Rhetorical devices by type

Rhetorical devices are simply communication tools that we use each and every day. Most of us will be familiar with some of these devices like irony and metaphor. However few of us are familiar with terms like expeditio or meiosis yet we also use these rhetorical devices in our ordinary lives. Sometimes we use terms like repetition without realising that there are many types of repetition that can each have a different effect on an audience. It is not important to know the names of these devices; but knowing they exist can help us to use them deliberately and effectively in our speeches and presentations.

We have selected the most important devices that we feel public speakers should know. There are multiple ways to categorise these devices, and there is much overlap between them (for example alliteration is both a device of repetition and sound). Below is just one way to categorise them. We hope you find it useful.

Sonic devices

Alliterationrepetition of the initial sound of each word in a sequence.
Assonancerepetition of similar vowel sounds, surrounded by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words.
Consonancerepetition of consonants in adjacent words in the same line of text.
Onomatopoeiause of a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes.

Repetition of words, phrases etc.

Anaphorarepetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences.
Epistropherepetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences.
Symplocerepetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning and end of successive clauses or sentences.
Mesodiplosisrepetition of the same word or words in the middle of successive sentences.
Anadiplosisa word or phrase at the end of one sentence or clause repeats at or near the beginning of the next sentence or clause.
Epanalepsisrepetition of the same word at the beginning and end of a sentence.
Epizeuxisrepetition of a single word, with no other words in between.
Diacoperepetition of a word or phrase that is broken up by a single intervening word, or a small number of intervening words.
Polyptotonrepeating a word, but in a different form.
Exergasiarepetition of an idea; using different words; delivery or general treatment each time.
Parallelismthe successive use of identical grammatical patterns of words, phrases, or sentences.
Bicolontwo parallel phrases with grammatically equal structures. A type of isocolo.
Tricolonthree parallel words, phrases, or clauses, which come in quick succession without interruption.
Tetracolonthree parallel words, phrases, or clauses, which come in quick succession without interruption.
Isocolona succession of phrases, clauses, or sentences of approximately equal length and corresponding structure.

Use of contrast

Antithesisjuxtaposition of contrasting words or ideas (often; although not always; in parallel structure).
Juxtapositionthe adjacent placement of two (or more) dissimilar concepts (not necessarily opposites).
Oxymorona figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side.
Paradoxa self-contradictory statement that expresses a deeper truth.

Word relation

Antimetabolea device that reverses the word order in a phrase to juxtapose the meaning.
Chiasmusrepetition of similar concepts within a repeated grammatical structure, though not necessarily the repetition of the same words.
Asyndetondeliberate omission of conjunctions between clauses, often resulting in a hurried rhythm.
Polysyndetonthe deliberate use of many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm.
Anastropheinversion of the normal word order for emphasis.
Appositiona grammatical construction in which two co-ordinate elements are placed side by side with the second acting as an explanation of the first.
Hyperbatona generic term for a variety of figures involving transposition of words or clauses.
Hendiatrisa figure of speech where three words are used to express a central idea.

Discourse level

Antanagogepresenting the audience with a negative fact and then putting a positive fact next to it.
Expeditioafter enumerating all possibilities by which something could have occurred, the speaker eliminates all but one.
Aporiaa rhetorical device in which a speaker expresses doubt or uncertainty about something.
Hyperbolea figure of speech that uses deliberate and extreme exaggeration.
Erotemathe rhetorical question. To affirm or deny a point strongly by asking it as a question.
Hypophoraanswering one's own rhetorical question at length.
Anacoenosisor Common Cause is where a speaker appeals to an audience for their opinion or judgement on a topic.
Procatalepsiswhere a speaker raises an objection to their own argument and then immediately answers it, before the listener has time to raise it.
Meiosisa type of euphemism that intentionally understates the size or importance of its subject.
Litotesan understatement achieved by negating the opposite statement.

Irony & imagery

Ironythe juxtaposition of what on the surface appears to be the case and what is actually the case or to be expected.
Metaphora figure of speech which compares two things by saying or implying that one is the other.
Similea figure of speech that directly compares two things using comparison words such as "like", "as", "so", or "than".
Analogya comparison between two different things whose primary purpose is to bring forth some insight based on a point of similarity.
Personificationa type of metaphor that gives human characteristics, such as emotions and behaviors, to inanimate objects and animals.
Metonymya figure of speech in which you refer to something or someone by naming something closely associated with it/them.
Synecdochea figure of speech in which a term for a part of something is used to refer to the whole, or vice versa.

Other devices

Asterismosbeginning a segment of speech with an exclamation of a seemingly unnecessary word or phrase.
Eutrepismusthe act of stating points in the form of a numbered list.
Allusiona figure of speech; in which something is referred to covertly or indirectly.
Proverba widely known expression that typically conveys a moral or wise message.