There are an incredible number of rhetorical means. Since you probably cannot remember all of them, we have put together the 30 most common stylistic devices for you and provided them with examples. This is a quick and easy way to give your text analysis more depth. Knowing rhetorical means is not only helpful in school and during studies. The linguistic figures also open up completely new perspectives for you privately. We will inform you about their advantages, have explained the five most important ones for you in detail and give you an overview of other important stylistic devices that you can still use later.
Advantages of rhetorical means
Rhetorical stylistic devices by and large belong to rhetoric (ancient Greek “rhetoric”). Since ancient times they have been understood as an artistic type of representation. Above all in poetry there are many rhetorical figures that are not only intended to condense the content, but also serve as a speech ornament to make the sound and appearance of the texts more appealing.
It is an advantage if you can recognize and name rhetorical means. Not only do we encounter them in school and at university, we are also permanently surrounded by them in everyday life, for example through advertising and songs. Even if you read a book privately, you will get a much better understanding of what the author was intending if you can identify rhetorical means.
You don’t have to memorize all the rhetorical tools, there are simply too many for them. But the best known are often asked at school, as it can be really useful to know them. The more you know the better. Not only will your text analyzes become richer, you will gain a finer understanding of your entire environment and also improve your language skills .
Rhetoric can be learned and will help you improve your expression – both in writing and orally. This also benefits your self-confidence and charisma . A rich vocabulary and juggling with language are also helpful in job interviews in order to leave a bright impression.
The 5 most common rhetorical devices
Here you will find an overview of rhetorical means that are often and gladly used in literary texts. For this reason we have explained them in more detail than the other rhetorical devices. Knowing them will help you in an analysis by allowing you to use more potential for your interpretations. Rhetorical means almost always have a meaning and even if the author should not have intended anything specific with them, you can use them interpretively.
Few words are used to convey information. This abbreviated comparison , often in figurative language, goes beyond its actual, literal meaning and refers to the figurative meaning.
Sea of tears ” (This term indicates that there are many tears flowing. So many that the exaggerated comparison can be compared to the amount of water in the sea.)
- “Break someone’s heart”
(Of course, this does not mean a real action, but a transferred one. The broken heart is symbolic of the failed love. It could be, for example, that the person whose heart was broken has been abandoned or cheated. )
- “Wall of silence”
(The wall symbolizes the impenetrability of silence. The silence itself illustrates the rejection of a verbal statement to other people.)
The initial sounds are repeated to create an effect. Either certain word connections should be made clear, melody should be created or just the importance should be emphasized.
- Come and clean the chaos in your closet.
- The big, bad bear scared all the baby bunnies by the bushes.
- Shut the shutters before the banging sound makes you shudder.
Words or groups of words are repeated to enhance their effect and create melody. This ensures that the meaning of the sentence or sentences is really understood. Often anaphers are also used to increase or summarize.
- “ Because of him , I can never again go to a fair without fear of death. Because of him , I can never ride the carousel again. Yes, just because of him I will never be able to enjoy the smell of cotton candy again. ”
(This alliteration has an escalating function in that it goes into further detail. Starting from a big problem, the speaker always comes up with more and more problems associated with it and make his problem even bigger. Emphasizes the anger and extreme blame on the cause of his problems.)
- “I want to see you , want to hug you , want to kiss you , want to love you.”
(This alliteration emphasizes the speaker’s desire. From ‘seeing’ to ‘loving’ there is an increase.)
Parallelism describes sentences that have a parallel sentence structure. This can be at least two identical main clauses, subordinate clauses, question clauses, exclamations or the like. Parallelisms can have an antithetical or a tautological function: they emphasize a counter-assertion or stay on the same level of word meaning by paraphrasing what is meant more and more precisely.
- “You sing loudly, you speak softly.”
(Here singing and speaking are to be juxtaposed. This parallelism can be interpreted in such a way that the “you” can express itself more strongly and better through its singing than through ordinary conversations.)
- “I know it. I get it. I understand. ”
(The speaker makes it particularly clear that he has understood what is at stake. The triple repetition on the same level of meaning is intended to emphasize how much.)
