that either of these things are capable of human emotions, but rather to see these descriptors as metaphorical.
    • Example: The heart wants what it wants—or else it does not care . . .” —Emily Dickinson
  1. anecdote: An anecdote is a brief story about something that happened to the speaker, usually something funny or interesting.
    • Example: Five years ago, I went to the store and met some clowns. Those clowns gave me the advice I am sharing with you now.
See our example of a fable here!
  1. euphemism: Euphemism is using alternative language to refer to explicit or unpleasant things.
    • Example: The baseball struck him in a sensitive area.
  1. connotation: Connotation is using words to suggest a social or emotional meaning rather than a literal one.
    • Example: This is a house, but I want a home.
  1. meiosis: As a rhetorical device, meiosis means using euphemism to minimize the importance or significance of something.
    • Example: We must put an end to this peculiar institution. (“Peculiar institution” is a euphemism for slavery.)
  1. apostrophe: In rhetoric, apostrophe occurs when a writer or speaker directly addresses an absent person, a concept, or an inanimate object.
    • Example: You have made a fool out of me for the last time, washing machine!
  1. antithesis: Antithesis is using parallel sentences or clauses to make a contrast.
    • Example: No pain, no gain.
Learn about different types of poems here!
  1. sarcasm: Sarcasm is using irony to mock something or to show contempt.
    • Example: Oh, yeah, he is a great guy. A great guy who took the last slice of pizza.
  1. consonance: Consonance is a repetition of consonants or consonant sounds.
    • Example: Mike likes Ike’s bike.
  1. rhetorical question: A rhetorical question is a question that isn’t intended to be answered. The point of asking the question is to make an audience think or to cause an emotional reaction.
    • Example: Can we really know what our place in the universe is? We have asked ourselves this question for millennia.
  1. epithet: An epithet is a nickname or descriptive term used to refer to someone.
    • Example: You need to listen to me and not Clueless Kevin over there.
  1. anaphora: Anaphora is the repetition of a word or words at the start of phrases, clauses, or sentences.
    • Example: I came, I saw, I conquered.
    • Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech is a classic example of anaphora.
Read about literary techniques of repetition here.
  1. climax: In rhetoric, climax is ordering words so that they build up in intensity.
    • Example: Look at the sky! It’s a bird! A plane! Superman!
  1. cacophony: Cacophony is the act of purposefully using harsh sounds.
    • Example: The gnashing of teeth and screeching of bats kept me awake.
  1. assonance: Assonance is the repetition of the same vowel sound with different consonants.
    • Example: She and Lee see the bees in the tree.
  1. pun: A person is making a pun when they humorously use words with multiple meanings or words with similar sounds to create wordplay.
    • Example: The farmer tried to get his cows to get along, but they insisted on having a beef with each other.
  1. parallelism: Parallelism is using grammatically similar phrases or sentences together.
    • Example: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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  1. aphorism: An aphorism is a short sentence that presents truth or opinion, usually in a witty or clever manner.
    • Example: A penny saved is a penny earned.
  1. synecdoche: Synecdoche is when a part of something is used to refer to a whole.
    • Example: The commander had an army of 10,000 swords. (The people holding the swords were there, too.)
  1. parody: Parody is an imitation of something with the intent to poke fun at it.
    • Example: If Edgar Allen Poe had written this speech, it might have opened with “Here we are, weak and weary, gathered on a Monday dreary.”
  1. colloquialism: A colloquialism is an instance of informal language or a local expression. The act of using such language is also called colloquialism.
    • Example: Here in Philly, we love to eat hoagies and all kinds of tasty jawns.
  1. understatement: Understatement is using language to intentionally lessen a major thing or event.
    • Example: The erupting volcano was a little problem for the neighboring city.
  1. syllogism: Syllogism is an argument based on deductive reasoning that uses generalizations to reach specific conclusions. Usually, a syllogism follows the format of “A is B. B is C. So, A is C.”
    • Example: Dogs are mammals. Biscuit is a dog. Therefore, Biscuit is a mammal.
  1. eponym: An eponym can refer to “a word based on or derived from a person’s name,” such as the Gallup poll, named after statistician G.H. Gallup, or Reagonomics (a combination of the last name Reagan and economics). As a rhetorical device, an eponym can be an allusion to a famous person.
    • Example: He is the LeBron James of chess.
  1. metonymy: Metonymy is when the name of something is replaced with something related to it.
    • Example: He loved music from the cradle (birth) to the grave (death).
Related: Literary techniques of repetition
  1. parenthesis: In rhetoric, parenthesis is an interruption used for clarity.
    • Example: The audience, or at least the paying members of the audience, enjoyed the show.
  1. expletive: In rhetoric, an expletive is an interrupting word or phrase used for emphasis.
    • Example: The eggs were not, in any sense of the word, delicious.
  1. metanoia: In rhetoric, metanoia refers to any instance of self-correction. Metanoia can involve things like retracting a previous statement to replace it with a new one or amplifying a previous statement by using stronger language.
    • Example: We’ll work on it on Sunday. No, let’s make that Monday—it’s the weekend after, all!
  1. chiasmus: Chiasmus is reversing the grammatical order in two otherwise parallel phrases or sentences.
    • Example: Dog owners own dogs and cats own cat owners.
  1. asyndeton: Asyndeton is the removal of conjunctions from a sentence.
    • Example: Get in, cause a distraction, get out.




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