Stylistic Devices: An Illustrated Primer, Part VI


IV. Emphasis

“De toute éternité, le Beau est plus rentable que le Bien.”–Amélie Nothomb

If Syntax provides the framework for an idea, then Emphasis highlights and beautifies it, adding color and vibrancy to what otherwise might be a bland and monotonous argument.  Emphatic devices often augment and complement already-present cadences that the reader instinctively inserts into their interpretation of a text.  They are also among the most fun, encouraging creativity and wit.  Ideally, the use of Emphasis controls and guides the reader’s aesthetic experience although, as with any form of ornamentation, its judicious use is recommended; it can be quite hard to draw your audience’s attention to the blue if you are also bombarding them with purples, greens and reds.

Aporia: A decisive statement is leavened with doubt or uncertainty.  Useful for undermining assumptions and subtly underscoring the multiple facets of an issue.  A good way to introduce an argument.

Fig. 4.0 Aporia

Climax: A list is ordered in such a way as to build suspense, beginning with the least important and ending with the most dramatic element.

Fig. 4.1 Climax

Asyndeton: The deliberate omission of conjunctions.  Though the actual number of words is reduced, their continuous flow gives the impression of overflowing and bounty.

Fig. 4.2 Asyndeton

Polysyndeton: The antithesis of Asyndeton, this device involves the insertion of conjunctions wherever possible; they act as a sort of drumbeat, giving the sentence a slow, methodical rhythm, and help to ensure that each clause is given due consideration.

Fig. 4.3 Polysyndeton

Adianoeta: The disingenuous/sarcastic use of a word or phrase that appears to mean one thing, but is also subject to other, even opposing, interpretations.

Fig. 4.4 Adianoeta

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