The following post is a very lightly edited version of a piece by Štěpánka Máchová, a student in one of my English classes, written in response to being asked to describe three rhetorical devices she finds useful.
If one wants to be a good speaker or writer, rhetoric is a requisite. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, the power of rhetoric is considerable. In spite of the fact that the origins of rhetorical devices date back thousands of years, they are still relevant today, perhaps even more so than before, whether they are anaphora, apposition, or parallelism. These are some of the most useful rhetorical devices, which, while not so difficult to invest in and use afterwards, can take a text or a speech to a new level that will surely be noticed by the audience.
Anaphora is a figure of speech that uses the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of consecutive verses or sentences. Anaphora can be used both in written text and in the spoken word, but it seems that in text it is easier for the reader to grasp and assimilate. Its main function is to give emphasis, and in the case of literature, to add the effect of rhythm. By repeating a given word or phrase more often in succession within a single coherent speech or article, it brings more attention to the point and is a signal to the listener or reader that this is a purposeful emphasis. For example: “As a company, we will work hard, every minute, every hour, every day until we reach the goal.”
Parallelism is a rhetorical device based on the repetition of similar grammatical constructions. Typically, the author of the text or the speaker uses repetition of similar structures in such a way that it ensures flow and consistency – e.g. “In class, at work, and on the field, he strives for excellence.” This makes parallelism convey a clear, well-defined idea that is much easier for the audience to process, conceive and subsequently remember.
The third rhetorical device is apposition, in which two words or phrases are placed side by side in a sentence so that one describes or defines the other. The main function and reason why this device is widely used is to try to eliminate further descriptive sentences full of words. Instead of two shorter sentences, we can use only one, which will contain the required detailed information in apposition – e.g. “Charles University, established in 1348, is one of the oldest universities in Europe”. This avoids any unnecessary lengthening, which an audience will surely appreciate.
Rhetorical devices are important and valuable tools for refining language and speech. The power of rhetoric is considerable and thus knowing rhetorical devices can improve communication and persuasion skills, and the way one conveys one’s perspective to others. This influence is undeniable.
Štěpánka Máchová, October 2022