The Study Dude – Rhetorical Devices, Part II

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to write the speech that elevates the world into a new thought paradigm.

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. Most keen writers crave knowledge of as many rhetorical devices as possible. These simple but potent little devices forge tactics that will embellish any of your academic writing projects.

Step-aside for the Zeugma
I lost my patience and my watch. That is a zeugma.

Tightening your writing, while making it clever, serves as the aim of every writing aficionado. Weeding out unnecessary words?condensing?lies at the heart of good writing. Make people ponder and reflect on your words. As I said in a previous article, double meanings convey emotional impact, especially when the two meanings both hold relevance for the storyline.

Zeugmas, as you will see, add nuance and flare to your writing. The combining of two unrelated items by joining them together with a single word fosters reflection and thought.

Prestwick House (2007) demonstrates the usage, stunning and profound, of the zeugma strategy:

– A zeugma occurs when two or more items in a sentence are linked together unexpectedly by a shared word. He stole the ham and my heart–here, the words ham and heart are linked together by the word stole, but each of the two connections has a different meaning. Zeugmas follow these patterns: “subjects linked by a verb, pronouns by nouns, direct objects by verbs, adjectival phrases by verbs, etc.” (p. 169).
– Linking the words together with a verb placed at the end of the sentence is one stylistic usage of zeugma–out of time and through the woods he ran.
– Zeugmas reduce repetitiveness, tightening up a sentence and making it more coherent.

Such Is a Hyperbaton, Helpful!
One thing I loathe is figuring out whether an unusual sentence order clashes with all the rules of writing or not. I have grown accustomed to removing as many incidents of the verb form “to be” (passive) from my writing, and constructing new sentences without this verb form challenges me persistently. Rewriting sentences to exclude the passive verb form enlivens writing, forges new creative connections, and activates an active voice.

So, learning of the hyperbaton, which consists of unusual word orders, thrilled me. Breaking the mould, or at least forging a new one, should be ever creative writer’s aim. Prestwick House (2007) shows how to enrich your writing with this rhetorical device:

– Hyperbaton juxtaposes words in unusual word orders. One such usage of hyperbaton involves places an adjective after the noun it modifies: the sun, melancholy yet uplifting.
– Another usage of hyperbaton is removing the verb from the usual subject verb object order and placing the verb at the end of the sentence: He his daughter and dog loved.
– Another hyperbaton strategy involves couching the noun between two adjectives: the beautiful agent, restless, cringed at the sound of the doorknob turning. Here, the words “beautiful” and “restless”, two adjectives, sandwich the noun “agent”.

Have you ever viewed a list, connected with the word “or”, puzzling over why half the time, each item is connected with the word “or” and the other half of the time, the series only ends with a single “or”? A PhD student drafting his dissertation asked me a similar question, yet, in spite of my undergraduate education at the time, I had no answer. I merely fabricated a guess, dismissing it as such.

If a PhD student perplexes over the use of the conjunction “or” in a list, chances prevail that we all muddle over it from time-to-time.

Your confusion, however, is about to wash away. Prestwick House (2007) demonstrates the multiple formats that abound for using conjunctions in a series.

– An asyndeton omits all conjunctions in a list or between clauses. For instance, you could say “the dog, the cat, the bird, all savoured the sun’s glow.” This breaks the usual word order of putting an “and” between the final and immediately preceding words in the list. It provides a fast energy, as if the list could go on in the reader’s mind.
– A polysyndeton adds a conjunction between very single item in the list or in the series of clauses. For instance, you could say “the dog and the cat and the bird all savoured the sun’s glow.” When using polysyndeton, the punctuation is left up to the reader. For example, you could say “The dog, and the cat, and the bird all savoured the sun’s glow”, incorporating a comma (or otherwise omitting the commas) after each item in the list. The polysyndeton creates a climactic allure and should be therefore used sparingly.
– These rhetorical devices can come across as grammatical errors, so use them selectively.

Repeat and Reap the Rewards; Repeat the Anophora/Epistrophe/Symploce
Some of the best speeches throughout history use words repeated at either the beginning, the end, or both the beginning and end of sentences or phrases.

I once held a big awareness event for a local charity, hosted by my favourite news anchor, Daryl Janz. As his day-to-day job entailed reading scripts on air, it seemed not only practical, but also fashionable, to have a PhD student draft a compelling script for him. The script was succinct, mobilizing a variety of rhetorical devices, and, after the event, people commented on how amazed they were with Daryl. He stole the hearts of the audience.

While the speech may not have implemented much of the anaphora, epistrophe, or symploce, as you will soon discover, Prestwick House (2007) makes these devices accessible for even the most fledgling to advanced writer:

– An anaphora occurs when a word is repeated at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. He slept in the cold of night. He slept underneath the bridges. He slept without consciousness of his own sanity. This device creates a climactic feel.
– An epistrophe is when a word or phrase repeats at the end of successive sentences or clauses: Servitude begets freedom. Love begets freedom. Freedom begets more freedom. This device produces the effect similar to that of a punctuation mark.
– A symploce is when a word or phrase repeats at the beginning of each sentence or clause while another word or phrase repeats at the end: “We enjoy life when we know ourselves to be free of temptation and sin, but we enjoy life also when we give ourselves completely to temptation and sin” (p. 187).

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.