GPB’s “A” list of Rhetorical tools, with examples

We think that the use of Rhetorical Tools is important in the creation of good content. Here we publish in print our favourite one starting with the letter “A”. Some will be known to you, others will be new, weird and wonderful. Please enjoy yourselves in making up some new content using them.


Repetition of initial consonant sound in successive words (see also anaphora). Figure of emphasis that occurs through the repetition of initial consonant letters (or sounds) in two or more different words across successive sentences, clauses, or phrases. Two kinds may be distinguished:

  1. Immediate juxtaposition occurs when the second consonant sound follows right after the first — back-to-back.
  2. Non-immediate juxtaposition occurs when the consonants occur in non-adjacent words.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Location, Location, Location.
Piss Poor Preparation Produces Poor Presentations.

“Somewhere at this very moment a child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family and a hopeful future.” Bill Clinton, 1992 Democratic National Convention Acceptance Address.


Figure of explication (i.e. transforms an inexact pre-scientific concept into exact scientific one) using a brief or casual reference to a famous person, historical event, place, or work of art. It is important to stress that the referent of an allusion be generally well-known. Sources include history, myth, and the Bible.

Contemporary instances of allusion extend to media created content, events, and persons, even to the extent that a character in one movie may use an allusion in referring to a fictional, but nonetheless well-known, event or person from another movie. Popular music lyrics are a further source of allusion.

“Dr Wilmet is the Henry Ford of the biotech century.” Jeremy Rifkin, the Biotech Century. (Note: Dr Wilmet cloned Dolly the Sheep.)


Repetition of the last word or phrase of one line or clause to begin the next.

“Data is not information; information is not knowledge; knowledge is not understanding; understanding is not wisdom” Clifford Stoll (author and former Astronaut), see also Frank Zappa’s spoof of this quote: “Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.”

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Strengthening the defense of our island is vital. Vital because there is a clear and present danger. Without a healthy economy we can’t have a healthy society, and without a healthy society the economy won’t stay healthy for long.” Margaret Thatcher, from ‘The lady’s not for turning’ speech.


Reasoning or arguing from parallel cases. A kind of extended metaphor or long simile in which an explicit comparison is made between two things (events, ideas, people, etc.) for the purpose of furthering a line of reasoning or drawing an inference; a form of reasoning employing comparative or parallel cases.

“I don’t think there is anything certainly more unseemly than the sight of a rock star in academic robes. It’s a bit like when people put their King Charles Spaniels in little tartan sweats and hats. It’s not natural. And it doesn’t make the dog any smarter!” Bono, 2004 Commencement Address at The University of Pennsylvania.

“A street light is like a star. Both provide light at night, both are in predictable locations.”
“I am to writing what Donald Duck is to public speaking”
“The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but where the combination is locked up in the safe.”


Repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.

“I have a dream…I have a dream….I have a dream.” Said 8 times in 1 speech. Martin Luther King, Washington, 28th August 1963

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. Raymond Chandler.

“Elections can be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates” Winston Churchill.


The use of a short story to illustrate a point, often with humour, usually with relevance to the main theme. See also ‘parable’.


A figure of addition that occurs when a concluding sentence, clause, or phrase is added to a statement which purposely diminishes the effect of what has been previously stated.

“This year’s space budget is three times what is was in January 1961. And it is greater than the space budget of the previous 8 years combined. That budget now stands at five billion four hundred million dollars a year, a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year.John F Kennedy, Rice University address on space exploration, 12th September 1962.


An abrupt shift from a noble tone to a less exalted one – often for comic effect.
For King, for country, and for a fiver (this is also an Anaphora)
You can always rely on the French, when they need you most.
In moments of crisis I size up the situation in a flash, set my teeth, contract my muscles, take a firm grip on myself and, without a tremor, always do the wrong thing.


Figure of emphasis in which the words in one phrase or clause are replicated, exactly or closely, in reverse grammatical order in the next phrase or clause; an inverted order of repeated words in adjacent phrases or clauses (A-B, B-A). Also known as a Chiasmus.

And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” John F Kennedy Inaugural address, 1961.


Juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.
Action, not words
Out of sight, out of mind (also an Anaphora)
Penny wise, pound foolish
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.


A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion. (2) A brief statement of a principle.
Lost time is never found again.
If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.
If you do the same thing, expect the same result.
Time only goes forwards
Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness.


Figure in which the speaker abruptly stops or falls short of completing a statement; stopping short of completing a statement.
The reason for having two missile keys is so that no one man may… From the movie ‘The Hunt for Red October’.


Figure of addition in which words are placed side by side (in apposition to) each other with one word describing or clarifying the other; adjacent nouns or noun substitutes with one elaborating the other.

“I’m elated by the knowledge that for the first time in our history a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, will be recommended to share our ticket” Jesse Jackson, at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.

Assonance (rhyme)

Figure of repetition in which different words with the same or similar vowel sounds occur successively in words with different consonants; two or more words with similar vowel sounds sandwiched between different consonants.

“Our flag is red, white and blue. But our nation is rainbow. Red, yellow, brown, black and white, we’re all precious in God’s sight.” Jesse Jackson, 1984 Democratic National Convention Address


Figure of omission in which normally occurring conjunctions (and, or, but, for, nor, so, yet) are intentionally omitted in successive phrases, or clauses; a string of words not separated by normally occurring conjunctions.

“The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly. And it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed stats, diffuse enemies.” Barack Obama, West Point Speech.

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