Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

Touches of Elegance

The upper stratum of style contains what we call rhetorical devices. These are self-conscious choices that signal high-quality, sometimes formal prose.

The detailing, collecting, and categorizing of these devices began in the West as early as the first century A.D., and these activities flourished during the Renaissance, a period of stylistic splendor.

Today, many students avoid rhetorical devices because they seem stiff or hoary with age. What a mistake! These devices are subversive and full of energy and fun. They involve fracturing or reinventing prose's normal workaday ways. As with the syntactic strategies discussed above--appositives, participial phrases, absolutes--you should include them in your writer's repertoire.

Appropriately, given that we've divided style into two realms--diction and style--the full set of rhetorical devices divide in the same way. The TROPE is the use of a word (hence, diction) in other than its denotative, literal sense. The word's Greek root here is tropos, "a turn." Indeed, the trope signals a "turning away" from standard usage.

The SCHEME, on the other hand, is a pattern (i.e., syntax) that deviates from the normal arrangement of words.

What follows is a list of schemes and tropes. Why not imitate them, coming up with your own examples?