To me, it's what a speaker or writer uses to get the message across, usually, with added effect. It's persuasive communication, and if it's not a down-right lie, it can be a powerful and legitimate tool, one we use every day, without even noticing the techniques we're employing. Our good buddy Aristotle even went so far as to relate intellect, emotion, and sense of credibility and fairness to demonstrate rhetoric.
Philosophy aside, there are many rhetorical devices available to the astute writer. Many are familiar: oxymorons, euphemisms, hyperbole, alliteration, metaphors. For those who do not have an MFA and who like to increase or test their literary vocabulary, here is a handful more taken from The Complete Stylist and Handbook by Sheridan Baker. Make up or look for your own examples, even if - like me - you struggle to pronounce the names.
Alluding to the Familiar:
Anamnesis: "A remembering." Emphasizing the point by reminding the reader of a former event. (Today is the day she kissed me goodbye, twenty-four years ago.)
Parachresis: Alluding to, or mixing another's words into your context for emphasis or effect. (Only the low-lifes laughed at my jokes. I guess Oscar Wilde was right about the value of sarcasm.)
Paradiorthosis: Twisting a famous quote. (Friends, colleagues, paperboy, lend me some money.)Building to Climax:
Asyndeton: "Without joining." Rushing a series of clauses to indicate emotional haste. (They charged, they fought, they died in the hundreds.)
Incrementum: Arranging items from lowest to highest. (They devoured the plants, they razed the fields, they swept through the towns, and threatened the nation.)Intensifying:
Synonymy: Repeating, by synonyms, for emphasis. (A low-down, no-good, miserable son-of-a-bitch.)
Anacoenosis: Consulting your audience, often through rhetorical questions to gain intimacy and urgency. (I ask you, is being a good parent enough?)
Aposiopesis: "A silence." Stopping midsentence. (But the children....)
Erotesis: Commonly known as a rhetorical question. (Does bread pay the bills?)
Apophasis: Pretending not to mention something by mentioning it. (I won't mention the time I fell asleep in the park and awoke behind bars.)
Litotes: "Simplifying." Asserting something by denying the opposite. (Not the smallest dog I had ever seen.)Overstating and Understating:
Zeugma: "Yoking." Pairing one accurate word with an ironic misfit. ('Waging war and peace.')
Auxesis: Using an exaggerated term. (He's a saint.)
Meiosis: Making big things small. (Besides the mansion in the country, he owned a second modest abode by the beach.)
Chiasmus: "A crossing." Reversing order. (A good man is hard to find; a hard man is good to find.)
Enantiosis, also called contentio: Emphasizing contraries, often with chiasmus. ('Could not go on, would not go back.')
Refining and Elaborating:
Exergasia: "A polishing." Presenting the same thing several ways. (A dream, a vision, an illusion of magical things.)
Epistrophe: Ending sentences the same, as a way to emphasize. (He lives at sea. He loves the sea. He'll die at sea.)Substituting:
Paregmenon: Using derivatives of a word. (A fantastic fantasy.)
Metonymy: Using an associated thing for the thing itself. (The White House said today....)
Synecdoche: Substituting a) the part for the whole (He is a brain), or the whole for the part (China wins the Olympics), b) the species for the genus, or the genus for the species ('the felines [for lions]'), d) the material for the object (He plays brass.)So, does you tongue feel like it's been squished through a meat grinder? (Is that a metaphorical erotesis?)
Or that you need to see a doctor in case you contracted any of these symptoms?
As tricky as the terms are, you have to agree (anacoenosis), rhetorical devices are fun, fun, fun (that's an epizeuxis, by the way).
Enough already! (apodioxis).
I need a nap.