When you sit down at a Mexican restaurant, you’re often given free chips and salsa to munch on before your meal. If you’re one of those people who love to feel the burn, you’ll likely take one bite of the free salsa and ask your server for something hotter.
Why? Because free salsa is usually pretty bland. It lacks heat–in this case, in the form of jalapeno or habanero peppers–to set your mouth on fire.
If you’re not careful, your essay might end up like free restaurant salsa–bland, with little flavor, and most people looking for something more.
Don’t be bland salsa.
Be the zesty, spicy, set-your-mouth-on-fire salsa that so many crave.
How do you turn bland writing into spicy writing? Try incorporating a few of these 15 rhetorical devices.
What Are Rhetorical Devices?
Rhetorical devices, though, aren’t always used to persuade.
They’re often used to elicit an emotional response from your readers. (You know, something that tugs on your heart strings like the ads with puppies shivering in the cold or the political spot that makes you angry enough to get off the couch and go vote.)
Why Should You Use Rhetorical Devices?
Let’s think back to mild vs. hot salsa. Sure, mild salsa gets the job done. It tastes pretty good, and it’s certainly more flavorful than eating a plain, salty chip.
Hot salsa, though, is different.
It’s fiery, hot, and unexpected. Each bite offers something new, and you’re eager to keep eating to experience all of the flavors.
Using rhetorical strategies in your writing is like hot salsa. Rhetorical devices add flavor, interest, and excitement.
You can use rhetorical devices not only to add interest but also to clarify information, add humor, emphasize specific passages or ideas, or make your writing more memorable.
Ready to spice up your writing? Let’s get to work.
15 Rhetorical Devices That Will Spice Up Your Essays
More than a few of the devices on this list might be new to you. And if your knowledge of Greek and Latin is as limited as mine, you might have trouble pronouncing at least a few terms. Don’t worry too much about the pronunciation, though.
Focus instead on the definitions and examples. Then consider how you might incorporate them into your own writing.
Using words with the same (or similar) beginning sounds:
On Friday, we had fabulous, fiery, fiesta salsa.
Repeating a word or phrase at the end of a sentence or clause at the beginning of the next:
Their dinner was the beginning of a long dining nightmare, a nightmare that would last for hours.
Contradicting a negative comment with something positive:
The enchiladas I had for dinner last night were the worst I’ve ever eaten, but at least the company uses only locally sourced products.
Bringing something to readers’ attention by dismissing it or pretending to deny or mention it:
I’m not saying that it was the server’s fault that it took over an hour for us to receive our drinks, but I did see him, on more than one occasion, standing around doing nothing.
Using a grammatically incorrect abbreviated expression:
Morning. Lunch this afternoon?
Think of it as text-speak. You don’t need to use complete sentences to get your point across.
A word of caution before breaking the rules: While this device might work well in fiction writing or in some academic writing, many professors won’t be too happy if you use this device and decide to write your essay in grammatically incorrect sentences.
Need to brush up on your grammar to make sure that you’re using grammatically incorrect writing on purpose? Read this article to learn more about avoiding grammar mistakes.
Using words in the reverse of grammatical order to create a stylistic effect or create emphasis:
If you go out to dinner with us, enjoy it you will.
If you want more examples of chiasmus, listen to Yoda. Chiasmus is his favorite rhetorical device.
Repeating words (or groups of words) within the same sentence:
She loved the tacos at the food truck on 5th Avenue so much that she ate them every day for every meal, every time she visited the city.
Using an understatement to state the obvious through a negative, double negative, or opposite comment:
This restaurant certainly doesn’t serve a bad piece of pie, does it?
Comparing two things without using “like” or “as”:
By the time we sat down at our table, we were hungry lions waiting to feast.
Using several conjunctions (like “and”) in a row when they could be omitted and replaced with a comma:
She ate and drank and laughed and enjoyed her birthday celebration with her friends.
Using redundant words to create emphasis or stress a point:
I couldn’t believe that I saw it with my own eyes!
Take note: In academic writing, redundancy is often frowned upon. If you decide to incorporate this rhetorical device, make sure it’s clear that you’re being redundant on purpose and that you’re not simply being wordy.
#12 Rhetorical questions
Asking questions when you really don’t expect answers:
Why would anyone order quesadillas tonight when it’s 2-for-1 Taco Tuesday?
Comparing two things using “like” or “as”:
When we finally got our soup, it was cold as ice.
Similes and metaphors are common rhetorical devices used in literature. If you’re interested in learning more, read 15 Literary Terms You Need to Know to Write Better Essays.
Using a series of words (usually adjectives), often to blame or insult someone:
He was a snobbish, rude, arrogant host who acted like we weren’t good enough to eat at the restaurant.
Using a series of three parallel words or phrases:
I came. I saw. I conquered.
Ready to kick up your writing a notch and use a few rhetorical devices to spice things up but not quite sure where to start?
Try a few practice rounds before you try it out on a new essay. Review one of your previously written essays and look for places that you might include rhetorical devices.
You might also take a look at these examples essays to see if you can identify any rhetorical strategies used by the writers (or where you feel they might include them).
Feeling more bland than spicy? Afraid you took it too far? Let a Kibin editor check your work.