Elements of persuasive speech

S c r o l l D o w n


Figurative language is the use of language in a non-literal sense to create a rhetorical effect. Two types of figurative language are tropes and schemes. Tropes involve using words in non-literal senses. Schemes consist of words being arranged in particular ways to create rhetorical effects.



Personification is attributing human qualities to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena. For example:
The car engine is humming with anticipation.

Apostrophe (a-‘pos-tro-fee) is the addressing of a thing, an abstraction or a person that is not present, or an address as an interruption to a main text. An example may be a pitch to investors that refers to possible consumers as if they were in the same room:
Our product design incorporates state-of-the-art technologies built with quality materials that will last. And, you, the consumer, will save money in the long run as a result.

Hyperbole (hy-‘per-bo-lee) is the use of exaggeration for emphasis. For example:
There are a thousand reasons why you should invest in solar energy products, but I am going to explain to you just one – the most important reason.

Understatement is the expression of an idea with less emphasis or in a lesser degree than is actually the case. This device is especially useful in dealing with a hostile audience or in disagreeing with someone, because using understated language could be perceived as being less offensive. For example, compare the two:

The quality of this material is terrible and it always breaks under pressure. The company doesn’t know how to produce anything worth buying and we will not conduct business with them.

Some manufacturers may be fine with the quality of this material, which can break under pressure, but I would prefer to conduct business with someone else. (understatement)

Antanaclasis (an-ta-‘na-cla-sis) is the repetition of a word or phrase, whose meaning changes in the second instance. For example:
People on the go . . . go for Coke.” (advertisement for Coca Cola)

Synecdoche (si-‘nek-do-kee), related to metonymy and metaphor, creates a play on words by referring to something with a related concept. For example, referring to the whole with the name of a part: referring to workers by saying “hired hands”.



Alliteration (a-lit-er-‘a-shun) is the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of two or more words.
Come see the softer side of Sears.” (advertising slogan)

Anaphora (an-‘af-o-ra) is the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines. For example:
Not promotions, not sponsorships, not paid advertisements, but through word-of-mouth via free social media will we make our services known.

Antithesis (an-‘tith-e-sis) is the juxtaposition of opposing or contrasting ideas. For example:
If we try, we might succeed; if we do not try, we cannot succeed.

Asyndeton (a-‘syn-de-‘ton) is the omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence.
We need a lot of resources for this work: people, money, land, buildings, infrastructure, management.

NOTE: The conventional way is to use one conjunction at the end of a list

We need a lot of resources for this to work: people, money, land, buildings, infrastructure, and management.

Epistrophe (e-‘pis-tro-fee) occurs when a series of lines, phrases, clauses, or sentences end with the same word or words. For example:
The smart phones do not sell because the operating system is terrible, the touch screen is terrible, and the user interface is terrible.

Polyptoton (po-lip-‘to-ton) is the stylistic scheme in which words derived from the same root are repeated. For example:
Friendly Americans win American friends.” (slogan of the United States Travel Service in the 1960s)

Polysyndeton (pol-‘y-syn-de-ton) is the use of several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some could otherwise be omitted (as in “he ran and jumped and laughed for joy”). For example:
We need a lot of resources for this to work: people and money and land and buildings and infrastructure and management.


edX, English for Doing Business in Asia, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology