Rhetorical Devices And How They Can Improve Your Communication Skills

March 4, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Rhetorical Devices And How They Can Improve Your Communication Skills

Rhetoric is the art of communicating well. If you talk to other people at all, rhetorical tools are your friends. Rhetorical devices help you make your points more clearly and help people understand you better.

What are rhetorical devices?

What are rhetorical devices? Rhetorical devices are a set of techniques that writers and speakers use to convey their message in a more persuasive and effective manner. These devices can help create an emotional connection with the audience and make the content more memorable.

A lot of what you might think of as just normal ways to talk to people are actually tools for persuasion. This is because “rhetorical devices” is just a fancy word for “communication tools.”

Most people don’t plan out how they’ll use devices in their communication, because nobody thinks, “Now would be a good time to use synecdoche in this conversation with my grocery clerk,” and because we use them so often that we don’t really think of them as “rhetorical devices.”

How many times have you said, “When pigs fly!”? How often have you thought, “I’m using a rhetorical device!” in those situations? That shows how common they are!

two female students in a research convention

But knowing what they are and how to use them can help you communicate better, whether you give a lot of big speeches, write persuasive papers, or just argue with your friends about a TV show you all like.

Types of rhetorical devices

There are several types of rhetorical devices, each serving a unique purpose. It would be impossible to list every kind of rhetorical device in one article. Instead, we’ve made a list of some of the more common devices that you might find useful to know:

Alliteration: Alliteration is a repetition of the initial sound of two or more words in a sentence. This device can make the sentence more memorable and create a pleasing rhythm. For example, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

Metaphor: A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes one thing in terms of another. This device can make complex ideas more accessible and help the audience understand an abstract concept. For example, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Simile: A simile is a comparison between two things using the words “like” or “as.” This device can create vivid images in the reader’s mind and can help them better understand the concept being conveyed. For example, “Her eyes were like diamonds.”

Personification: Personification is the attribution of human qualities to non-human objects. This device can make inanimate objects more relatable and can create a sense of empathy in the audience. For example, “The wind whispered in my ear.”

Wooden blocks typography flat lay of the word personification in blue background.

Hyperbole: Hyperbole is an exaggeration used for emphasis or effect. This device can create a humorous effect and help drive home a point. For example, “I’ve told you a million times to clean your room!”

Repetition: Another example of rhetorical devices is repetition. It is the repeated use of words, phrases, or ideas. This device can create a sense of emphasis and help drive home a point. For example, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets.”

Irony: Irony is the use of words to convey a meaning that is opposite of their literal meaning. This device can create a sense of humor and can be used to make a point. For example, “I can’t wait to get stuck in traffic on my way to work.”

Rhetorical question: A rhetorical question is a question that is asked for effect and does not require an answer. This device can create a sense of engagement with the audience and can be used to make a point. For example, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Antanagoge: Antanagoge is balancing something bad with something good. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is an example of an antanagoge. It starts with a negative (lots of lemons) and ends with a positive (make lemonade).

Asterismos: Listen, asterismos is awesome. Don’t you believe me? When I started the first sentence with the word “listen,” how did you feel? Even if you weren’t more motivated to listen, you probably paid a little more attention because I didn’t follow the usual pattern. Asterismos is when you use a word or phrase to draw attention to the thought that comes next.

“Listen” is not the only asterismos, though. You can say things like “Hey,” “Look,” “Behold,” “So,” etc. All of them have the same effect: they tell the reader or listener, “Hey, pay attention! What I’m about to say is important.”

Apophasis: Apophasis is a type of irony in which something is denied while it is still said. This is often used with phrases like “I’m not saying” or “It goes without saying”; in both cases, the speaker then says exactly what they said they weren’t going to say.

Anadiplosis: Anadiplosis is when a word or phrase is repeated on purpose at the end of one sentence or clause and the beginning of the next. This is a way to get your reader or listener to follow a clear line of thought. Repetition makes people pay more attention and follow how the idea develops.

How to use rhetorical devices effectively?

So, how to use rhetorical devices effectively? Using devices effectively can greatly enhance the impact and persuasiveness of your communication. Here are some tips for using them effectively:

Know your audience: Different devices are more effective for different audiences. Consider who your audience is and what they care about, and choose devices that are likely to resonate with them.

Use devices sparingly: While devices can be effective, overusing them can make your writing or speaking seem forced or artificial. Choose one or two devices that are particularly effective for your purpose, and use them strategically.

a male student sitting and looking at the camera

Choose the right device for your purpose: Different devices are effective for different purposes. If you want to create a sense of urgency, for example, repetition might be effective. If you want to create a vivid image, on the other hand, a metaphor or simile might be a better choice.

Use devices consistently: If you choose to use a particular rhetorical device, use it consistently throughout your writing or speaking. This can help create a sense of coherence and reinforce the impact of the device.

Practice, practice, practice: Using devices effectively requires practice. Experiment with different devices and techniques, and get feedback from others on how your communication comes across.

Be authentic: Rhetorical devices are most effective when they are used authentically. Don’t force a device into your communication if it doesn’t fit, and don’t rely solely on devices to carry your message. Make sure your content is well-organized and well-supported, and use devices to enhance and reinforce your message.

Using devices effectively requires careful consideration of your audience and purpose, strategic use of devices, and practice to master the techniques. By using devices authentically and consistently, you can greatly enhance the impact and persuasiveness of your communication.

Learn more about how to best prepare for your college life by consulting with college admissions specialists like the ones found here in AdmissionSight. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.




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