-- Schemes are figures of speech that deal with word order,
syntax, letters, and sounds, rather than the meaning of words,
which involves tropes.
The examples below come from multiple sources. The first is
an informal compilation given to me by Dr. Jerri Williams
of West Texas State University. The second source is a wonderful
collection: Figures of Speech by Arthur Quinn (I highly
recommend acquiring a copy if you are serious about becoming
a master rhetor). A few other examples originate in my students'
past papers. For extended examples
and discussion, see Arthur Quinn's Figures of Speech: 60
Ways to Turn a Phrase, or J. A. Cuddon's Dictionary
of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, or Richard A. Lanham's
A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edition.
-- when the writer establishes similar patterns of grammatical
structure and length. For instance, "King Alfred tried to make
the law clear, precise, and equitable." The previous sentence
has parallel structure in use of adjectives. However, the following
sentence does not use parallelism: "King Alfred tried
to make clear laws that had precision and were equitable."
If the writer uses two parallel structures,
the result is isocolon parallelism: "The bigger they
are, the harder they fall."
If there are three structures, it is
tricolon parallelism: "That government of the people,
by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the
earth." Or, as one student wrote, "Her purpose was to impress
the ignorant, to perplex the dubious, and to startle the complacent."
Shakespeare used this device to good effect in Richard
II when King Richard laments his unfortunate position:
- I'll give my jewels for a set of
- My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
- My gay apparel for an almsman's
- My figured goblets for a dish of
wood . . . . (3.3.170-73).
See also hypallage, below under
Antithesis (plural antitheses)
-- contrary ideas expressed in a balanced sentence. It can
be a contrast of opposites: "Evil men fear authority; good
men cherish it." Or it can be a contrast of degree: "One small
step for a man, one giant leap for all mankind."
Antimetabole -- (also called
Epanados) repetition in reverse order: "One
should eat to live, not live to eat." Or, "You like it; it
likes you." The witches in that Scottish play chant, "Fair
is foul and foul is fair." Antimetabole often overlaps with
(from Greek, "cross"
or "x"): A literary scheme
involving a specific inversion of word order. It involves
taking parallelism and deliberately turning it inside out,
creating a "crisscross" pattern. For example,, consider the
chiasmus that follows: "By day the frolic, and the dance by
night." If we draw the words as a chart, the words form an
"x" (hence the word's Greek etymology):
The sequence is typically
b a. Examples: "I
lead the life I love;
I love the life I lead."
"Naked I rose from the earth; to the grave I fall clothed."
Chiasmus often overlaps with antimetabole.
Alliosis -- presenting alternatives:
"You can eat well or you can sleep well." While such a structure
often results in the logical fallacy
of the false dichotomy or the either/or fallacy, it can create
a cleverly balanced and artistic sentence.
Ellipsis -- omitting a word
implied by the previous clause: "The European soldiers killed
six of the remaining villagers, the American soldiers, eight."
Asyndeton -- using no conjunctions
to create an effect of speed or simplicity: Veni. Vidi.
Vici. "I came. I saw. I conquered." (As opposed to "I
came, and then I saw, and then I conquered.") Been there.
Done that. Bought the t-shirt.
Polysyndeton -- using many
conjunctions to achieve an overwhelming effect: "This
term, I am taking biology and English and history and
math and music and physics
and sociology." All those ands make the student sound
like she is completely overwhelmed! For a literary example
of polysyndeton, click
Climax (also called Auxesis
and "Crescendo") -- arrangement in order of increasing
importance: "Let a man acknowledge his obligations to himself,
his family, his country, and his God."
The opposite is called bathos
(not to be confused with pathos
or emotional appeal). Bathos is usually used humorously.
Here, the least important item appears anticlimactically in
a place where the reader expects something grand or dramatic.
For instance, "I am making a stand in this workplace for human
decency, professional integrity, and free doughnuts at lunch-break."
Schemes that Break the Rules:
How to Misspell Words and Ignore
Grammar Like a Pro.
intentionally misusing grammar to characterize a speaker or
to create a memorable phrase. Boxing manager Joe Jacobs, for
instance, became immortal with the phrase, "We was robbed!"
Or, the editors of Punch magazine might tell their
British readers, "You pays your money, and you takes your
Anapodoton -- deliberately creating
a sentence fragment by the omission of a clause: "If only
you came with me!" If only students knew what anapodoton was!
Good writers never use sentence fragments? Ah, but they can.
And they do. When appropriate.
