• rhetorical devices: techniques writers
and speakers use to effectively convey
ideas and enhance arguments.
Writers and speakers use rhetorical
devices within the language in order to
emphasize, explain, or unify ideas, and
often to persuade.
Common Rhetorical Devices
• repetition: the use of the same word, phrase, or
sound more than once for emphasis
• parallelism: the use of similar grammatical
constructions to express ideas that are related or
of equal importance
• rhetorical questions: questions that need no
answer because their answers seem obvious
Repetition and Parallelism
Repetition and parallelism are rhetorical
devices in which repeated words and patterns
provide rhythm, enhance ideas, and organize
• In the following example, notice the parallel grammatical
form (noun+ action verb) plus the repetition of the one
word, change, create strong rhythms when the text is
spoken, cementing the message in listeners' minds.
Times change. People change. Companies change. Have you changed?
Most rhetorical questions prompt thought
or focus discussion and are not meant to
be answered literally.
Rhetorical questions in persuasive texts
often are meant to sway audiences to
agree with the writers' arguments or
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Is this question meant to persuade or to
summon an image or feeling?
Try it out—
For each example, decide which rhetorical
device is being used by identifying
characteristics of the device, and then explain
the effect it creates for each piece of text.
According to the ancient historian Plutarch, the Roman
emperor Julius Caesar spoke these words, one of
history’s most recognized utterances.
I came, I saw, I conquered.
I came, I saw, I conquered.
The parallel grammatical forms
(pronoun I + past-tense action verb) have
a potent rhythm, giving weight and
authority to the saying
President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on
January 20, 1969 moved many Americans with its call to
Can we forge against these enemies a
grand and global alliance, North and
South, East and West, that can assure a
more fruitful life for all mankind? Will
you join in that historic effort?
Can we forge against these enemies a grand
and global alliance, North and South, East
and West, that can assure a more fruitful life
for all mankind? Will you join in that historic
Kennedy’s rhetorical questions are addressed
directly to the audience.
The implied “yes” answer to each question,
prompts listeners to accept the challenges
named in the speech.
A comparison that
doesn’t use “like” or
“as”—such as “He’s a
rock” or “I am an
A technique in which an
author gives clues about
something that will
happen later in the story.
occurs when facts are not
known to the characters in
a work of literature but
are known by the audience.
A theme is the central idea or
ideas explored by a literary
work. It’s like the hidden
message or point the author is
trying to get across in writing.
It’s the general subject. There
are usually more than one theme
in a literary work.