Rhetoric and Composition/Glossary

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This is a glossary of the book. Also see the index.

Contents:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A[edit]

allegory
Narrative where the characters, action and generally also the setting work on two levels. It appears superficially to be a straightforward story, but also conveys deeper meanings. Some examples are:
Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden tells the story of Absalom's rebellion against King David but also refers to the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion against James II.
Animal Farm by George Orwell tells a fantasy story of animals taking over a farm but is also a thinly disguised history of the USSR.
Note that allegory is not metaphor; it never states that something is something else that it is not.
alliteration
Having several words that are consecutive or close together and begin with similar sounds. In spoken poetry, this can produce an effective sound pattern. A famous example is in Tennyson's "Morte D'Arthur" where there are five l sounds (l being the second letter of "glories"):
lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
Compare to assonance.
ambiguity
The deliberate use of a word that can be taken to have two or more meanings, with the intention of enriching the text by allowing the reader to accept both meanings simultaneously.
allusion
A reference to a person, place, event or another literary work that the reader is expected to recognise. An allusion may be used to expand upon or enhance a subject, or to undercut it by drawing an ironic contrast between the allusion and the current subject.
anachronism
Making a reference that is clearly out of place in a work set in a particular time. A famous example is Shakespeare's reference in Julius Caesar to a clock striking.
anacoluthon
The change to a new grammatical construction before the first one is finished, causing an odd sequence of words.
anaphora
The repetition of an opening word or phrase, often for emphasis; compare epiphora, symploce.
antiphrasis
The sarcastic use of a word to mean its exact opposite.
antistasis
This means using a word twice in a passage, with two different meanings.
As God in His wisdom ordained, the world would not find him by its wisdom. (I Corinthians 1:21)
antithesis
This means placing two phrases or sentences, of similar structure but opposite or sharply different meaning, in juxtaposition.
APA style
A writing style and formatting standard widely used in the social sciences, and published by the American Psychological Association, a professional organization representing psychologists in the U.S.A.
aposiopesis
A form of ellipsis where an argument is presented and the conclusion is deliberately omitted, to be supplied by the reader or listener.
apostrophe
In rhetoric, this does not mean a punctuation symbol. It is a direct address to someone or something which cannot answer, either because he/she is not there or because it is an inanimate object. The verb is "to apostrophise". Thus in "Ode to a Grecian Urn", Keats apostrophises the urn.
appositive
A word or phrase that is in apposition.
apposition
A construction in which one noun or noun phrase is placed with another as an explanatory equivalent, both having the same syntactic function in the sentence, such as:
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose.
archaism
The deliberate use of obsolete words, grammar or expressions. This may be done because of the nature of the subject matter, to create a particular mood (for example, solemnity) or simply to help a poem rhyme or scan.
assonance
The recurrence of a similar sound in several words close together. Unlike alliteration, this sound need not be the initial letter of a word. A famous example is the opening of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn", with five long "i" sounds:
Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time.
asyndeton
When consecutive phrases are not connected by a conjunction when one would be expected, e.g. "I came, I saw, I conquered".

B[edit]

bathos
(from the Greek for depth) Means that you seem to be saying something very profound but then proceed to a ludicrous anticlimax. it may be intentional, for comic effect, or unintentional. Alexander Pope coined the term in On Bathos: Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1727), where he gives the example
Ye Gods! annihilate but Space and Time,
And make two lovers happy.
bombast
Bombast is an inflated, extremely verbose style of writing that is wholly inappropriate to the subject matter. bad writers may use bombast unintentionally, but it is often used for deliberate satirical or comic effect.
brainstorming
A method of problem solving in which members of a group contribute ideas spontaneously, by first coming up with a long list of even poor ideas and criticizing them later.

C[edit]

cacophony
Writing designed to be very harsh and unpleasant. It is designed to heighten the effect of unpleasant emotions in a passage. Contrast euphony.
capitalization
The use of lowercase or uppercase characters in sentences, common and proper names, and titles.
chiasmus
A pair of clauses or phrases where the second has the same syntax as the first except that the ordering is reversed. The two phrases can be very similar, as in Yeats' "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death":
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
or rather different, as in Pope's Essay on Criticism:
Works without Show, and without Pomp presides.
circumlocution
Saying things in a very roundabout way, using many words when saying things directly would use far fewer words. It is also called periphrasis. For example, Lewis Carroll's description of fixing a photographic negative with sodium hyposulphite:
Finally, he fixed each picture
With a saturate solution
Which was made of hyposulphite
Which, again, was made of soda.
(Very difficult the name is
For a metre like the present
But periphrasis has done it.)
clustering
A prewriting technique consisting of writing ideas down on a sheet of paper around a central idea within a circle, with the related ideas radially joined to the circle using rays.
comic relief
The use of comedy, especially low comedy such as slapstick, to ease the tension of a particularly dramatic or melodramatic passage. This is often achieved by the use of a different character or characters, specifically to be clowns.
comma splice
An error consisting of joining two independent clauses with a comma.
conceit
This has a specific meaning in composition, namely a figure of speech that establishes an elaborate and striking parallel between two situations or objects that are at first sight completely different.
conclusion
copy editing
The correction of spelling, grammar, formatting, etc. of printed material and preparing it for typesetting, printing, or online publishing.
cosmic irony
A literary work in which God, "the gods" or Fate deliberately manipulates events so as to give one or more characters false hopes, only to mock and frustrate them.
cumulative clause

