Expletive Definition Rhetorical Essay

Rhetorical Devices

1. Expletive is a single word or short phrase, usually interrupting normal syntax, used to lend emphasis to the words immediately proximate to the expletive. (We emphasize the words on each side of a pause or interruption in order to maintain continuity of the thought.) Compare:   But the lake was not drained before April.  But the lake was not, in fact, drained before April.  Expletives are most frequently placed near the beginning of a sentence, where important material has been placed:  All truth is not, indeed, of equal importance; but if little violations are allowed, every violation will in time be thought little. --Samuel Johnson  But sometimes they are placed at the very beginning of a sentence, thereby serving as signals that the whole sentence is especially important. In such cases the sentence should be kept as short as possible:  In short, the cobbler had neglected his soul.

2. Understatement deliberately expresses an idea as less important than it actually is, either for ironic emphasis or for politeness and tact. When the writer's audience can be expected to know the true nature of a fact which might be rather difficult to describe adequately in a brief space, the writer may choose to understate the fact as a means of employing the reader's own powers of description. For example, instead of endeavoring to describe in a few words the horrors and destruction of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, a writer might state:   The 1906 San Francisco earthquake interrupted business somewhat in the downtown area.   The effect is not the same as a description of destruction, since understatement like this necessarily smacks of flippancy to some degree; but occasionally that is a desirable effect.

3. Parallelism is recurrent syntactical similarity. Several parts of a sentence or several sentences are expressed similarly to show that the ideas in the parts or sentences are equal in importance. Parallelism also adds balance and rhythm and, most importantly, clarity to the sentence.  Any sentence elements can be paralleled, any number of times (though, of course, excess quickly becomes ridiculous). You might choose parallel subjects with parallel modifiers attached to them:  Ferocious dragons breathing fire and wicked sorcerers casting their spells do their harm by night in the forest of Darkness.  Or parallel verbs and adverbs:  I have always sought but seldom obtained a parking space near the door.   Quickly and happily he walked around the corner to buy the book.

4. Antithesis establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between two ideas by joining them together or juxtaposing them, often in parallel structure. Human beings are inveterate systematizers and categorizers, so the mind has a natural love for antithesis, which creates a definite and systematic relationship between ideas:  To err is human; to forgive, divine. --Pope    That short and easy trip made a lasting and profound change in Harold's outlook.  That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. --Neil Armstrong

5. Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences, commonly in conjunction with climax and with parallelism:  To think on death it is a misery,/ To think on life it is a vanity;/ To think on the world verily it is,/ To think that here man hath no perfect bliss. --Peacham     In books I find the dead as if they were alive; in books I foresee things to come; in books warlike affairs are set forth; from books come forth the laws of peace. --Richard de Bury

6. Rhetorical question (erotesis) differs from hypophora in that it is not answered by the writer, because its answer is obvious or obviously desired, and usually just a yes or no. It is used for effect, emphasis, or provocation, or for drawing a conclusionary statement from the facts at hand.  But how can we expect to enjoy the scenery when the scenery consists entirely of garish billboards?  . . . For if we lose the ability to perceive our faults, what is the good of living on? --Marcus Aurelius   •Is justice then to be considered merely a word? Or is it whatever results from the bartering between attorneys?  Often the rhetorical question and its implied answer will lead to further discussion: Is this the end to which we are reduced? Is the disaster film the highest form of art we can expect from our era? Perhaps we should examine the alternatives presented by independent film maker Joe Blow . . . •I agree the funding and support are still minimal, but shouldn't worthy projects be tried, even though they are not certain to succeed? So the plans in effect now should be expanded to include . . . . [Note: Here is an example where the answer "yes" is clearly desired rhetorically by the writer, though conceivably someone might say "no" to the question if asked straightforwardly.]  Several rhetorical questions together can form a nicely developed and directed paragraph by changing a series of logical statements into queries:  We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it? What does Nature hold dearer, or more proper to herself? Could you have a hot bath unless the firewood underwent some change? Could you be nourished if the food suffered no change? Do you not see, then, that change in yourself is of the same order, and no less necessary to Nature? --Marcus Aurelius  Sometimes the desired answer to the rhetorical question is made obvious by the discussion preceding it: The gods, though they live forever, feel no resentment at having to put up eternally with the generations of men and their misdeeds; nay more, they even show every possible care and concern for them. Are you, then, whose abiding is but for a moment, to lose patience--you who are yourself one of the culprits? --Marcus Aurelius    When you are thinking about a rhetorical question, be careful to avoid sinking to absurdity. You would not want to ask, for example, "But is it right to burn down the campus and sack the bookstore?" The use of this device allows your reader to think, query, and conclude along with you; but if your questions become ridiculous, your essay may become wastepaper.