A rhetorical question is a question that is not expected to be answered . It is not asked to get information, but to emphasize something or to verbalize thoughts in a bridging way. As a rule, the rhetorical question makes it clear that it is a question of self-talk. They can function similarly to an assertion or are simply intended to emphasize a statement.
- “What did I want to do again? Oh yes, get the vacuum cleaner. “
- “Do I really look that bad? Maybe I can walk around without a hat with the hairstyle. “
- “What is this now?”
- “Tell me, where are we here?”
25 other useful rhetorical tools
There may be overlaps between the different stylistic devices . For example, some sentences can be interpreted with an anaphor as well as with a parallelism at the same time. For each rhetorical figure, decide what you need for your interpretation and focus accordingly. If a sentence starts over and over again with “I’m going….” You can decide whether the ego and the running movement should be in the foreground or what is really important is what follows after “I’m going…”. Always try to recognize relationships and connections and make them clear. The following rhetorical devices offer many interpretations for your text analysis.
A neologism is a linguistic creation . Often existing words are merged, more rarely completely new words are created. Neologisms can arise with the appearance of new phenomena, but also through subjective perception that cannot be described using previously existing terms.
- “Vlog” (“Video” + “Blog”)
- “Brunch” (Is a combination of breakfast and lunch)
- “Knorke” (means something like good, excellent, satisfied)
An accumulation is a list or sequence of words that belong together on a main topic, which can either be mentioned or left in the room. The subject area usually becomes clear quickly. The terms can be simple chains of associations to a topic, to better describe it, or they can be put together specifically in their order.
- “Sun, moon and stars”
- “Now all the animals sleep on the farm, the cows, the pigs, the chickens, the dogs and cats.”
- “Trees, leaves, lakes, puddles, animals, deer, sky, air, rustling, rustling”
The ellipse denotes an omission in the sentence so that it is grammatically incomplete. Ellipses are often used to shorten sentences. Reading is usually not affected by this shortening. Often ellipses are also used for colloquial language or implied phrases and proverbs .
- “The faster the parting, the fewer tears.” For: “The faster the parting is, the fewer tears there are.”
- “Who sits in a glass house …” for: “Who sits in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.”
- “What now?” For: “What do we do now?”
An allegory is an executed metaphor, a kind of general comparison . Often something abstract is complemented by something tangible. The aim is to make the metaphor more accessible to the reader.
- “We are all just puppets, are controlled by the great players and cannot do anything about it.”
- “The world is like a meadow of flowers. Sometimes you smell the sweet scent of life and the sun shines down on you, sometimes you get stung and stand in the shade. “
- “I felt like the sun itself: warm, radiant, big and as if I could reach everyone in this world.”
A paradox is an apparent contradiction and must be distinguished from alogism. An alogism is characterized by a complete lack of connection (“The stones are hungry.”, “During the day it is brighter than inside.”). A paradox, however, only contradicts itself in its utterances; it does not have to be illogical or alogical.
- “I’m cold, but at the same time I’m warm too.”
- “You can look forward to a colorful wedding. By the way, the motto is black and white. “
- “No, no, I really don’t need anything. But please make me a latte macchiato with soy milk. “
In the case of an inversion, the usual grammatical order is reversed or deliberately reversed. This is often the case in lyric poetry to create melody for specific content that would not be possible in ordinary grammatical order. Questions and statements can also be stylistically rearranged in this way.
- Never again will you do
- Never a day had she missed her lessons.
- Rarely have I eaten better food.
A climax is the gradual increase in words , which can include exaggeration or simply to reinforce the meaning of a sentence. The climax is the opposite of the anticlimax (“A flood becomes a puddle, becomes a drop.”).
- “He worked his whole life. Forty, not forty-one, not even forty-two years. “
- “You are beautiful, enchanting, radiant, dazzlingly beautiful.”
- “I don’t just want to spend a few months with you, not even a few years, I want to spend my whole life with you.”
The transfer of human attributes to things is called anthropomorphism or personification. This rhetorical device is the opposite of reification, in which the properties of objects are transferred to people.
- “The locomotive screamed so loudly when it pulled in that I had to cover my ears.”
- ” Heaven laughs .”
