Communication Skills

Rhetoric: Using Language Better To Communicate Effectively And Persuasively

Public speaking | Persuasion | Rhetoric

Good writers, speakers and presenters are smart users of rhetoric, the art of persuasing people using arguments.


1. Tricolon: the use of three part sentences.

This technique allows you to hammer home your points in a memorable way. Here are some famous examples.


'Veni, Vidi, Vici' - 'I came, I saw, I conquered.' - Julius Caesar

'Friends, Romans, countrymen'- Shakespeare's Ceasar

'Never was so much, owed by so many, to so few.' - Churchill

'Education, education, education' - Tony Blair

'If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.' - Election Victory Speech of Barack Obama

'Government of the people, by the people, for the people' - Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

'Where the strong are just, and the weak secure and the peace preserved' - John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech

'For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.' - The Lord's Prayer

'The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.'

'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly'


2. Repetition:


Where there are love and generosity, there is joy.

Where there are sincerity and sacrifice, there is friendship.

Where there are harmony and simplicity, there is beauty.

Where there are prayer and forgiveness, there is peace.

Where there are moderation and patience, there is wisdom.

Where there are conflicts and crises, there is opportunity.

- Larry Reed


3. Contrast

The contrast between the positive and the negative emphasizes and reinforces your point.


For example, 'unlike most politicians, Jenkins did really knew how routers from morning routes.'


Those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.

- Barack Obama's Victory Speech


4. Antimetabole: The repetition of words in successive clauses, but in changed order:


When the going gets tough, the tough get going.


Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

- John F. Kennedy


5. Combined use of repetition and contrast


A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.

A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.

A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.

- Ecclesiastes 3:1-15


6. Combined use of tricolon and contrast

The final item in a sentence/list is contrasted with those before it


Not because the communists are doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.

- John F. Kennedy


7. Short phrases


'We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.'

- Martin Luther King


8. Anecdotes

Abraham Lincoln was a master with anecdotes (short, amusing stories, not necessarily true). He probably had an anecdote for every situation.


I remember one time when...


Once, Napoleon was asked...


9. Imagery (Which is evoked using similes and metaphors)


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

- Martin Luther King


' have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.

- Martin Luther King


Similes: A simile is when you say something 'is similar to something'. Basically, you use words such as 'like' to compare.

The wickets fell like a deck of cards.


Metaphors: A metaphor is when you say something 'is something'.

It is raining cats and dogs.


10. Alliteration

Using the same sound at the beginning of a series of words.


They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places.

- Barack Obama


Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family, and a hopeful future.

- Bill Clinton


11. Quotation

A relevant (preferably short) quote gives a strong start to a presentation, or make a point for a discussion.


Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

- Mark Twain


12. Tone of voice

Lowering the tone of your voice at the end of statements makes you sound more authoritative and in control (Winston Churchill did this in his speeches). And if your pitch goes up at the end of sentences it makes you sound as if you are unsure of yourself.


13. Using 'We' instead of 'I'

Brings weight to your point.


For example,

'We all know how hard finding a job can be.' (sounds better than 'I am having a hard time finding a job').


(Source: University of Kent)


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