6 rhetorical techniques for crafting unforgettable speeches

Speechwriters—and other wordsmiths—can find inspiration in a book about techniques that have driven the message home for great speakers over the centuries.

Far be it from me to suggest that this is the most outstanding article on rhetoric ever to grace Ragan.com.

It is certainly not my place to claim that even seasoned speechwriters and other communications pros will gain a deeper understanding of writing tactics than they ever dreamed possible.

No, to do so would deny readers, my editors and our CEO the pleasure of logging on to the comments section and praising my work under anonymous names, such as MrSmartyPants and CommunIcator Grrl.

All right. I can’t sustain it for long—at least not without getting fired—but the technique of Saying Things by Not Saying them is one of many useful tools for writers catalogued by Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric.

The book was written by Ward Farnsworth, a law professor at Boston University, and law is a field where attention to rhetoric is often essential (in closing arguments, for one). So there is inspiration here for everyone from the most eloquent speechwriter to us lowly scribblers at Ragan.

Farnsworth’s book illustrates every rhetorical device with repeated examples from John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and other great speakers. Here are a few techniques he outlines:

1. Saying things by not saying them

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