FLE 100
Introduction to Academic Writing

Rhetorical Devices

Analogy The comparison of two things, which are alike in several respects, for the purpose of explaining or clarifying some unfamiliar or difficult idea or object by showing how the idea or object is similar to some familiar one. While simile and analogy often overlap, the simile is generally a more artistic likening, done briefly for effect and emphasis, while analogy serves the more practical end of explaining a thought process or a line of reasoning or the abstract in terms of the concrete, and may therefore be more extended.

Shells were to ancient culture as dollar bills are to modern culture.

Some basic facts about memory are clear. Your short-term memory is like the RAM on a computer: it records the information in front of you right now. Some of what you experience seems to evaporate--like words that go missing when you turn off your computer without hitting SAVE. But other short-term memories go through a molecular process called consolidation: they're downloaded onto the hard drive. These long-term memories, filled with past loves and losses and fears, stay dormant until you call them up. ("To Pluck a Rooted Sorrow," Newsweek, April 27, 2009)

Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence.
(Sydney J. Harris, "What True Education Should Do," 1964)

The 25 Funniest Analogies (Collected by High School English Teachers)

Comparison/Contrast To compare is to emphasize similarities. To contrast is to emphasize differences.

My hometown and my college town have several things in common. First, both are small rural communities. For example, my hometown, Springville, has a population of only about 10,000 people. Similarly, my college town, Summerton, consists of about 11,000 local residents. This population swells to 15,000 people when the college students are attending classes. A second way in which these two towns are similar is that they are both located in rural areas...

Even though Arizona and Rhode Island are both states of the U.S., they are strikingly different in many ways. For example, the physical size of each state is different. Arizona is large, having an area of 114,000 square miles, whereas Rhode Island is only about a tenth the size, having an area of only 1,214 square miles. Another difference is in the size of the population of each state...

Definition Extended explanation of a word, term, or concept

A cup of hot chocolate is a warm fuzzy, as comforting and cozy as a crackling fire on a snowy night.

Monday is solemn and sober, stern and demanding as the pile of unread memos in your inbox. Sunday is gentle and smiling, a little girl in patent leather shoes and a frilly dress. It is the sweet scent of Easter lilies and the grandiose strains of an organ wafting through stained glass windows.

Description Using sensory perceptions to make the reader see, feel, smell, touch, taste an object, environment, process, state of mind, or emotion

The rooms of my house were filled with colorful, glittery, shining things. Now they are dimmed by a layer of fine gray dust. Rays of sunlight struggle to beam through windows now murky with neglect, sadness and grief. Joyful vibes no longer resonate; works of art no longer delight. Forgotten are the serene, solitary evenings gently perfumed by soft light. Fading are echoes of the laughter of friends who once filled every festive room to celebrate a season of joy. The air inside this house is stale and stifling as a tomb, reeking of lost dreams, weeping for lost hopes.

Euphemism Substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant

Examples of euphemisms for "stupid"
A few fries short of a Happy Meal
A few beers short of a six-pack
The wheel's spinning, but the hamster's dead.
One Fruit Loop shy of a full bowl
All foam, no beer
Other examples:
"retarded" - developmentally delayed
"deaf" - hearing impaired
"died" - passed away
"fired" - laid off, downsized
"obese"/"fat" - heavy, plump, full-figured

Irony Expression of something which is contrary to the intended meaning; the words say one thing but mean another. Sarcasm is a subdivision of irony. Sarcasm is irony used with the intent to wound the person to whom the remark is addressed.

Bill and Alice have just seen a really appalling play. Both Bill and Alice are disappointed.
Bill: Well! What a worthwhile use of an evening!
Alice: Yeah.
Alice hates Bill's travel books.
Alice: Yeah, I like, really dig your travel books, Bill. You're a really skillful author.
Bill: Oh.

In the Irony example, there was no sarcasm because Bill was not intending to wound Alice with his comment. He was using irony to remark that he felt he had wasted his evening at the theatre.
In the Sarcasm example, there was sarcasm because Alice used it to show Bill that she didn't like his books and thought that he was a terrible writer. There's irony too, but the tone of the delivery and the intention makes it sarcastic. She was being nasty.

Metaphor Equates one object or idea with another to enhance expression or understanding. Unlike similes, "like" or "as" is not used.

Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. Shakespeare, "Macbeth"

War is hell.

Her eyes are lipid pools of azure.

Oxymoron Apparent paradox achieved by the juxtaposition of words which seem to contradict one another

jumbo shrimp/
criminal justice / deafening silence / adult children / alone together

Simile An explicit comparison between two things using "like" or "as"

Let us go then, you and I,
While the evening is spread out against the sky,
Like a patient etherized upon a table"
T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

The old man's face is like a wrinkled prune.

This assignment is as clear as a bell (or as nutty as a fruitcake).

The dancers twirled like whirling dervishes.

Upside-down Argument Take an activity, institution, practice, personality, or concept that everybody seems to approve or like. Explain why you don't like it. Give an "upside-down" point of view.

Every October they come in droves, seeking chills and thrills in this dusty, dirty, smelly human quagmire. They salivate at the prospects of wolfing down greasy French fries and fried dough, gawking at "freaks," playing games for worthless prizes, and being tossed around in spinning, whirling, nausea-invoking contraptions. They are determined to "have fun" at all costs at this glorious State Fair.

North Carolina State Fair