shiva.jpg The Canon of Style

Style is the third canon of rhetoric. The purposes of style are to direct the memory and emotions of the audience through controlling the pace, emphasis, and sound of speech. In addition to the levels or magnifications of style, the ancients identified many specific stylistic devices, generally dividing figures of speech into tropes and schemes. Included on these pages are a number of tropes and schemes that are of use to the Goddess and her acolytes. Some of them are drawn from the books and external links cited here, others are unique to this wiki. If you add an example that is from a published list of rhetorical devices or literary terms please include the link or reference if it is not already listed.


A trope is a substitution of terms, a play on sound and meaning of single terms in a sentence, and is therefore semantic in nature, as opposed to schemes which are syntactic. Tropes may be considered to have three axes: tenor, which is the "held" or ground of meaning of the trope; tangent, which is the figure substituted for the held meaning or tenor; and target, which is the subject or audience to which the pairing of tenor and tangent point. For instance: in the simile, "my love is like a red red rose".. a simile being a metaphor that's spelled out with both tenor and tangent uttered in the sentence.. "love" would be the tenor, "rose" the tangent, and the target is the idea in the mind of the hearer who applies the qualities of a rose to love; its sweetness and its momentary timeliness.

The Four Master Tropes

The four Master Tropes were first identified by Vico, and more recently by Kenneth Burke and Northrop Frye. These thinkers and others consider them as more than just simple substitutions, rather they rise to become thematics for world building (organizing experience around a set of interconnected symbols).


See more at Irony.

The trope of irony is a substitution of a term that states the opposite of the intended meaning. It corresponds to the topoi of contraries and contradictories.

ex: "I am not a crook." This was an unintended irony by Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate controversy.


See more at Metaphor

The broadest of the tropes, a metaphor is a substitution of any dissimilar terms. See more on metaphor here .
Metaphor: An implied comparison between two dissimilar things that have something in common.

Example: "All the world's a stage."

Ex: "You are the apple of my eye."


See more at Metonymy

Metonymy or metonym is the next broadest category of trope after metaphor. A metonym is a substitution of terms where there is some causal or proximal relationship between the two terms.

Example: "That stuffed suit with the briefcase is a poor excuse for a salesman," the manager said angrily.

ex: Crown - in place of a royal person

ex: The pen is mightier than the sword. (pen refers to written words and sword to military force)

ex: The White House - referring to the President of the United States or their administration


See more at Synecdoche.

Synedoche is a type of metonym where the relationship between the term and its substitute is one of part for whole or whole for part. It corresponds to the topoi of Genus and Species.

Example: Tina is learning her ABC's in preschool.

ex: The word “sails” refers to a whole ship

ex: The word "suits" refer to businessmen

ex: The word "wheels" to refer to a car or vehicle

ex: The word "bubbly" refers to champagne

Tropes of Degree

Amplification. Using more words than necessary to state or describe something.

ex: Instead of saying "I think I am getting sick" you say "I think I’m getting sick—I’ve been experiencing terrible headaches and drainage, and I’ve just begun to develop a sore throat as well."

Hyperbole: Exaggerated statements for effect that are not to be taken literally.

Example: I have a ton of things to do when I get home.

ex: "I've told you a million times"

ex: "She is going to die of embarrassment"

ex. " You are going to die of laughter"

Litotes: A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.
Example: "We make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly with our eyes lifted to the hills."1 — "No ordinary" substitutes for "extraordinary."

Meiosis: Understatement for effect using a diminishing name for something in order to reduce its importance.

ex: "I am a very foolish, old man."


Periphrasis // Antonomasia: The substitution of a descriptive phrase for a proper name, or the reverse.

Personification: Referring to abstract ideas or objects as if they had human qualities.

Example: “The renown of France is dimmed. In spite of her brave, efficient army, her influence is profoundly diminished." - Churchill (Defense of Freedom and Peace, 10.3-4)

Example: That kitchen knife will take a bite out of your hand if you don't handle it safely.

ex: The flowers danced in the wind.

ex: "The wind howled in the night."

ex. " The stars looked at me with a fierce gaze"

Plays on Logic

Rhetorical Question: Substituting the question for the answer (when the answer is known to the audience or obvious); or asking a question for some purpose other than obtaining the answer.

Example: “Can peace, goodwill, and confidence be built upon submission to wrong-doing backed by force?”- Churchill (Defense of Freedom and Peace, 5.5)

Plays on the Sounds of Words

Onomatopoeia: Words that sound like the thing they name.

ex.: "Zoom"

Paranomasia: Puns and other plays on words:

ex.: "A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handyman with a sense of humus."


A scheme is a play on the order of words in a sentence, and is therefore syntactic in nature.

