Archive for March, 2014


Three parallel elements of the same length occurring together in a series.

  • Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
  • I came; I saw; I conquered.


Use of a word with two others, with each of which it is understood differently. A combination of grammatical parallelism and semantic incongruity, often with a witty or comical effect.

  • Rend your heart, and not your garments.
  • You held your breath and the door for me.
  • We must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.


Repeating a word, but in a different form in close proximity.

  • With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder.
  • You try to forget, and in the forgetting, you are yourself forgotten.


Ending a series of lines, phrases, clauses, or sentences with the same word or words.

  • You will find washing beakers helpful in passing this course, using the gas chromatograph desirable for passing this course, and studying hours on end essential to passing this course.
  • What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.
  • We are born to sorrow, pass our time in sorrow, end our days in sorrow.


Repetition at the end of a line, phrase, or clause of the word or words that occurred at the beginning of the same line, phrase, or clause. The beginning and the end are the two positions of strongest emphasis in a sentence, so by having the same word in both places, you call special attention to it.

  • Nothing is worse than doing nothing.
  • A lie begets a lie.
  • Water alone dug this giant canyon; yes, just plain water.
  • To report that your committee is still investigating the matter is to tell me that you have nothing to report.


Reversing the order of repeated words or phrases (a loosely chiastic structure, AB-BA) to intensify the final formulation, to present alternatives, or to show contrast.

  • Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
  • Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.


Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines commonly in conjunction with climax and parallelism.

  • We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.


The repetition of the last word (or phrase) from the previous line, clause, or sentence at the beginning of the next to generate the sake of beauty or to give a sense of logical progression.

  • I was at a loss for words, words that perhaps would have gotten me into even more trouble.
  • The love of wicked men converts to fear,/That fear to hate, and hate turns one or both/To worthy danger and deserved death.
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.


A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.

  • No man is an island.
  • The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter.


An explicit comparison, often (but not necessarily) employing “like” or “as.”

  • Her hair was like gravy, running brown off her head and clumping up on her shoulders.
  • The air-lifted rhinoceros hit the ground like a garbage bag filled with split pea soup.


Reference to something or someone by naming one of its attributes.

  • The orders came directly from the White House.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword
  • The IRS is auditing me? Great. All I need is a couple of suits arriving at my door.


A whole is represented by naming one of its parts

  • The rustler bragged he’d absconded with five hundred head of longhorns.
  • If I had some wheels, I’d put on my best threads and ask for Jane’s hand in marriage.
  • I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas


General term describing when one part of speech governs two or more other parts of a sentence. For example, two different words linked to a verb or an adjective which is strictly appropriate to only one of them.The main benefit of the linking is that it shows relationships between ideas and actions more clearly.

  • Fred excelled at sports; Harvey at eating; Tom with girls.
  • Nor Mars his sword, nor war’s quick fire shall burn/The living record of your memory.
  • Alexander conquered the world; I, Towson.


Reference to abstractions or inanimate objects as though they had human qualities or abilities.

  • England expects every man to do his duty.
  • The coffee is strong enough to get up and walk away.
  • Snow and wind howled through the streets.


Use of words to imitate natural sounds of the word being described.The written language retains an aural quality, so that even unspoken your writing has a sound to it.

  • Someone yelled, “Look out!” and I heard a loud screech followed by a grinding, wrenching crash.
  • Plop, buzz, ribbit, slam, sizzle, etc.


Rhetorical exaggeration for emphasis or effect. In formal writing the hyperbole must be clearly intended as an exaggeration, and should be carefully restricted.We are a society of excess and exaggeration. Handle hyperbole like dynamite, and do not blow up everything you can find.

  • My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires, and more slow;/An hundred years should got to praise/Thine eyes and on thine forehead gaze;/Two hundred to adore each breast,/But thirty thousand to the rest.
  • I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.


The use of a word in a context that differs from its proper application in an alien or unusual way.

  • The podcast included a soundseeing tour of London’s theatre district.
  • I will speak daggers to her.
  • The little old lady turtled along at ten miles per hour.


Placing two ordinarily opposing terms adjacent to one another. usually in an adjective-noun  or adverb-adjective relationship, and is used for effect, complexity, emphasis, or wit

  • The sounds of silence
  • The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head
  • I must be cruel only to be kind


Similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses 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.

  • Ferocious dragons breathing fire and wicked sorcerers casting their spells do their harm by night in the Forest of Darkness.
  • I have always sought but seldom obtained a parking space near the door.
  • Singing a song or writing a poem is joyous.


