Glossary of Rhetorical Terms

When I went back to college as a 39-year-old, if I hadn’t discovered how much I love to write fiction … I probably would have specialized in Rhetoric instead 🙂

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion … but it goes much deeper than that. Formal studies of persuasive writing, oration, logic and politics–and the rhetorical devices and structures that can strengthen and inform them all–date back as far back as the golden ages of Greece and Rome. In fact, many of the rhetorical terms we still use have their origins in those ancient studies, and–I’ll be blunt–learning about them made me a stronger writer. I constantly catch myself using them in my fiction!

To share the love, I’m sharing a glossary here of rhetorical terms that came from the class I took back in (I think it was) 1999. Searching for them now, I see my old professor is now the About.com rhetoric specialist, too … so I got them from a good source, too 🙂

While these rhetorical terms are not strictly designed for writing fiction (and many of them–like the terms that define the various schools of formal rhetoric–don’t apply to writing fiction at all) … the standard construction and usage of the various tropes (a rhetorical device that produces a shift in the meaning of words) and schemes (a rhetorical device that’s a departure from the expected pattern of words) can be an interesting read for any writer. It’s also a great place to pick up some new tools for your toolbox,  since–bottom line–every writer ultimately shares one goal … and that’s to persuade their readers to keep reading 🙂

So take a look … and see what strikes your fancy in the links below:

accumulation to bdelygmia

catachresis to distinctio

effectio to gradatio

homoioiteleuton to oxymoron

parable to running style

scheme to zeugma