Fun Rhetorical Devices - Pt II - The Pickering Group

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More fun devices to play with

Device and Virtue

Last year we shared with you some of our favourite rhetorical devices and their infectious-sounding names.  Have you managed a pleonasm yet?  That’s okay, it’s perfectly natural, it’ll happen when you’re ready.  Rhetorical devices are just communication tools, and we use them every day without realising it, so let’s get on a first name basis with a few more fun ones.


My Anacoluthon don’t – my Anacoluthon don’t want none unless you got exciting literary devices, hon!  This is when you deliberately interrupt yourself to change direction mid-sentence.  It’s impactful in two ways: it leaves your audience wondering about the end of what you started saying, but it also makes the interruption seem urgent and important. It’s the mid-morning fire drill of rhetorical devices and you’re the badass warden with the high-vis gilet.


Antanagoge is balancing a negative with a positive. No rain, no flowers! Can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs! Yes, Greg made Tuna Curry Surprise in the break room microwave, but look at all these cool new air purifiers!   Making a negative an inherent part of the positive outcome is great for meeting objections head-on.  


Hey, so. Listen up. Did we get your attention? That’s Asterismos.  Asterismos is an opening that asks the listener to focus on you, implying that what’s about to follow is important. Like when someone texts you ‘Soooooo’ and you know tea is about to be spilled. You can use So, Look, Listen, Behold, Lo! or whatever feels natural. Disclaimer: if Lo! feels natural consider using what feels unnatural, your filters may need servicing.  NB Don’t confuse Asterismos with its friend Obelismos, which fell into the magic potion when it was a baby.


First, it’s not as gross as it sounds. Second, if you chose to emphasise the third syllable, that’s on you. Third, it’s immature to say ‘No, YOUtrepismus’. Stop it. Eutrepismus just means to number things, enhancing clarity and a sense of flow.  It’s a great technique to use when introducing the content of a talk, to let the audience know what to expect.  Be judicious though - if you find yourself saying “…and seventy-fifthly…” you’ve gone too far.


Why use Hypophora? We’re glad you asked. We’ve all heard of rhetorical questions. They need no introduction, and indeed, no answer.  Hypophora refers to asking questions that you do answer.  Providing both the interrogation and the response means you’re in control of the debate.  Why is this effective? Because you limit the room for argument. And why wouldn’t you want that? Don’t answer that one, it’s rhetorical.


Tmesis is a word that’s not getting through anyone’s spellcheck; it was born with a red wiggly line under it.  But you use it all time without realising.  Literally ‘to cut,’ it means inserting a word unexpectedly into another word or sentence. Abso-fricken-lutely! A whole nother thing. Any-old-how. It’s used for emphasis and for informal charm:  it has an element of humour to it because it’s slightly surprising, like Dave’s tuna curry.

Device and Conquer

You’ll notice that despite some really tortured names, these are all devices you’re familiar with. Some of them provide a helpful template or structure. Others can be wielded for impact and effectiveness in your language, or used to channel discussion in your preferred direction.   Some are just fun to say. Sharpen your rhetoric with The Pickering Group’s courses and personal training. We can come to you (in person or virtually) with bespoke options. Or check out more of this blog, or follow us on social media.

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