7. Amplification involves repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it, in order to emphasize what might otherwise be passed over. In other words, amplification allows you to call attention to, emphasize, and expand a word or idea to make sure the reader realizes its importance or centrality in the discussion. In my hunger after ten days of rigorous dieting I saw visions of ice cream--mountains of creamy, luscious ice cream, dripping with gooey syrup and calories.

8. Simile is a  comparison between two different things that resemble each other in at least one way. In formal prose the simile is a device both of art and explanation, comparing an unfamiliar thing to some familiar thing (an object, event, process, etc.) known to the reader. When you compare a noun to a noun, the simile is usually introduced by like:  I see men, but they look like trees, walking. --Mark 8:24     After such long exposure to the direct sun, the leaves of the houseplant looked like pieces of overcooked bacon.    The soul in the body is like a bird in a cage.

9. Analogy compares two things, which are alike in several respects, for the purpose of explaining or clarifying some unfamiliar or difficult idea or object by showing how the idea or object is similar to some familiar one. While simile and analogy often overlap, the simile is generally a more artistic likening, done briefly for effect and emphasis, while analogy serves the more practical end of explaining a thought process or a line of reasoning or the abstract in terms of the concrete, and may therefore be more extended.   •You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables. --Samuel Johnson

10. Metaphor compares two different things by speaking of one in terms of the other. Unlike a simile or analogy, metaphor asserts that one thing is another thing, not just that one is like another. Very frequently a metaphor is invoked by the to be verb:   •Affliction then is ours; / We are the trees whom shaking fastens more. --George Herbert      Thus a mind that is free from passion is a very citadel; man has no stronger fortress in which to seek shelter and defy every assault. Failure to perceive this is ignorance; but to perceive it, and still not to seek its refuge, is misfortune indeed. --Marcus Aurelius

11. Synecdoche is a type of metaphor in which the part stands for the whole, the whole for a part, the genus for the species, the species for the genus, the material for the thing made, or in short, any portion, section, or main quality for the whole or the thing itself (or vice versa). •Farmer Jones has two hundred head of cattle and three hired hands.

12. Metonymy is another form of metaphor, very similar to synecdoche (and, in fact, some rhetoricians do not distinguish between the two), in which the thing chosen for the metaphorical image is closely associated with (but not an actual part of) the subject with which it is to be compared.  •The orders came directly from the White House.  In this example we know that the writer means the President issued the orders, because "White House" is quite closely associated with "President," even though it is not physically a part of him. Consider these substitutions, and notice that some are more obvious than others, but that in context all are clear:  •You can't fight city hall.   This land belongs to the crown.

13. Personification metaphorically represents an animal or inanimate object as having human attributes--attributes of form, character, feelings, behavior, and so on. Ideas and abstractions can also be personified.  •The ship began to creak and protest as it struggled against the rising sea.

14. Hyperbole, the counterpart of understatement, deliberately exaggerates conditions for emphasis or effect. In formal writing the hyperbole must be clearly intended as an exaggeration, and should be carefully restricted. That is, do not exaggerate everything, but treat hyperbole like an exclamation point, to be used only once a year. Then it will be quite effective as a table-thumping attention getter, introductory to your essay or some section thereof:  •There are a thousand reasons why more research is needed on solar energy.  Or it can make a single point very enthusiastically:  I said "rare," not "raw." I've seen cows hurt worse than this get up and get well.

