March 20, 2019

Stand Out Writing

By Nancy Roe

Would you like your writing to stand out? Would you like the reader to evoke emotion when reading your prose? Would you like to be a New York Times bestseller? Have you tried using rhetorical devices in your writing?

What exactly is a rhetorical device? A rhetorical device is a use of language that creates a literary effect. A rhetorical device is a linguistic tool that employs a particular type of sentence structure, sound, pattern.

By using rhetorical devices, you add power to your words. You evoke emotion. You strengthen your persuasive skills. While I’ve found a list of over 160 rhetorical devices, I’m giving you my top 10.

Anaphora: Repeating a word or phrase at the beginning of 3 or more successive clauses or sentences. The first three are always in a row. (Refer to the first three sentences in this article.)

Asyndeton: In a list of 3 or more, no conjunctions, just commas. (Refer to the third sentence in the second paragraph.)

Polysyndeton: In a list of 3 or more, just conjunctions, no punctuation. Example: His teeth were large and pointed and discolored.

Epistrophe: Repeating the last word or final phrase 3 or 4 or more times of consecutive phrases or sentences in a row. Example: Airplanes are fascinating. Rockets are fascinating. Pogo sticks are not fascinating.

Conduplication: Start a sentence with a key word from a previous sentence. Example: Jack is impossible to work with. Impossible to tell the truth.

Alliteration: Alliteration is repeating initial consonant sounds. Example: My burger was bitter and burned.

Onomatopoeia: Use words that imitate the sound the word describes. Examples: whoosh, plunk, splat, and whap.

Personification: Attributing animal or inanimate objects with human attributes. Using personification can make for a stronger, more interesting read. Example: The cameras gobbled our images.

Zeugma: In zeugma, the last item is out of sync with the others. It carries power. Example: Barbara grabbed her purse, her water, and her steely resolve.

Assonance: Similar vowel sounds repeated in successive or proximate words containing different consonants. They can be in the same sentence or successive sentences. Example: loosey goosey, name game, or hair repair.

Will you be adding any of these rhetorical devices to your next piece of writing?
Nancy Roe has self-published six books and currently working on her seventh. Nancy has served as a panelist at the Killer Nashville International Writer’s Conference, speaking on the subjects of self-publishing, minor characters, and dialogue. Nancy is a Midwest farm girl at heart and currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and four-legged child.  Website:; Facebook:; Twitter:; Pinterest:; Books:

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