Many speakers are good at conveying information to their audiences. But how many of them are actually interesting?

Rhetorical devices are too often cast aside as the province of the great Roman orators. They shouldn’t be. When executed well, they can spice up your speeches, presentations, even your one-on-one conversations.

Here are nine rhetorical devices. Instead of just reading this article, try inserting a few of these devices in your next speech!




  1. Alliteration: The repetition of a sound in the first syllable of each phrase. In the first example below, you will see one string of three words beginning with “f,” and another with three words beginning with “d.” In the second example, you will see Dr. King’s riff on the letter “t.”

“They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places.” – President Barack Obama

“With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. Anadiplosis: The last word or phrase is repeated to begin the next.

“Suffering breeds character; character breeds faith.” – Rev. Jesse Jackson

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda


  1. Antimetabole: The repetition of words or phrases in successive clauses, but in reverse order.

“Not all schooling is education nor all education, schooling.” – Economist Milton Friedman

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” – Scientist Carl Saga


  1. Antithesis: A word, phrase, or sentence opposes the original proposition.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong


  1. Asyndeton: Omits conjunctions, which helps to increase the tempo and highlight a specific idea.

“…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln

“He was a bag of bones, a floppy doll, a broken stick, a maniac.” – Jack Kerouac


  1. Diacope: A repeated word or phrase split up by other words; typically used to express a strong emotion.

“Put out the light, and then put out the light.” – William Shakespeare, Othello

“For the love of God, man, for the love of God.” – Me, all the time

“You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zestfully clean.” – Zest Soap commercial


  1. Litotes: You’ve probably heard this if a friend ever told you her first date was “not bad.” Litotes is essentially a double negative, expressed by denying an opposite idea; often used ironically.

“She’s no dummy” (she’s smart)

“This is no small problem” (this is a big problem)


  1. Metaphor: An analogy that compares one thing or idea to another, using a term or phrase it literally isn’t to suggest similarity.

“Homeowners are the innocent bystanders in a drive-by shooting by Wall Street and Washington.” – Sen. John McCain

“It’s raining men.” – The Weather Girls


  1. Simile: A comparison between two unalike things, usually using the words “as” or “like.”

“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“You’re as cold as ice.” – Foreigner




Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 15, 2011 – 6:08 PM


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