Symmetrical Clauses / Parallelisms

Anadiplosis: Ending one clause and beginning the next with the same word or words. Repetition on the "inner walls" of the clause or clauses. See more at Climax, Anadiplosis, and Gradatio.

ex.: "The mountains look on Marathon - and Marathon looks on the sea" - Lord Byron, The Isles of Greece

Anaphora: The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or
verses. See more at Anaphora.
Example: Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong day.

ex.: "They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served us all".-Ronald Reagan, Address on the Challenge Disaster

ex.: "We can grow food to feed our own people. We can raise cattle and use the hides, the leather, and the wool to clothe our people. We can dig the clay from the earth and make bricks to build homes for our people. We can turn the trees into lumber and furnish the homes for our own people." - Malcolm X, Racial Separation

ex.: "Whatever happened to the values of humanity? Whatever happened to the fairness and equality?" - The Black Eyed Peas, Where is the Love?

Antimetabole: The beginning of the first clause repeats at the end of the second. See more at Chiasmus and Antimetabole.

ex: "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

Chiasmus: See more at Chiasmus / Antimetabole. The beginning of the first clause repeats at the end of the second; the end of the first clause repeats at the beginning of the second; forming an X or "chi" pattern, hence "chiasmus."
ex.: Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you.

Example: People should live to eat, not eat to live.

Epanalepsis: Beginning one clause and ending the same clause, or the next clause, with the same word or words. Repetition on the "outer walls" of the clause or clauses.

Example: "Next time there won't be a next time."

Epistrophe / Homoioteleuton: Ending consecutive clauses with the same word or words; or similar for homoioteleuton.

ex.: "We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers" - Ronald Reagan, Challenger Address.

Plays on Grammar

Anastrophe: Inversion of the usual word order, especially subject-verb-object.

ex.: "And how stands the city on this winter night?"2

Apposition: two phrases side by side that mirror one another grammatically, each occupying the same part of speech in the sentence. Often done by means of asyndeton and anaphora. See more at Apposition.

ex.: "Friends, Romans, Countrymen!"

ex: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. Note the same example was used above for anaphora. Anaphora is a principle means of heightening the symmetry of apposition.

Asyndeton: omission of a conjunction where a conjunction is grammatically required. See more at Asyndeton-Polysyndeton.
ex.: "This is the villain among you who deceived you, who cheated you, who meant to betray you completely.." - Aristotle

ex. “the German people, industrious, faithful, valiant.” - Churchill (A Defense of Freedom and Peace, 14.3)

Isocolon: A series of grammatical clauses with parallel parts of speech but no repeated words.

Polysyndeton: Adding conjunctions where they are not grammatically required. See more at Asyndeton-Polysyndeton
ex.: "Let the white folks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly — mostly — let them have their whiteness." Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

ex.: "We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Barack Obama. Marriage Equality Ruling

Plays on Meaning

Plays on meaning have tropical qualities also but as schemes, the meanings are placed in some kind of order in a sentence.

Antithesis: See more at antithesis. A complex figure that is both tropical and schematic. It expresses something by juxtaposing two contrasting or opposed ideas (trope), usually with balanced, symmetrical or parallel clauses (scheme).

ex.: "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n." - John Milton, Paradise Lost.

ex.: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Ex.: As Abraham Lincoln said, "Folks who have no vices have very few virtues."

ex: "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." - Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

ex: “John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded; so instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home.” - Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

Climax: a series of synonyms or parallel terms arranged in the same clause, or in succeeding clauses, in increasing order of intensity.

ex.: “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered). -Julius Caesar

Gradatio: Anadiplosis plus climax yields the classic gradatio, or "staircase parallel"; a series of clauses in progressive order of intensity or logic, with the ending of each clause repeated in the beginning of the next. See more at Climax, Anadiplosis, and Gradatio.

Ex: "For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for want of a rider the battle was lost, and all for the want of a horseshoe nail." Mother Goose.

Syncrisis: See Antithesis : A figure of speech in which opposite things or persons are compared.

ex.: "These are the boys. These are the men. These are the champions. These are the heroes." Ronald Reagan.

Schemes based on Sound

Alliteration: Successive words or clauses beginning with the same sound.

Example: “It has been deserted, destroyed and devoured.” (Churchill, Defense of Freedom and Peace, 4.4)

Rhyme: Successive words or clauses ending with the same sound.

External Links

Figure_of_speech (wiki)

"Rhetorical Devices in Sound".

Rhetorical Schemes Flashcards:

More Background on the Four Major Tropes:

It's difficult to understand or recognize rhetorical terms of style if you don't know much grammar. The most efficient way to learn the parts of speech in relation to each other, and to work out the meanings of complex rhetorical texts, is to learn sentence diagramming.


General Sources on Style

Burke, Kenneth. "Appendix D: Four Master Tropes." A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. 503-517.

Corbett, Edward P. J. and Robert J. Connors. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. 4th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Pepper, Stephen C. World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Berkeley: U of California P, 1948.

White, Hayden V. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1973.

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