15. Allusion is a short, informal reference to a famous person or event:  •You must borrow me Gargantua's mouth first. 'Tis a word too great for any mouth of this age's size. --Shakespeare   • If you take his parking place, you can expect World War II all over again.  •Plan ahead: it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. --Richard Cushing   •Our examination of the relation of the historian to the facts of history finds us, therefore, in an apparently precarious situation, navigating delicately between the Scylla of an untenable theory of history as an objective compilation of facts . . . and the Charybdis of an equally untenable theory of history as the subjective product of the mind of the historian . . . . --Edward Hallett Carr      Notice in these examples that the allusions are to very well known characters or events, not to obscure ones. (The best sources for allusions are literature, history, Greek myth, and the Bible.) Note also that the reference serves to explain or clarify or enhance whatever subject is under discussion, without sidetracking the reader.  Allusion can be wonderfully attractive in your writing because it can introduce variety and energy into an otherwise limited discussion (an exciting historical adventure rises suddenly in the middle of a discussion of chemicals or some abstract argument), and it can please the reader by reminding him of a pertinent story or figure with which he is familiar, thus helping (like analogy) to explain something difficult. The instantaneous pause and reflection on the analogy refreshes and strengthens the reader's mind.

16. Eponym substitutes for a particular attribute the name of a famous person recognized for that attribute. By their nature eponyms often border on the cliche, but many times they can be useful without seeming too obviously trite. Finding new or infrequently used ones is best, though hard, because the name-and-attribute relationship needs to be well established. Consider the effectiveness of these: Is he smart? Why, the man is an Einstein. Has he suffered? This poor Job can tell you himself.

17. Oxymoron is a paradox reduced to two words, usually in an adjective-noun ("eloquent silence") or adverb-adjective ("inertly strong") relationship, and is used for effect, complexity, emphasis, or wit: --I do here make humbly bold to present them with a short account of themselves and their art.....--Jonathan Swift   The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head . . . .--Alexander Pope

18. Alliteration is the recurrence of initial consonant sounds. The repetition can be juxtaposed (and then it is usually limited to two words): •Ah, what a delicious day!  •Yes, I have read that little bundle of pernicious prose, but I have no comment to make upon it.

19. Onomatopoeia is the use of words whose pronunciation imitates the sound the word describes. "Buzz," for example, when spoken is intended to resemble the sound of a flying insect. Other examples include these: slam, pow, screech, whirr, crush, sizzle, crunch, wring, wrench, gouge, grind, mangle, bang, blam, pow, zap, fizz, urp, roar, growl, blip, click, whimper, and, of course, snap, crackle, and pop. Note that the connection between sound and pronunciation is sometimes rather a product of imagination ("slam" and "wring" are not very good imitations). And note also that written language retains an aural quality, so that even unspoken your writing has a sound to it. Compare these sentences, for instance:  •Someone yelled, "Look out!" and I heard the skidding of tires and the horrible noise of bending metal and breaking glass.  •Someone yelled "Look out!" and I heard a loud screech followed by a grinding, wrenching crash.

20. Apostrophe interrupts the discussion or discourse and addresses directly a person or personified thing, either present or absent. Its most common purpose in prose is to give vent to or display intense emotion, which can no longer be held back:  •O value of wisdom that fadeth not away with time, virtue ever flourishing, that cleanseth its possessor from all venom! O heavenly gift of the divine bounty, descending from the Father of lights, that thou mayest exalt the rational soul to the very heavens! Thou art the celestial nourishment of the intellect . . . . --Richard de Bury   •O books who alone are liberal and free, who give to all who ask of you and enfranchise all who serve you faithfully! -- Richard de Bury

21. Climax (gradatio) consists of arranging words, clauses, or sentences in the order of increasing importance, weight, or emphasis. Parallelism usually forms a part of the arrangement, because it offers a sense of continuity, order, and movement-up the ladder of importance. But if you wish to vary the amount of discussion on each point, parallelism is not essential.  The concerto was applauded at the house of Baron von Schnooty, it was praised highly at court, it was voted best concerto of the year by the Academy, it was considered by Mozart the highlight of his career, and it has become known today as the best concerto in the world.

