The Art of Rhetorical Language and Devices

The main content

Today we’re going to talk about

rhetorical techniques in speeches  

We’ve discussed some of the elements

we use to build and explain our ideas 

but rhetoric is about presenting them

with greater impact  being more persuasive  

Ideally we want great information

presented in interesting and attention grabbing ways  

Images and pictures created by words

is one of the main assets we have  

Rhetoric on the other hand

is more about the structure of sentence

to create greater impact and persuasion

There are three main ways we do this  

Contrasts  Puzzles and Solutions  and Lists of Three

So first let’s look at the idea of contrasts  

Within the idea of contrasts we have  Contradictions 

Comparisons  Opposites and Phrase Reversals  

Each of these is a little bit different

and we’ll look at a couple examples of each 

First Contradictions  

In particular the form of the phrase

that we are looking at is

“Not this but that”  Or not A  but B  Or A but not B  

See the idea here is to create contrast between A and B

in an interesting way in order to make the mind think  

The result feels sort of powerful and more meaningful  

Here are two examples  First 

“the house we hope to build 

is not for my generation but for yours ”

This is by Ronald Reagan  famous President

for his acting career and speaking ability  

You can see how the “not my generation  but yours”

fits the “Not this but that” phrases  

Here’s another 

“I come to bury Ceasar  not to praise him ” 

This one by William Shakespeare

uses the “[A] but not [B]” format  

The contrast between burying or killing

Ceasar and praising him

is quite distinct in its impression  

Anytime you can use a contrast and format it like this

you can create more impact

Comparisons are similar  

Here you see the format is “More this than that”  

You have one thing and then you go further  

This is neatly contrasting two things

using better  bigger  faster

or some other form of comparison  

For example  “I have taken more out of the alcohol 

than the alcohol has taken out of me ”

This phrase by Winston Churchill

shows us the battle between himself and alcohol

and the contrast actually creates a bit of humor

Now  Opposites are extremely simple and easy to use  

The English language has so many words

that have become opposite of one another 

Love-hate  kind-cruel  up-down  always and never  

They span all parts of speech  Nouns  verbs  adjectives  adverbs

Here’s another example from Shakespeare 

“Fair is foul and foul is fair ”

Or how about Napoleon’s famous words 

“Glory is fleeting  but obscurity is forever ” 

His statement uses glory and obscurity as opposites

and then also fleeting and forever as well  

The statement leaves you with a strong feeling

about the quickness of our lives

compared to the wide breath of time

Lastly in Contrasts  we’ll look at Phrase Reversals  

Now these are simply any time we take a phrase

and then repeat the words backwards to change the meaning  

Here we see Socrates:

“Thou shouldst eat to live  not live to eat ” 

The reversal of the idea of living and eating

gives us an interesting depth into the idea of greed and gluttony

Or here Plato: “Wise men talk because they have something to say;

fools  because they have to say something ”

Plato uses the idea of wise men and fools

and reverses the phrase of “something to say and saying something”

in order to create a large contrast

The result is a brilliant and memorable quote about

how people act and how people should be perceived

Now the next main type of rhetoric is Puzzle and Solution 

and really this comes down to two things

the Puzzle Solution Format and Rhetorical Questions  

We’ve already seen this in action in an earlier video  

You may remember during the lesson

on Openings the discussion of the hook  

In our sample we saw this sentence at the beginning of the speech: 

“I am friends with the President of the United States on Twitter ” 

Here we break this down

and see how the first part of the sentence is the puzzle  

How can this person be friends with Barack Obama  

Then we get the solution  on Twitter  

On Twitter is easy to be friends with anybody

This creates humor

You can use this format any time you want to give your audience

something strange or unknown

and then give them an answer to that strangeness  

This creates again humor and it also helps to create anticipation

The audience is sitting and wondering about

 what you are going to tell them  

And then when you give the answer  they feel a resolution

Now Rhetorical Questions are similar  

They attempt to make your audience think

and draw them into your idea  

Here we have Shakespeare teasing as he says

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day ” 

Cicero has a more thoughtful philosophical question  

Both are designed to make the audience think and pay attention

Finally we have Lists of Three  

These are some of the commonest forms of rhetoric in speeches

they can be made up of any parts of speech  

For example  “no  no  no  no” or “Veni  vidi  vici”

or “A government of the people  by the people  for the people” 

or “Happiness is when what you say  what you think and what you do

are in harmony”

or  as you can see with three sentences 

“Dogs look up to us  Cats look down on us 

Pigs treat us as equals ” 

In each case  the repetition

causes a rise in meaning and impact  

The lists of three give us a feeling of completeness  

When listing always make sure

that the longest part of the list is last  

Like “The Father  son and the holy Spirit ”

Now this is a short lesson on these rhetorical techniques  

There is much more you can do with them  

A way to create even more powerful language is

to combine these techniques together

such as opposites within a phrase reversal

that are part of a puzzle solution  

Or use a “not this but that” contradiction in a rhetorical question  

There are many more possibilities to use techniques

 these are just the base forms

That’s all the time for today  

Check in next time for our last video

when I talk about Visual Aids and PowerPoint Presentations  

Thanks for watching  See you next time