Rhetorical devices aren’t just for creative fiction. If your speech sounds a bit dull, perhaps even boring, you can up its impact by adding some frequently used rhetorical devices. Even if you have a great speech, chances are you can add a few more elements to take it to the next level.
Whether your speech is intended to entertain, inform or persuade, the strategic use of rhetorical devices can make it more appealing to listeners. Here is a non-exhaustive list:
Repetition creates rhythm, builds excitement and helps the audience pay attention to key messages and phrases. The following four devices are just a few examples of repetition.
Anaphora repeats words or phrases at the beginning of sentences.
Example: “I believe in our organization. I believe in our mission. I believe in our members.”
Epistrophe repeats words or phrases at the end of sentences.
Example: “She died for freedom. I speak for freedom. You work for freedom.”
Alliteration repeats the same sounds at the beginning of words. Often, it occurs through the first letter, but it does not have to.
Example: “I have hope that one day, every home will have clean water.”
Antimetabole repeats words or phrases, but in reverse order.
Example: “If we do not beat the sickness, the sickness will beat us.”
Analogies connect two generally dissimilar things with a similarity. They come in two forms: metaphors and similes. While similes use the word like or as, metaphors imply the relationship in a subtler manner. Here are some examples:
Similie: “His eyes were as black as coal.”
Metaphor: “Her voice was thunder.”
Rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered aloud. Instead, they are used for dramatic effect. When used in succession (especially with repetitive elements), they can have an even greater impact on the audience.
Example: “Where was he when the phone rang? Where was he when someone knocked at the door?”
Because they come in many forms, anecdotes can virtually enhance any speech. They can be personal stories of embarrassing moments, successes or failures. They can be other people’s stories, both modern and historical. Most importantly, they can enhance a speech’s emotional appeal. The key is to transition smoothly in and out of the anecdote so that it flows with the rest of the speech.
Example: “This reminds me of a time when I was a young girl. In my house, we didn’t have a television . . . ”