Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Make Your Writing Sparkle

Looking for ways to make your writing sparkle? Try these rhetorical devices.

  • Alliteration repeats sounds at the beginning of words or in accented syllables. Here are the first two lines of an old nursery rhyme:
I saw a ship a-sailing,
A-sailing on the sea.
  • Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase, often at the beginning of sentences or paragraphs or verses. Think of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

  • Hyperbole exaggerates for emphasis. Ralph Waldo Emerson used it in "The Concord Hymn" when he described the start of the Revolutionary War:
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
  • Imagery involves the use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas. Consider this passage from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame:
Never in his life had he seen a river before--this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.
  • Metaphor is an implied comparison that usually includes a word picture. William Shakespeare used a metaphor in As You Like It when he said, "All the world's a stage."

  • Simile is also a comparison that usually includes a word picture, but it differs from metaphor because it draws the comparison explicitly using "like" or "as." In E.B. White's essay "The Geese," he describes three swallows who circled overhead during a fight between two ganders: "They were like three tiny fighter planes giving air support to the battle that raged below."
There are many more rhetorical devices that you can use, but this list provides a start.

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