22. Enumeratio: detailing parts, causes, effects, or consequences to make a point more forcibly:  •I love her eyes, her hair, her nose, her cheeks, her lips [etc.].   •When the new highway opened, more than just the motels and restaurants prospered. The stores noted a substantial increase in sales, more people began moving to town, a new dairy farm was started, the old Main Street Theater doubled its showings and put up a new building . . .

23. Sententia: quoting a maxim or wise saying to apply a general truth to the situation; concluding or summing foregoing material by offering a single, pithy statement of general wisdom:  •But, of course, to understand all is to forgive all.  •As the saying is, art is long and life is short.   •For as Pascal reminds us, "It is not good to have all your wants satisfied."

24. Exemplum: citing an example; using an illustrative story, either true or fictitious:  •Let me give you an example. In the early 1920's in Germany, the government let the printing presses turn out endless quantities of paper money, and soon, instead of 50-pfennige postage stamps, denominations up to 50 billion marks were being issued.

25. Dirimens Copulatio: mentioning a balancing or opposing fact to prevent the argument from being one-sided or unqualified:  •This car is extremely sturdy and durable. It's low maintenance; things never go wrong with it. Of course, if you abuse it, it will break.

26. Appositive: a noun or noun substitute placed next to (in apposition to) another noun to be described or defined by the appositive. The appositive can be placed before or after the noun:   •Henry Jameson, the boss of the operation, always wore a red baseball cap.  •A notorious annual feast, the picnic was well attended.   •That evening we were all at the concert, a really elaborate and exciting affair. 
With very short appositives, the commas setting off the second noun from the first are often omitted:  •That afternoon Kathy Todd the pianist met the poet Thompson.  •Is your friend George going to run for office?

27. Diction: the choice and use of words.

28. Slippery Slope: "one thing leads to another" fallacy, also called the "domino effect." This uses a false or unproven thesis, one without foundation. Example: "If we do this, then that will happen, then something else, and then other things; where will it end?"

29. Red Herring: (sometimes called Trojan Horse) a decoy argument; one that ignores the real issue while bringing up totally irrelevant issues. Example: "How can you justify spending money to fight crime in America when there are children starving in Africa ?"

30. Abstract Language: Words that refer to ides, qualities, attitudes, and conditions that cannot be perceived with the senses—for example, freedom, beauty, joy. Opposite of concrete language.

31. Antistrophe: repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses.   *In 1931, ten years ago, Japan invaded Manchukuo -- without warning. In 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia -- without warning. In 1938, Hitler occupied Austria -- without warning. In 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia -- without warning. Later in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland -- without warning. And now Japan has attacked Malaya and Thailand -- and the United States --without warning. Franklin D. Roosevelt

32. Archaism: use of an older or obsolete form.  *Pipit sate upright in her chair Some distance from where I was sitting; T. S. Eliot, "A Cooking Egg"

33. Audience: The intended readers of a piece of writing. Knowledge of the audience’s needs and expectations helps a writer shape the writing so that it is clear., interesting, and convincing.

34. Bandwagon: the tactic of inviting the audience to accept an assertion because everybody else does.

35. Colloquial language: words or expressions from everyday speech. Colloquial language can enliven informal writing but is generally inappropriate in formal academic or business writing.

36. Comparison and contrast: the identification of similarities (comparison) and differences (contrast) between two or more subjects.

37. Concrete language: words that refer to objects persons, places, or conditions that can be perceived with the senses. Opposite of abstract language.

38. Credibility: the reliability or trustworthiness of the writer or sources; ethos. The audience’s belief in such.

39. Denotation: the dictionary definition or literal meaning of a word or phrase.

40. Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.  Sleeping together = having sex; Passed away = died; Chemical dependant = dope head

41. Ad Hominem: From the Latin meaning "against the man"—that is, making an attack on the person rather than on the person’s argument or particular issue.

42. Ad misericordiam: An argument that is an appeal to the emotions of the audience.

43. Begging the question: in an argument, making an assumption that what’s being argued has already been proven or confirmed.

44. Circular reasoning: reasoning where the conclusion is hidden in the premise of the argument.

45. Double Standard: comparing two or more similar things or situations by a different sets of standards. Example: "Well, it’s OK for him, but if she tries it I’ll punish her."

