5 Fabulous Rhetorical Devices
I mentioned in one of my Facebook Lives a few weeka ago that using a ‘tricolon’ is a great ‘rhetorical device’. After a couple of question about what this meant and also some positive feedback on the power of devices like this, I thought I would discuss some other great rhetorical device to help give your copywriting more impact and to help it become more memorable.
What is a rhetorical device?
A rhetorical device is a special little ‘trick’ used in rhetoric or, more generally, language, written or spoken, which helps to give what you ‘more punch’ and helps it to become more memorable. They are more commonly found in speeches, especially political or simply influential ones. However, they can be put to powerful use in writing too.
There are loads of devices, but I have picked five which I think are both easy to understand, use and, also, which will apply in written language in a blog, in web copy, as well as social media posts.
I think alliteration is an incredibly powerful use of language and actually incredibly clever. It simply means using words with the same letter in a row. You can’t pick any old words, but if you find three or four which all start with the same letter and truly ‘mean’ what you want them to mean then you are on to a winner. They are great as a tag line, the opening of a social media post or on the heading of a webpage. So, for example, you may describe your qualities as ‘Professional. Perfection. Precision.’ Or ‘Confident. Competent. Careful/Capable.’ Ideally they need to be the same part of speech, e.g. nouns, verbs or adjectives.
The combination of alliteration with ‘three’ gives you a tricolon…the most famous being ‘veni, vidi, vici’ … the translation is ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’…which in English is not technically alliteration but anaphora (see below)!
I admit, I have included symploce to get ‘two rhetorical devices for the price of one’!’ Symploce means the combination of one (or more) anaphora, with one (or more) epiphora…this is just a posh way of saying using repetition at the beginning (anaphora) or end (epiphora) or a sentence/clause.
Again, it really helps with the memorability of your content, but also the rhythm as you are writing similar lengths of clauses over and over again. A good one for me might be… “I create content. I create engagement. I create growth”.
An example of epiphora is “A business to be trusted. A team to be trusted. A product to be trusted.” The repetition being at the end rather than at the beginning.
Then putting this into overdrive…a symploce would something like be:
When you need us, we will be there. When you call us, we will be there. When you demand us, we will be there.
Without getting tied up in alliteration and tricolons and symploce…simple repetiion in your writing can be really powerful. It can be basic: ‘Education. Education. Education.’ was Tony Blair’s famous one. But imagine one of these at the start of social media post…it would get my attention!
Buy. Buy. Buy.
Bargain! Bargain! Bargain!
You can repeat a call to action that you mention at the beginning and end of a paragraph. For example, “Please call us to discuss your needs. We can help you with editing, copywriting and strategy across all of your content needs including websites, newsletters, social media and blogs. So, come on, call us today and let’s discuss your needs.”
I’ll admit repetition can look lazy if not used carefully, but also very memorable when you do.
A simile is when you say something is ‘like’ something to help describe it better (unlike metaphor when you actually day something ‘is’ something else)
It is fantastic for painting a picture with words in the mind’s eye and creating an image or concept.
So, an example would be ‘well structured content makes you feel like you are taken by the hand and guided gently on a journey’ or ‘your homepage is like your very open shop window.’
Evoking images is very powerful and can really help people to understand more complicated concepts too. Using comparison to something familiar will make it easier to understand.
Hyperbole (or Exaggeration)
We all hate clickbait, but there is no harm in using a bit of hyperbole. It simply means exaggeration really, but in a positive, enlightening and ‘eye catching’ way. The whole idea is that the words are not meant to be taken literally. Therefore, the exaggeration is often so extreme that is couldn’t possibly be misunderstood to be true.
So, for example, ‘It was so hot, people were melting in the streets’ or ‘This is so incredible you will want one for absolutely every one you have ever met!’ or “You’ll move mountains to be there!”
The best ones are often humorous.
Rhetorical questions are basically questions that you ask but you don’t expect an answer or that you have already answered. So, for example…
“Isn’t that incredible?”
“Want to see that again?”
“Pretty cool, huh?”
What’s nice in social media, is actually if you get an ‘answer’ or engagement then that is great too.
Which device will you choose?
The content mill is so hard to keep turning, so consider using these devices to help keep your copy interesting and varied and to create fantastic, memorable taglines and posts.
Want to learn more devices? Want to make your copy more exciting? Want help? Get in touch, email email@example.com
In case anyone is interested in figures of speech in song lyrics, here is a link to an article I’ve written on that topic.