Neologism -- creating a new
or imaginary word. For example, Lewis Caroll writes: "'Twas
brillig, and the slithy toves / did gyre and gimble in the
wabe; / All mimsy were the borogoves, / and the mome raths
outgrabe." His lines here contain numerous imaginary
words--though these might be excessive in a rhetorical writing
rather than a literary one like his poem. Many neologisms
result from metaplasmus, as discussed and subdivided
Metaplasmus --a type of neologism
in which misspelling a word creates a rhetorical effect. To
emphasize dialect, one might spell dog as "dawg."
To emphasize that something is unimportant, we might add -let
or -ling at the end of the word, referring to a deity
as a "godlet", or a prince as a "princeling."
To emphasize the feminine nature of something normally considered
masculine, try adding -ette to the end of the word,
creating a smurfette or a corvette. To modernize
something old, the writer might turn the Greek god Hermes
into the Hermenator. Likewise, Austin Powers renders
all things shagedelic. The categories following this
entry are subdivisions of metaplasmus:
Prosthesis -- adding
an extra syllable or letters to the beginning of a word: Shakespeare
writes in his sonnets, "All alone, I beweep my outcast state."
He could have simply wrote weep, but beweep
matches his meter and is more poetic. Too many students are
all afrightened by the use of prosthesis. Prosthesis creates
a poetic effect, turning a run-of-the-mill word into something
Epenthesis (also called infixation) -- adding an
extra syllable or letters in the middle of a word. Shakespeare
might write, "A visitating spirit came last night" to highlight
the unnatural status of the visit. More prosaically, Ned
Flanders from The Simpsons might say, "Gosh-diddly-darn-it,
Proparalepsis -- adding an extra syllable or letters
to the end of a word. For instance, Shakespeare in Hamlet
creates the word climature by adding the end of the
word temperature to climate (1.1.12). The
wizardly windbag Glyndwr (Glendower) proclaims that he "can
call spirits from the vasty deep" in 1 Henry IV
Aphaearesis -- deleting a syllable from the beginning
of a word to create a new word. For instance, in King
Lear, we hear that, "the king hath cause to plain"
(3.1.39). Here, the word complain has lost its first
syllable. In Hamlet 2.2.561, Hamlet asks, "Who
should 'scape whipping" if every man were treated as
he deserved, but the e- in escape has itself
cleverly escaped from its position!
Syncope -- deleting a syllable or letter from the
middle of a word. For instance, in Cymbeline, Shakespeare
writes of how, "Thou thy worldy task hast done, / Home
art gone, and ta'en thy wages" (4.2.258). In 2 Henry
IV, we hear a flatterer say, "Your lordship, though
not clean past your youth, hath yet some smack of age in
you, some relish of the saltness of time" (1.2.112).
Here, the -i- in saltiness has vanished to
create a new word. Syncope is particularly common in poetry,
when desperate poets need to get rid of a single syllable
to make their meter match in each line.
Apocope -- deleting a syllable or letter from the
end of a word. In The Merchant of Venice, one character
says, "when I ope my lips let no dog bark," and
the last syllable of open falls away into ope
before the reader's eyes (1.1.93-94). In Troilus and Cressida,
Shakespeare proclaims, "If I might in entreaties find
success--/ As seld I have the chance--I would desire / My
famous cousin to our Grecian tents" (4.5.148). Here
the word seldom becomes seld.
To the Winds Throwing Word Order!
-- a generic term for changing the normal or expected order
of words. "One ad does not a survey make." The term
comes from the Greek for "overstepping" because one or more
words "overstep" their normal position and appear
elsewhere. For instance, Milton in Paradise Lost might
write, "High on a throne of royal gold . . . Satan exalted
sat." In normal, everyday speech, we would expect to find,
"High on a throne of royal gold . . . Satan sat exalted."
Subtypes of hyperbaton appear below the examples here:
"Arms and the man I sing"--Virgil
"This is the sort of English up with
which I will not put."--Variously attributed to Winston
Churchill or Mark Twain
"I was in my life alone"--Frost
"Constant you are, but yet a woman"--1
Henry IV, 2.3.113
"Grave danger you are in. Impatient
you are." --Yoda, in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
"From such crooked wood as state
which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned."
"pity this busy monster manunkind
not." --e. e. cummings.
Anastrophe -- A type of hyperbaton
in which the adjective appears after the noun when we expect
to find the adjective before the noun. For example, Shakespeare
speaks of "Figures pedantical" (LLL 5.2.407).