Juxtaposition of contrasting words or ideas (often, although not always, 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

  • It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
  • It can’t be wrong if it feels so right.
  • Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.
  • That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind


Arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of ascending power, weight, or importance. In addition to arranging sentences or groups of short ideas in climactic order, you generally should also arrange the large sections of ideas in your papers climatically. Always begin with a point or proof substantial enough to generate interest, and then continue with ideas of increasing importance. That way your argument gets stronger as it moves along, and every point hits harder than the previous one.

  • Miss America was not so much interested in serving herself as she was eager to serve her family, her community, and her nation.
  •  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.


Yoda-speak that departs from normal word order for the sake of emphasis.

  • The helmsman steered; the ship moved on; yet never a breeze up blew.
  • Enter the forest primeval.


Leaving out conjunctions between clauses, often resulting in a hurried rhythm or vehement effect.

  • On his return he received medals, honors, treasures, titles, fame.
  • I came; I saw; I conquered.
  • We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
  • But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.


Adding additional conjunctions to slow tempo or rhythm.

  • They read and studied and wrote and drilled. I laughed and played and talked and flunked.
  • We have not power, nor influence, nor money, nor authority; but a willingness to persevere, and the hope that we shall conquer soon


The repetition of ideas in inverted order (a-b-b-a) to make an X.

  • Polished in courts and hardened in the field. Renowned for conquest, and in council skilled.
  • He labors without complaining and without bragging rests.
  • Judge not, lest ye be judged.


Omission of a word or short phrase easily understood in context.

  • The average person thinks he isn’t.
  • John forgives Mary and Mary, John.

Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the ability to see or identify in any given circumstance the available means of persuasion.” Thus, rhetoric is the art of argument and discourse to convince other of what we believe. There are three avenues of persuasion.

  • Logos, or logic
  • Pathos, or emotional appeal
  • Ethos, or trustworthy charisma and authority

A good writer knows how to use these persuasive avenues in relation to the audience. This concept is called the rhetorical triangle consisting of the author, the text, and the audience. Learn more about the rhetorical triangle by watching the video produced by David Wright at Furman University.

For examples of these three forms of persuasion and how they factor into your audience, view Dr. Wheeler’s argument for not putting a dog in the microwave or allowing children to play with power tools.

If you decided, “Hey! I need some one to give me money” you’d probably choose all three forms of persuasion and still not be effective at convincing the bank, your parents, or a stranger on the street. That’s where Schemes, Tropes, and Repetition come into play. These three techniques can artfully change the patterns of sentence structures and the meanings of words. There are hundreds of these in existence. Refer to Silva Rhetoricae or A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices or Daily Writing Tips for a complete list.  To get you started, consult the upcoming list of terms, definitions, and examples for Schemes, Tropes, and Repetition. Use these tactics to manipulate and enhance your language for delivering an effective bottom-line message. Knowing how to manipulate these rhetorical devices means you have great mastery over the English language. I have to commit these to memory for several of my graduate classes, so if you want to be a master wordsmith (or a total nerd) you can do the same.

If you’re unfamiliar with these Schemes, Tropes, and Repetition techniques, I’d be more than happy to answer your questions about their appropriate usage. Just drop me a message in the comments section, or you can email me using the form below!

When I was a kid, the public library was my Mecca. I took a pilgrimage to the George Peabody Library in Massachusetts every week. It was a behemoth of a building for books. There were three stories devoted to big fat adult books and a whole basement devoted to brightly colored children’s books. I was a connoisseur of books. I skimmed them, devoured them, and savored them. My eyes never processed those tiny, insignificant words. I was too hungry to slow down my gorge fest of fictional stories. Stories about a talking aardvark or a curious monkey or a gargantuan red dog or an accident-prone maid named Amelia Bedelia or a mischievous cat wearing a hat.

When I was six, I learned to speed read by using picture books to tell myself the stories. My eyes skipped over basic two and three letter words, and the book still made sense. The only book I wanted to read that had more words than pictures was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The voracious reader developed into a child genius because she was “nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. Those books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” Just like Matilda, books sustain me and keep me whole.

By third grade, my mom forced me to abandon picture books and read a book with just words. The book was about a boy who lived in a strange town with strange rules and strange ways. My mom called it dystopian literature because the strange town seemed perfect on the outside. The truth was there were many problems with the way people didn’t question rules that took away their freedoms. I wondered if that was why the book was called The Giver. The Giver’s role in the town was to hold onto painful memories so the rest of the town didn’t have to experience them. Jonas, the main character, receives this role. He says that “the worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” Words allow human beings to verbalize their memories; books allow us to leave scraps of memory imprinted on the pages.

