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).


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: "Time is a thief"

ex: "Her eyes were fireflies"

ex: "Love is a garden."


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

Metonymy: A figure of speech in a word or phrase is substituted for another with which it's closely associated; also, the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly by referring to things around it.

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)


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.

Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole.

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


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. Irony occurs when the vehicle is the opposite of the tenor.

Irony: The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. Also, a statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the
Example: "Oh, I love spending big bucks," said my dad, a notorious penny pincher.

ex: "I am not a crook." This was an unintended irony by Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate controversy. Much of the national audience heard this and laughed because they knew by then that the truth was the opposite of his meaning.

ex. " I love every human being on this earth". This could be irony from a white store owner refusing to let African Americans into his shop in the 1950's.

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.

Hyperbole: An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

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: Understatement, often using a negative, as in saying "not bad" when "well done" is meant.

Litotes : A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.
Example: A million dollars is no small chunk of change.
ex: The food was not too bad.

  • 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.

Personification: A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.
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.

Plays on the Sounds of Words


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.

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

  • Anaphora: beginning consecutive clauses with the same word or words.

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

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.: "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

  • Antithesis : a complex 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). See more with examples on the Antithesis page.

Antithesis: The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.
Example: As Abraham Lincoln said, "Folks who have no vices have very few virtues."

ex.: "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav'n." - John Milton, Paradise Lost. This example show the contrasting ideas of both "reign" and "serve".

  • 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.
    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.
  • 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.

Chiasmus: A verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.
Example: The famous chef said people should live to eat, not eat to live.

  • Climax: a series of synonyms or parallel terms in increasing order of intensity.
    ex.: "These are the boys. These are the men. These are the champions. These are the heroes."-Ronald Reagan —> This is climax when you look at the progressing order from boys to heroes.
  • 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

  • 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.

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.

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

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

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

++Unusual Word Order

  • Asyndeton: omission of a conjunction where a conjunction is grammatically required.

ex.: "This is the villain among you who deceived you, who cheated you, who meant to betray you completely.." - Aristotle

  • Polysyndeton: Adding conjunctions where they are not grammatically required.

ex.: "Let the whitefolks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostlymostlylet them have their whiteness." - Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Cages Birds Sing.

Plays on Sound

  • Paranomasia: Playing with words:

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

  • Alliteration: When a series of words have the same constant sound:

ex.: "Alice’s aunt ate apples and acorns around August."

  • Onomatopoeia: The structure of a word from its sound associated by its name

ex.: Words related to water:

  1. Bloop
  1. Splash
  1. Spray

External Links

"Rhetorical Devices in Sound".

Rhetorical Schemes Flashcards:

More Background on the Four Major Tropes:


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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