Faulkner describes "The old bear [. . .]
not even a mortal but an anachronism indomitable and invincible
out of an old dead time." T. S. Eliot writes of "Time
present and time past," and so on.
Hysteron-proteron -- Using
anastrophe in a way that creates a catachresis
(see under tropes); an impossible
ordering on the literal level. For instance, Virgil has
the despairing Trojans in the Aeneid cry out in despair
as the city falls, "Let us die, and rush into the heart
of the fight." Of course, the expected, possible order
would be to "rush into the heart of the fight,"
and then "die." Literally, Virgil's sequence would
be impossible unless all the troops died, then rose up as
zombies and ran off to fight. In Antony and Cleopatra,
Shakespeare writes, "I can behold no longer / Th'Antoniad,
the Egyptian admiral, / With all their sixty, fly and turn
the rudder" (3.10.1). We would expect to turn the rudder
and then flee or fly, not fly and then turn the rudder!
Hypallage -- Combining two
examples of hyperbaton or anastrophe when reversed elements
are not grammatically or syntactically parallel. It is easier
to give examples than to explain hypallage. Virgil writes,
"The smell has brought the well-known breezes"
when we would expect, in terms of proper cause-and-effect,
to have the breezes bring well-known smells. In Henry
V, Shakespeare writes, "Our gayness and our gift
are besmirched / With rainy marching in the painful field"
(4.3.110), when logically we would expect "with painful
marching in the rainy field." Roethke playfully states,
"Once upon a tree / I came across a time." In
each example, not just one hyperbaton appears, but two when
the two words switch places with the two spots where we
expect to find them. The result often overlaps with hysteron-proteron,
in that it creates a catachresis (See under tropes).
Tsmesis -- intentionally breaking
a word into two parts for emphasis. Goldwyn once wrote, "I
have but two words to say to your request: Im Possible." Milton
writes, "Which way soever man refer to it." In one
text of William Wordsworth's "The Tables Turned,"
we learn that "Our meddling intellect / Mis shapes
the beauteous forms of things" (as opposed to misshapes).
In English, this rhetorical scheme is fairly rare, since only
the compounds of "ever" readily lend themselves
to it, but it is much more common in Greek and Latin.
When Redundancy is not Redundant
Alliteration --repetition of a sound in multiple words: buckets of big blue berries. If we want to be super-technical, alliteration comes in two forms. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds: many more merry men. If the first letters are the consonants that alliterate, the technique is often called head rhyme. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds: refresh your zest for living. Often assonance can lead to outright rhymes.
Anaphora -- repetition of beginning
clauses. For instance, Churchill declared, "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 shall be."
Epistrophe -- repetition of
a concluding word or endings: "He's learning fast; are you
earning fast?" When the epistrophe focuses on sounds rather
than entire words, we normally call it rhyme.
Epanalepsis -- repeating a word
from the beginning of a clause at the end of the clause: "Year
chases year." Or "Man's inhumanity to man." As Voltaire reminds
us, "Common sense is not so common." As Shakespeare chillingly
phrases it, "Blood will have blood." Under Biblical lextalionis
one might demand "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,
a life for a life."
Anadiplosis -- repeating the
last word of a clause at the beginning of the next clause.
As Nietzsche said, "Talent is an adornment; an adornment is
also a concealment." Extended anadiplosis is called Gradatio.
For instance, in The Caine Mutiny the captain declares:
"Aboard my ship, excellent performance is standard. Standard
performance is sub-standard. Sub-standard performance is not
allowed." Biblically speaking, St. Paul claims, "We glory
in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
and patience, experience; and experience, hope, and hope maketh
man not ashamed." On a more mundane level, the character of
Yoda states in Star Wars, Episode I: "Fear leads
to anger; anger leads to hatred; hatred leads to conflict;
conflict leads to suffering." Gradatio creates
a rhythmical pattern to carry the reader along the text, even
as it establishes a connection between words.
Diacope (also called Epizeuxis
or Repetition) -- uninterrupted repetition, or repetition
with only one or two words between each repeated phrase. Poe
might cry out, "Oh, horror, horror, horror!"
Symploce -- Repeating words
at both the beginning and the ending of a phrase: In St. Paul's
letters, he seeks symploce to reinforce in the reader the
fact that his opponents are no better than he is: "Are they
Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they of
the seed of Abraham? So am I."
For an excellent website about rhetoric,
Forest of Rhetoric. Also see the list at Rhetorical
Figures and Rhetorical
Figures in Sound.