- “The leaves danced in the wind.”
In reification, non-human qualities are transferred to people . This rhetorical device can have a particularly dramatic effect or describe feelings better and make them tangible.
- “My heart is breaking in two.”
- “His look was iron .”
- “He darkened the room with his presence “
Enjambements are usually found in poems, but can also be used as stylistic devices in prose. They describe the continuation of a sentence beyond a verse or line . So the sentence ends abruptly in a verse or line and continues in the next verse or line. Enjambements can spread what is happening, take breaks or consciously disrupt the flow of reading. This can be motivated by the author in terms of both content and sound. An enjambement is particularly noticeable if it breaks off in the middle of a sentence.
- “I was walking through the
forest that seemed so strange to me.”
- “He was frightened of the thunderstorm, of
the lightning, the
thunder, and ran away from the
loud bang, the
(In this case the enjambements are supposed to imitate the thunderstorm. As unpredictable as a thunderstorm, it breaks The sentence stops suddenly. The sentence length represents the duration of the event.)
An enumeration is only the technical term for an enumeration of any kind. Enumerations can provide many impressions in a nutshell and can be interpreted differently depending on the context. If you are wondering why a list was used here, think of the text without it. Would it make any difference to the reader? If yes, which one?
- “I never saw so many colors in an iris: a gold ring, green spots and a blue sheen on a light brown background.”
- “I went shopping. Bought pears, apples, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, frozen pizza, celery, cucumber, zucchini, cauliflower, peaches and grapes. “
- “This room was full of souvenirs: snow globes on the shelves, magnets on the fridge, T-shirts on the walls, pillows on the couch, small figures in the cupboards and a bucket full of seashells.”
The repetition is an intended repetition . What to emphasize is very different from the context. Repetition is often used in emotional situations to add emphasis to feelings .
- “Oh no, oh no, oh no, now I’ve spilled everything!”
- “Yes, yes, yes, finally, finally, finally I made it, made it, made it!”
- “No way. I do not believe that. Never, never, never. “
Synesthesia describes a rhetorical figure that combines different sensory impressions , for example smelling with sight or hearing with taste. Synesthesia has the effect that it can convey very individual impressions, as you will see in our examples.
- ” I remembered the blue sounds of the sea.”
- “The juicy apple tasted golden like the morning sun.”
- “I never saw a sweeter red , as sweet as honey, as red as roses.”
A parenthesis is a short insertion or comment from the speaker. This can be single words, a part of a sentence or even a whole sentence. Insertions are usually indicated by dashes. When interpreting a parenthesis, always ask yourself these questions: What would the sentence look like without the insert? Why did the author include it in the sentence? What is he trying to tell the reader?
- “Such things are – as I have already mentioned three times – just not important to me.”
- “What else I wanted to tell you – I noticed it recently while cleaning – I still have your hand brush.”
- “He was just rude – really rude, you can’t imagine it – so I drove home quickly.”
The antiphrase is one of the most common forms of irony . In principle, it should only express the opposite of what it says. Antiphrases can consist of a single word, of parts (phrases) or of whole sentences. They are a special form of irony, but not always ironic to read. A euphemism can also be called an antiphrase.
- “Man, are you in a good mood again today !”
- “Are you doing the extra math assignment? – Yes exactly . “
- “I missed the concert. Great . “
- “If you invest in this product , you get …”
(This is a clear case of the euphemism as a special form of the antiphrase. The actual meaning of the sentence could also be: “If you give us your money, we get …”.)
A hyperbola is a gross exaggeration and therefore the opposite of an understatement. If something is exaggerated, it can be described as “hyperbolic”. Most hyperbolas occur in the form of comparisons or metaphors.
- “Snail’s pace”
- “Dead tired”
- “He was as thin as a toothpick.”
- “I’d rather fly to the moon than you learn to quilt.”
A litotes means the emphasis of a term through understatement, weakening, restraint or double negation . A fact can be expressed with particular care, introvertedness, modesty or insecurity of a figure can be shown or an assertion can be weakened. Not infrequently, however, the litotes also appear hand in hand with irony.
- “Yours truly”
- “Earn not little” (negation)
- “That’s not insignificant for me.”
