Sentence & Syntax: The Flowers of Rhetoric

How Sentences Work—the Flowers of Rhetoric

Now that we have the form, we need the function. The cumulative sentence is the perfect vase for displaying the flowers of rhetoric is our writing.

Okay, so some of you are gasping. No, rhetoric is formulaic and non-creative. It reduces writing from high art into a paint-by-numbers set!

The trick to rhetoric, if you can call it a trick, is simple: just use it. Rhetoric works. Now these terms are, admittedly, hideous and I doubt even the Greeks who made them up could remember them, but here they are in all their unpronounceable glory.

Asyndeton: to omit the conjunctions that link items in a series. (I came, I saw, I conquered) 

Ellipsis: to omit one or more words that are obviously necessary but must be inferred to make a construction grammatically complete (Reading maketh a full man; conference (maketh) a ready man; and writing (maketh) an exact man.) 

Alliteration: to repeat the initial consonants in neighboring or in grammatically corresponding words (water which they beat to follow faster, as amorous of their strokes) (curiosity killed the cat)

Anaphora: to repeat a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences, clauses or phrases (I coulda had class...I coulda been somebody...) beginning each element in the series with the same word or words

Antithesis: a statement that is relatively obvious, the second half begins in a obvious way and then take an odd turn. (Wicked women both one; good women bore one)

Anadiplosis: to repeat a word that ends one phrase, clause, or sentence at the beginning of the next (Learn as though you would live forever, live as though you would die tomorrow.) 

Assonance: to repeat similar vowel sounds in neighboring or in grammatically corresponding words (His journal is tracks in clay, a spray of feathers, mouse blood and bone; uncollected, unconnected, loose-leaf, and blown) 

Chiasmus: to repeat a grammatical structure and the words it contains, but to reverse the order of the key words in the second phrase, clause or sentence. (When the going gets tough, the tough get going.) 

Epanalepsis: to repeat the same word or phrase at the beginning and end of a clause or sentence. (Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the wavesof the sea—from Chief Seattle or leaf subsides to leaf—Nothing Gold Can Stay) There is something expansive about epanalepis and makes it solemn and grand.

 Polysyndeton: to repeat conjunctions between coordinate words, phrases, or clauses in a series. (It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread—Joan Didion) 

Epistrophe: To repeat the same word or phrase at the end of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences (the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth) 

Isocolon: a form of parallelism that stresses corresponding words, phrases, clauses, and sentence of equal length and similar structure. (Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few or he is asked to stand, he wants to sit, and he is expected to lie) 

Polyptoton: to repeat words with the same root but different forms or endings (poverty and isolation produce impoverished and isolated minds or the collected works of uncollected authors). Same words, different parts of speech (do, done; longing, long; please, plea; dressy, dress; stranger, strange land; succeed, success; man, mankind)

Symploce: anaphora (repeating the first word) and epistrophe (repeating the final word) The pride of the peacock is the glory of God. The lust of the goat is the bounty of God. The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God. 

Tricolon: a tripling of phrases, clauses, or sentences (tricolon crescendo: progressively increase in length "long, too long, never too long life" it sound better to end with a crescendo “friends, Romans, countrymen” “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers) 

Merism: when you don’t say what you’re talking about and instead name all of its parts. (night and day in place of always)

A second trick is understanding just how it works. Now that we have the deeply flawed definitions out of the way, now’s the time to explore what these tools will do for you sentences.