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.
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.