Rhetorical Devices: 44 Examples To Use Today

Posted on May 2, 2023

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Written by Sarah Rexford

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Rhetorical devices are often used unconsciously, and in this article I share forty-four examples you can use to level-up your writing—on purpose! 

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What Is A Rhetorical Device?

A rhetorical device is simply a device used in literature, poetry, or speech to create a specific effect on the reader or listener. When you educate yourself on the rhetorical devices you can use, you open yourself up to a world of opportunity. 

Whatever genre you write, you can employ any of the rhetorical devices below. Let’s get into it!

#1 – Alliteration

Alliteration is simply the repetition of the same sound, multiple times, in a single sentence. For instance, consider J. F. Kennedy’s famous line, “Let us go forth to lead the land we love.”

#2 – Analogy

Analogy is comparing two similar aspects to help your audience understand your point. Analogies take many different forms. Here is one example: “Retiring is like entering middle school all over again. You feel out of place but excited about the new opportunities.” 

#3 – Allusion

Think of allusion as Easter eggs in your favorite movies. When you allude to something, you make a casual reference to it. 

#4 – Antithesis 

This rhetorical device is particularly fun, as you get to mirror what you say. When you create an antithesis you create a teeter totter of opposite meaning that balances each other out. “It’s not that I don’t love good grades, I just love fishing more.”

#5 – Oxymoron 

Perhaps one of a writer’s most favorite rhetorical devices, the oxymoron pairs opposing words. “The chaotic silence unnerved him.” 

#6 – Hyperbole 

When you use hyperbole you exaggerate for effect. “It was raining cats and dogs.” 

#7 – Irony

This rhetorical device is when your words mean the opposite of their traditional lexicon definition. Irony is very similar to sarcasm. 

#8 – Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is a fun rhetorical device because it allows you to use the sense of implied sound. “The cat meowed.” 

#9 – Paradox 

Often seemingly illogical, paradoxes sometimes have a ring of truth: “Men work together whether they work together or apart.” —Robert Frost

#10 – Personification 

Applying human characteristics to something nonhuman: “The dog waited expectantly for its owner to return home.” 

#11 – Simile 

Comparing two aspects via using the words like or as: “The clouds are like marshmallows.” 

#12 – Syllepsis 

One word applied with two different meanings: “If you will stop hanging those new curtains we can spend time hanging out.” 

#13 – Pleonasm

This rhetorical device specifically is redundant, on purpose, but for effect. “Everyone, young and old, will be impacted.” 

#14 – Paraprosdokian

Ending a phrase with an unexpected twist. “The engagement ring hadn’t even come in yet, so he decided to propose.” 

#15 – Meiosis

When you use meiosis as your rhetorical device of choice, you intentionally understate something. “The hurricane was so bad they had to cancel their dinner plans.” 

#16 – Hysteron Proteron 

Listing events contrary to chronological order, to stress the most important event: “Watch where you’re going when you back up, and fasten your seatbelt.” 

#17 – Hyperbaton 

For all the Star Wars fans, just think of how Yoda speaks. For everyone else, move the natural order of words around for effect. “Doing great, you are.” 

#18 – Euphemism

Switching out a potentially harsh word or phrase for words that express the same idea in a softer manner. “My cat passed away.”

#19 – Cacophony

Words that, when spoken, sound harsh. “The wicked, grizzled villain spat his words.” 

#20 – Assonance

Like simile, this rhetorical device repeats similar sounding words within a close space of time. “When I’m done I’ll sit in the sun.”

#21 – Archaism 

Using words that are deemed archaic, in a modern setting: “I love thee.” 

#22 – Aposiopesis

An abrupt ending to signal the speaker is overcome with a powerful emotion: “If you ever do that again, I’ll, I’ll—”

#23 – Aporia

Verbally expressing false insecurity to prove the opposite. For instance, a seasoned tutor to a student: “Can I even help you succeed?”

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#24 – Antistrophe

Repeating the same words for effect. “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break the bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day.” —The Return of the King

#25 – Tautology

Repeating your meaning in various ways. “He was tired, sleepy.” 

#26 – Zeugma

This rhetorical device uses one word as a modifier for two words with different meanings. “They descended the mountain, and into silence.”

#27 – Satire 

The use of comedy aimed to mock, especially aimed at political figures or celebrities.

#28 – Colloquialism

Expressions common to locals, otherwise known as language seen as informal. “We went to Chi-town to drink a cup of joe and look at the big lake.”

#29 – Synecdoche

Using a small part of something in reference to the larger idea. “Want to grab a bite after work?”

#30 – Asyndeton

Writing, or speaking, without the use of conjunctions. “I’ll walk in, say hi, walk out.”

#31 – Metonymy

Using a related term to replace the exact word. “Nice crib (home). I like the vibe (aesthetics).” 

#32 – Metanoia

A rhetorical device used to self-correct. “I’ll go over it tonight, actually, in the morning. The work day is over.” 

#33 – Chiasmus

A reversal of phrases that would be similar. Consider the classic example from Their Eyes Were Watching God: “Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget.”

#34 – Eponym

A (often successful) person’s name that is now used to describe things other than the individual. “She’s the Stephen King of horror movies.” 

#35 – Amplification

Amplification is simply expanding on an idea with the purpose of driving the point home.

#36 – Antanagoge

Starting with a negative thought and balancing the negative with a positive afterthought. “When life beats you down, get up and learn to fight.”

#37 – Eutrepismus

This rhetorical device uses numbers to provide readers or listeners a roadmap to easily follow your line of thought. “First… Second… Third…”

#38 – Anacoluthon

Intentionally upheaving the expected format of your sentence to drive your meaning home. “You laugh at my jokes and—I truly am trying to cheer you up—I can tell you don’t think they’re funny.”

#39 – Litotes

Combining double negatives to focus on what is actually said. “It’s not bad to try and help.” 

#40 – Anadiplosis

Starting a new sentence with the last words of the preceding one. “A healthy lifestyle leads to a healthy body. A healthy body leads to better sleep.”

#41 – Procatalepsis

Calling out expected negative reactions and responding with a positive response: “You probably think this can’t be true. But let me explain how it actually is!” 

#42 – Syllogism

Broad, deductive reasoning aimed at specific, micro conclusions. “Carbs are food. Pizza has carbs. Pizza is food.” 

#43 – Tmesis

A breaking up of a word or phrase with another word for the sake of emphasizing the word or phrase interrupted. This classic example is from Romeo and Juliet. “This is not Romeo, he’s some other where.”

#44 – Hypophora

Asking a question and immediately giving the expected answer. “Can this list help inspire your future writing? Yes, it can!”

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