5 Uncommon Figures of Speech to Spice Up Your Writing (Part 1)

Are you familiar with anaphora, antithesis, chiasmus, metonymy, and synecdoche? Use these less common figures of speech to convey meanings in a more vivid and impressive manner both in writing and speaking.

Mignon Fogarty
5-minute read
Episode #352

5 Uncommon Figures of Speech to Spice Up Your Writing (Part 1)

This episode was written by Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. You can find more of her articles by visiting The Public Speaker section on the site.

When you hear the term “figures of speech,” you probably think of metaphors, similes, and idioms. I like to think of these as the salt and pepper that spice up words.

But sometimes even with salt and pepper, our food still tastes bland; we need a wider array of spices. Different combinations make the food taste different—at times radically different.

Today, I'd like to talk about the slightly more uncommon figures of speech: anaphora, antithesis, chiasmus, metonymy and synecdoche. I like to think of these as the paprika, cardamom, and saffron of language. These figures of speech convey meanings in a more vivid and impressive manner both in writing and speaking. Use them in different combinations to add depth and emotion to your writing.

Anaphora [uh-naf-er-uh]

Anaphora means starting two or more sentences, phrases, or verses with the same word or words. Anaphora means your words will sound repetitive, but don’t let that stop you from using it. That’s the point of anaphora. That’s why it’s convincing. That’s why it’s effective. That’s why it’s powerful.

Justin Bieber fans and their parents know that his hit song “Never Say Never” is one of those tunes that you can’t get out of your head. Blame anaphora for that.

. . . I never thought that I could walk through fire
I never thought that I could take a burn
I never had the strength to take it higher
Until I reached the point of no return

Because anaphora is so memorable, advertisers frequently create slogans using this rhetorical tool; in fact, as I was writing this very sentence I heard a Wendy’s commercial that included this phrase:

“Right Price. Right Size Menu.”

Another advertising example I noticed recently is: “Choose Sony. Choose Wisely.”

In anaphora, the repeated word joins the phrases together.  In this case, it does so with the goal of leaving the impression Sony equals a wise choice. It’s simple. It’s clever. It’s powerful. (By the way, did you notice that both ads also used another figure of speech?  That’s right—alliteration—the repeat of “s” sound.)

What’s important to remember is that anaphora is repetitive. What’s important to remember is that the repetition is what makes it effective and memorable.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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