46. Equivocation: using words that have at least two different definitions to support or refute an issue. Using ambiguous words is also a form of equivocation.

47. False analogy: a fallacy of comparing two things that are not sufficiently alike to be compared. Such comparison concentrates one a singular similarity while ignoring all differences.

48. Hasty generalization: an assertion or conclusion drawn on insufficient evidence; jumping to conclusions.

49. Non sequitur: from the Latin for "it does not follow;" a fallacy of claiming a conclusion that does not follow logically from the premise.

50. Oversimplification: attempts to obscure or deny the complex issues of a claim, syllogism, or enthymeme.

51. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: (cause and effect, false cause) Most readily identified as the "If..., then..." fallacy. Assumes that event A causes event B or some undesired result. Example: "If we can put a man on the moon, then we should be able to cure AIDS."

52. Self Contradiction: giving two premises that when used together cannot be true. Example: If you die while you’re asleep, you won’t know about it until the next morning when you wake up.

53. Slanted language: (also called stacking the deck) evidence, words, or expressions whose connotations favor a particular bias of the arguer and which distort the opposition.

54. Stacking the deck: (also known as slanting) giving evidence, words, or expressions supporting a premise while disregarding or withholding contrary evidence.

55. Stereotyping: a form of hasty generalization, assuming that all members of a group are the same; this can be racist in nature or simply sweeping generalizations. Example: "All red heads have a fiery temper."

56. Strawman (strawperson): this fallacy creates its own issues and then attacks or refutes these rather than addressing the issue of the core argument.

57. Generalization: an assertion inferred from evidence.

58. Grounds: the minor premise supporting evidence.

59. Occam’s Razor : the theory holding that all things being equal the simplest answer is probably the best and most correct. Spock (Star Trek) used a version of Occam’s Razor in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, "If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains—however improbable—must be the truth."

60. Opinion: a conclusion based on facts or judgements; an arguable, potentially changeable assertion. Assertions of opinion form the backbone of an argument.

61. Pre-empting: anticipating the opposition’s argument and attempting to invalidate it before it is delivered.

62. Process analysis: a step-by-step explanation of how something works or how something is done.

63. Proposition: the claim or the point to be discussed or proven in an argument.

64. Purpose: what the writer hopes to accomplish is a piece of writing. The chief reason for communicating something about a topic to one’s audience.

65. Qualifier: a restriction placed on the claim to indicate that it may not always be true as so stated.

66. Racist language: slurs or derogatory terms that discriminate against or denigrate members of certain races or ethnicity.

67. Reason: a statement that explains or justifies the claim.

68. Rebuttal: exception to a claim.

69. Refutation: an attack on an opposing point of view in order to lessen its credibility or to invalidate it.

70. Rhetoric: the strategic use of language.

71. Sexist language: language expressing narrow ideas about men’s and women’s roles, positions, capabilities, or values.

72. Slang: expressions used by members of a group to create bonds and sometimes exclude others. Most slang is too vague, short-lived, and narrowly understood to be included in anything but informal writing.

73. Statistics: information that is expressed in numerical form; quantitative data.

74. Syllepsis: use of a word with two others, with each of them being understood differently/having a different meaning.: We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately. Benjamin Franklin

75. Thesis: the central controlling idea of an essay to which all assertions and details relate.

76. Thesis sentence: the sentence that asserts the central controlling idea of an essay. It conveys the writer’s purpose and attitude and perhaps previews the essay’s organization.

77. Transitions: words or phrases such as thus or similarly or by comparison that link sentences and paragraphs for the sake of enhancing coherence.

78. Twisted cliché: a cliché where one or more of the words are changed, either in spelling or replaced by a new word, but the basic concept of the cliché is still recognizable.

79. Unity: the quality of an effective essay or paragraph in which all parts relate to the central idea and to each other.

80. Values: principles or ideas that are used as standards for determining the worth of something—that is, good or bad, ugly or beautiful, useful or worthless, right or wrong.

81. Fallacy: an error in reasoning, a false argument. These are not necessarily to be avoided at all costs; however, if used they must be used very wisely and carefully. One fallacy can destroy an entire argument if it is used improperly. The following is a list of various fallacies and their definitions.


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