10 rhetorical devices used in political messages

Though some speech devices are obvious to spot during election season, many are more obscure. How many of these do you recognize?

In an election year, it’s tough to tune out all the pervasive and invasive political messaging.

It’s on social media, newsfeeds, TV, radio, pop-up ads that you can’t close fast enough. Although I’m not particularly interested in politics, I am intrigued by the ways candidates use rhetorical devices in their messages.

Many of us are familiar with the more common rhetorical devices, such as hyperbole, allusion and analogy; others are more obscure. Next time you hear a political message, see if you detect any of these rhetorical devices.

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1. Allusion— an indirect or casual reference to a historical or literary figure, event or object.

Example: I guess we’re all waiting for a Mr. Darcy to come along.

2. Antiphrasis— the use of a word opposite to its proper meaning; irony.

Example: Sheila quietly yelled at Scott for not telling her about the system outage.

3. Apophasis— accentuating something by denying that it will be mentioned.

Example: And let’s not even discuss that Josh can’t write himself out of a paper bag.

4. Aporia— expressing doubt about an idea, conclusion or position.

Example: I can’t decide which I enjoy more: reading a book I’ve never read or re-reading a book that I love.

5. Aposiopesis— stopping abruptly and leaving a statement unfinished, giving the impression that the writer or speaker is unwilling or unable to continue.

Example: Trying to get an approval from anyone in that department is like . . . but we shouldn’t talk about that.

6. Analogy— a comparison of two things. Metaphors and similes are both types of analogy.

Example: That meeting was painful, like a long walk in tight shoes.

7. Hyperbole— using exaggeration for emphasis or effect; overstatement.

Example: Working with Harris makes me want to tear my hair out.

8. Sententia— quoting a maxim or wise saying to apply a general truth to the situation, thereby offering a single statement of general wisdom.

Example: The saying “Out of the frying pan and into the fire” applies perfectly to my situation.

9. Pleonasm— using more words than necessary to express an idea.

Example: Your assumptions are completely and totally untrue and false.

10. Epizeuxis— the immediate repetition of words for emphasis.

Example: If he were to propose, the answer would be yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Readers, care to share your favorite rhetorical devices?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at Impertinent Remarks.

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