Next on my mom’s list of books she wanted me to read was a diary written by a girl who lived in a secret attic hidden behind a bookcase door. She was 12, and I was eight. When I reached the final page, I became disconcerted at the unexpected line printed in all capital letters. ANNE’S DIARY ENDS HERE. The conclusion was sudden and abrupt, leaving me wondering if there would be a sequel. All I got was an afterword informing me Anne Frank had been arrested by the Gestapo, transported to Bergen-Belsen, and died there at age fourteen because of a typhus outbreak. This information was not enough to give me closure. To get it, I needed a detailed, dissertation-length report complete with dates, footnotes, and annotations. My morbid curiosity as to why Anne Frank had been silenced was my initiation into researching the Holocaust. Strange-sounding phrases such as Final Solution, Third Reich, Kristallnacht, and Einsatzgruppen began to enter my vocabulary. I could identify Oskar Schindler, Adolf Hitler, Elie Wiesel, Josef Mengele, and Miep Gies as easily as if they were pop culture icons.

Yet the reason for Anne’s death continued to elude me, and the larger issue of why the Holocaust had to have happened was still beyond my grasp. This was not to say the history lesson was enigmatic. In fact, the information was well within my level of comprehension. The basic facts were clear. I understood who killed eleven million people and how the murder had been performed. I saw the overarching themes: discrimination, prejudice, anti-Semitism, propaganda, genocide, persecution, hate. The brutality, though, remained inexplicable. At the age of eight, my conclusion was that the world was mad, insane, and unbalanced. True, global affairs had improved since the Holocaust, but crimes and atrocities still happened around the world and would continue to happen. Humanity would never learn, and nothing could be done except rant about it. Since then, my worldview has changed because I’ve read more words than Anne Frank ever had the chance to write.

After reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in high school, I now understood why my mom wanted me to read books without pictures.  At one point in the book, a character muses that “words can be like x-rays if you use them properly—they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” Pictures are powerful, but words contain a subtle magic that shapes mindsets and sways opinions.  Whether with or without pictures, reading a book always made me feel important, intelligent, and impressive. Compared to the other kids, my brain was like flypaper, and stories stuck to it. Nobody could read as fast or as well as I could. Nothing could ever stop me from reading, and nothing ever has. Reading has always my superpower, and a book, my sidekick. Books do more than just ward off boredom and bad guys. They provide comfort during times of great distress when I have to face epic battles in life. With wit and wisdom, they point out the two things that made me the leading heroine in my own life story: my tragic flaws and my moments of excessive hubris. Books act as my personal Jedi Master. They teach me the ways of the binding force that connects people together. They contain words, which are shaped into stories that ring with truth.

The truth is that the words in the books I love have power. How do I know? The film V for Vendetta states, “Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.” Words advise us to take action; they implore us to make a change; they instruct us on what to do, and they convince us of the right course of action. If we’re not careful, words will lead us on a journey that lies in wait for us right out our front door. As Bilbo Baggins, a character in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, claimed, “It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Hefty hardcopy books full of printed text sweep me away from the 21st century hustle-and-bustle busyness. Typically, my reading experience is strained because at work I read text on a computer screen that flickers under yellow florescent office light.  I’m constantly interrupted by Facebook notifications, text alerts, Gmail pings, ringing telephones, needy people, and a demanding schedule. The worn bindings of my favorite books offers a retreat back to the childhood memory of when I explored the endless shelves at the George Peabody Library. Traveling long distances to a newly-discovered used bookstore provides an adventurous escape from a humdrum expectation that I have to be constantly on-call and instantaneously connected. My collection of well-loved books represents bookends intended to hold up the entirety of my life story.

I’ve been a reader for so long that the word has become part of who I am. Because I’m a reader, books have shaped me into always being industrious. By the very definition of my name—Emily—industrious is how I am and what I do. What could be more industrious than absorbing words on paper? My eyes—whizzing smoothly across the page. My left shoulder—sore from carrying a heavy bag of library books. My fingers—calloused from turning page after page. Printed ink swirling and curling—the product of a pen carving away at sentences. Just one more—maybe two more pages—before bedtime. I’ve just got to keep striving forward, being industrious. Reading doesn’t just keep me busy; it keeps me breathing. Without words, the jagged green line that marches across the heart monitor might as well be stationary. I need words. They turn the world, my reality, and my perceptions from nonsense into order. Order is in the syntax. The syntax is in order. All is right with the world. With the world, all is right.

Great resource for academic writers.