The Study Dude – Rhetorical Devices

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to fight the tyranny in life with a solid rhetorical device.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s article probes the book Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers to get to the heart of rhetorical tactics for your writing project. The book lists thirty-three devices in total–some devices familiar to you and others foreign to you.

While many of us recall rhetorical devices from high school, revisiting them can only serve to strengthen our writing styles; do you, the diligent student you are, truly admit familiarity with an anadiplosis, or a procatalepsis, or a chiasmus? If you know these terms, may the literary world laud you. If not, or if you’ve forgotten, read on and better both your academic and creative writing.

When writing essays, certain tricks abound that can advance your writing craft. Professional writers implement rhetorical devices with conscious, sometimes painstaking, deliberation. What’s behind all the deliberation? It involves comprehensive insight into the brilliant and sometimes beautiful effects that each rhetorical device produces. It’s part of crafting something breathtaking, something memorable, something that will stand the test of ages. The more rhetorical devices you know, the bigger the impact you can make on your audience.

My favourite rhetorical devices are the anadiplosis and the conduplicatio. Why? Because I learned about them in two other books on academic writing, but they disguised themselves merely as brilliant ways to link sentences together. Sentences fascinate me, and any way for them to shine enamours me. When I saw that they were rhetorical devices, I fixated on them, my fascination with rhetorical tactics reinforced.

Prestwick House (2007) outlines the rules for using anadiplosis and conduplicatio in the book Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers:

– Anadiplosis and conduplicatio both entail repetition of a key word. Anadiplosis occurs wherever the final words of one sentence (or phrase) repeats either at the beginning of or near the beginning of the next sentence (or phrase). Conduplicatio, on the other hand, occurs when one word anywhere in the sentence (or phrase) is repeated at the beginning of the next sentence (or phrase). Sentences are held together nicely with either of these strategies, making for a nice means to insert transitions without drawing from the standard “therefore”, “thus”, “furthermore”, etcetera, etcetera.
– These rhetorical devices prevent you from starting a sentence with a long lead-in of words before arriving at the verb. These devices aid in conciseness.
– These rhetorical devices create a seemingly hypnotic transition via the route of repetition, make a certain key word stand out, and convey emotion.
– Biblical verses often use these two rhetorical devices at length.
– One ideal role for either strategy is when you otherwise use the word “it” (which often conveys ambiguity). For instance, “We fell in love with the arpeggio–its temperament spoke rhythmically to our suppressed fears” could be rewritten as “We fell in love with the arpeggio–the arpeggio’s temperament spoke rhythmically to our suppressed fears.”
– The repetition of a word conveys significance in that particular word.

Rhetorical Question/Hypophora
Has someone ever commented to you that you just asked a rhetorical question? Did you brush the comment aside, smile, nod your head in blind agreement, and abruptly change the topic, secretly drawing a blank on the definition of a rhetorical question? (I admit guilt on that count.) Well, what if someone commented that you just expressed a hypophora? What then? Glare them down and think them pompous? That might be the natural response, but now I’ll show you how to implement these two rhetorical devices deliberately.

Prestwick House (2007) highlights the key differences between a rhetorical question and the hypophora:

– Hypophora, on one hand, informs or persuades in essays. Hypophora posits a question (or questions) and then immediately proceeds to answer it (them).
– Hypophora cleverly commences a paragraph, introducing what follows.
– Hypophora creates the illusion that the reader thought of the question posed him or herself, making for a more persuasive argument.
– An effective use of hypophora involves a single question posed or multiple interrelated questions posed (in succession) followed, in either case, by an address of the issues raised.
– A rhetorical question, on the other hand, posits a question with an implied answer, usually of the form “yes” or “no.” Ensure the reader answers the question as you intend–this predictability prevents the reader from taking a conflicting point of view than that which you outline in your essay, rendering your argument ineffective.
– Usage of rhetorical question should be limited to your most important points.
– A form of rhetorical question follows: “When we seek enlightenment, can violence, war, and hatred truly enable our most noble pursuit?”

Apostrophe (not the punctuation mark)
The apostrophe bolsters informal writing or emotionally charged persuasive writing to the next level. Persuasive writing or even fiction writing emotionally explodes when the writer suddenly and directly shifts the flow and addresses some personified object or person, such as death, or the heart, or the reader. An example of apostrophe follows: “Oh death, how inevitably and gradually you swoon me, but how far you always stand from my present thoughts.”

I wouldn’t personally venture into using this rhetorical device in formal writing; however, if your professor allots a creative component, such as a screenplay or online presentation, your opportunities ripen for using these rhetorical devices.

Once, a professor allowed me to write a screenplay. With playwriting instruction under my belt, I fabricated a script comparing two philosophers? perspectives, in which almost every single line was a paraphrased or direct quotation from either philosopher’s core works. Only now do I fathom how the apostrophe would have accentuated the scriptwriting endeavour.

At the graduate level, I spotted some classes that embed highly creative components into the course objectives. While such opportunities abound at the graduate level at Athabasca, perhaps you might befriend the apostrophe in your own creative or persuasive writing assignments.

Prestwick House (2007) struts the apostrophe around like a shameless, yet compelling, device for several pages in his book Rhetorical Devices: A Handbook and Activities for Student Writers:

– Apostrophes occur when the natural flow of the writing is disrupted for a direct address of a personified object or a person.
– The apostrophe usage occurs mostly in informal, creative, or persuasive writing, given the emotionally charged nature of the device.
– Propagandists use apostrophe in relaying emotionally charged, persuasive messages to the public.
– Perhaps steer clear of apostrophe is more formal writing.

Although the apostrophe comes less recommended for formal writing, my readings on academic writing inform me that the interesting rhetorical devices play roles in creating catchy titles and fetching opening hooks or for carving emotion into your anecdotes and fabricated stories. So, don’t shy away from using them altogether in your academic writing and especially not from using them in your presentations.

At last, you might ask, Why an article on rhetorical devices? Simple. The more you learn these devices and the more of them you learn, the more intrigue and emotion you stand to bring to the written draft–and good writing always piques the interest.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Prestwick House (Pub.). (2007). Rhetorical Devices. US: Prestwick House.