- “One might assume that some people might not find that too good.”
An antithesis is basically a counter-assertion . This means that there is an initial meaning that belongs to this rhetorical figure. There is a mental contrast in two utterances. This can be a sign of absent-mindedness or indecision. It can also highlight the counter-assertion, for example if something does not conform to the rule or the norm.
- “The stake was big, but the profit was small.”
- “He could do everything, but he couldn’t do this.”
- “His laugh was loud, his laugh was soft.”
The term asyndeton describes a series of words without a conjunction (connecting element). The words or phrases usually do not correspond grammatically to the rule, as you will see from the examples. An asyndeton stands out due to its irrational arrangement in the body of the text and can therefore emphasize its content. In addition, there is often an increasing function in the ranking of the words or equivalence should be emphasized. Asyndeta can also express tension or dynamism in the mind.
- “Water, fire, earth, air.”
- “I’ve never seen more saturated colors: a green, a red, a blue, a play of rainbow colors.”
- “Oh, how happy I am – in a good mood, friendly, happy , radiant, clear as day.”
A chiasmus usually places parts of a sentence in a mirrored or crosswise manner. For example subject, predicate, object – object, predicate, subject. The chiasmus has the effect of highlighting antitheses or making a sentence particularly memorable.
- “I am tall, you are small.”
- “He loves dogs, he doesn’t like cats.”
- “I saw him coming, he didn’t see me coming.”
- “Oh yes, the suffering of love and the suffering of love.”
The correctio is an improvement or correction made by the speaker himself. Often an expression is replaced by a more meaningful expression. So there is an increase. In theory, however, a weakening is also possible.
- “I have nothing to do today, well, actually I should do homework.”
- “It was a success – what do I say – a triumph.”
- “The elephant in the zoo was bigger than our house! Okay .. maybe bigger than our car, it wasn’t fully grown. But he was big for that! “
The diminutive is a diminutive or diminutive form , often ending with -chen or -lein. It is also often used for nicknames , with the ending -i being the most common. People who are belittled are often accompanied by downsizing. For example, children are often addressed by adults using this form, and things and animals are belittled if they are smaller than usual.
- “Little house” (downsizing / belittling for house)
- “Zicklein” (downsizing / belittling for goat)
- “Äffchen” (reduction / belittling for monkey or nickname)
- “Lieschen” (as a pet form for Lisa)
- “Klausi” (as a nickname for Klaus)
Pars pro toto
Pars pro toto is Latin and means “A part (stands) for the whole.” This rhetorical figure is a special form of metonymy, i.e. the exchange of names and can be used for nicknames, among other things.
- “Per head” for: “per person”
- “Having a roof over your head” – “roof” for “house” and “head” for “people”
- “Look, the yellow hat types faster than you do on your mobile phone.” – “The yellow hat” for “The woman with the yellow hat”
Three figure (tricolon)
A three-part sentence that is similar or identical in its parts. Often there is an increase, as in a climax. Figures of three have the advantage that they are easy to remember. They have a melody that makes them stand out from the text.
- “I came, I saw, I won.” (Caesar)
- “You despair, you cry, you go.”
- “Square, practical, good” (Ritter Sport’s advertising slogan since 1970)
Dysphemism (opposite of euphemism)
Disparaging, detrimental paraphrase or word creation . Often equated with the swear word. Words like “woman” or “priest” used to be used neutrally and belong to the pejoration category. They only got a derogatory meaning over time. The dysphemism, however, was only introduced to devalue a specific group of people.
- “Juice push” for: “Flight attendant”
- “Penner” for: “Homeless”,
- “Bull” for: “Policeman”
Important for text analysis: synonyms for “represent” and “cause”
Be it a poem, a short story, a text excerpt from a novel or another text form – all the rhetorical means in it are intended to “represent” or “effect” something specific. Schoolchildren and students are always looking for synonyms for these verbs. We have selected some synonyms for you that are suitable for your text analysis. So you will surely make faster progress next time. It is also worthwhile to memorize these synonyms for exams. If it’s a poem analysis, here are some more important tips.
- to treat
- To run
- have the effect
- to reach
- give the impression
- create a feeling