D[edit]

dangling modifier
A word or clause that modifies another word or clause ambiguously, possibly causing confusion with regard to the speaker's intended meaning, such as "Trekking across the desert, fierce winds swirled around the riders": it was not the winds that were trekking across the desert.
dash
The symbol "–" (en-dash) or "—" (em-dash), used to mark an interruption in a sentence.
dead metaphor
A metaphor that is so familiar that people have generally forgotten that it is a metaphor, such as "the heart of the matter". It is possible that an apparently dead metaphor may come back to life in the right context, often with humorous results, for example "I worked hard clearing up the garden; it was no bed of roses".
deductive reasoning
"Top-down" reasoning in which one begins with a major premise and a minor premise and from these draws a conclusion.
major premise - applies to all things within a particular category.
minor premise - applies to a particular case, not a general category.
Men are tall.
John is a man.
Therefore, John is tall.
dependent clause
A group of words that contains a subject and a verb but does not express a complete thought. Compare to independent clause.
deus ex machina
Literally "god from a machine", this originally referred to the classical Greek practice of resolving all the difficulties in a play by having a god descend on the stage via a mechanical apparatus. It now, metaphorically, refers to a sudden and arbitrary plot twist to solve a problem.
diction
The style of a work, as manifested by the choice of vocabulary, phrasing and figures of speech. It is often used in the phrase "poetic diction".
doggerel
Poorly-written poetry. While it usually rhymes and scans fairly well, often the rhymes are poor and the rhythm is jerky. Generally it is written by inferior poets, but it may be used for comic effect.
dramatic irony
A form of irony in which the readers of a book, or the audience at a play, know things that a character does not, and can therefore be amused when things are said or done that have a different meaning from what that character imagines.

E[edit]

ellipsis
The omission of words that are essential in the grammatical construction, but where the context makes it clear what the sense of the missing words is.
enallage
The deliberate use of a part of speech or a tense, when another would be grammatically correct. this is common in poetry for the sake of meter or rhyme.
"Nor dim, nor red, like God's own head,
The glorious Sun uprist"
Coleridge, "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner", using "uprist" for "uprose" or "rose up", to rhyme with "mist".
enjambment
In poetry, the placement of words in the next line to complete the sense of a phrase, rather than having each line as a self-contained phrase.
epic simile
A kind of simile invented by Homer and copied by Vergil, Milton and other writers of epics. The secondary subject is not only compared with the first subject, but is developed at considerable length.
epigram
A very short poem that ends with a witty or surprising turn of thought.
epiphora
The repetition of an opening word or phrase, often for emphasis; compare anaphora, symploce.
epithet
An adjective or adjectival phrase that is used to describe the special quality of a thing or person.
epithalamion
A poem in celebration of a wedding. The Latin spelling "epithalamium" is used occasionally.
equivoque
A play on words where a word or phrase with two different meanings is used in a context where both meanings are appropriate.
essay
A short piece of non-narrative writing, often written from an author's personal point of view; including literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author.
euphemism
Replacing an unpleasant word or expression with a more pleasant one. Typically, it is used most often in connection with death, sex and bodily functions.
euphony
Writing designed to be very smooth and pleasant, often almost musical in effect. It is designed to heighten the effect of pleasant emotions in a passage. A good example is in Tennyson's The Lotos Eaters:
Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
Than tir’d eyelids upon tir’d eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
Here are cool mosses deep,
And thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leav’d flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.
Contrast cacophony.
euphuism
A prose style that is extremely, even ridiculously, elaborate and formal. It was most popular in the 1580s and was parodied by Shakespeare in several of his plays.
exposition
The writing that mainly explains and instructs, assuming no prior knowledge of the reader, contrasted to narration or reference manual.
eye-rhyme
In poetry, rhyming two words that are spelt the same (hence seem to rhyme to the eye) but are pronounced differently (so would not rhyme to the ear), e.g. through/trough or machine/fine.

F[edit]

figurative language
Writing where the intended meaning is not what would be implied by the literal meaning of the words and the standard rules of syntax. See dead metaphor, epic simile, metaphor, metonymy, mixed metaphor, personification, simile and synecdoche.
figure of speech
Any word, phrase or sentence where a special use of words conveys a meaning other than the meanings ordinarily assifned to the words.

H[edit]

heroic couplet
Style of poetry consisting of iambic pentameters rhyming in pairs "aa bb cc ..." It was used extensively by Chaucer and many subsequent poets.
homeoteleuton
In poetry, similarity of line-endings. This may be a rhyme, or more generally assonance.
hyperbation
The re-ordering of words, for poetical or rhetorical effect, beyond what might seem reasonable.
hyperbole
(From the Greek for "overshooting") Extreme exaggeration or overstatement, for either serious or (more usually) comic effect.
hyphen
Symbol "-", typically used to join two related words to form a compound noun, or to indicate that a word has been split at the end of a line, approximately half the length of a dash.

I[edit]

independent clause
A group of words that contains a subject and a verb and which express a complete thought. Compare to dependent clause.
inductive reasoning
"Bottom-up" reasoning in which one begins by examining a number of individual cases and from these draws a conclusion that can be applies to similar cases.
invective
Denunciation of someone or something by a series of derogatory epithets.
inversion
The reversal of the natural order of two words for rhetorical or poetic effect.
invocation
A request by an author for a muse or other divinity to assist him.
irony
A statement where the superficial assertion is not what the author really means. For example, he may say about something, "Oh, wonderful, marvellous, excellent" but mean that it is really very bad.

L[edit]

litotes
The positive assertion of something by stating its contrary mildly, e.g. "He's not the tallest boy in the school" to suggest that he's the shortest or among the shortest.
logos
A rhetorical technique that appeals to logic or reason.
Types of logical arguments, see deductive and inductive reasoning.

M[edit]

manuscript
A text that has been written by hand, not printed or published in any form.
mechanics
Spelling and punctuation; aspects of writing that are not shared by speaking.
meiosis
(Greek for "lessening") Synonymm for understatement.
melodrama
A form of writing (a book, play or film) marked by very exaggerated characterisation. The "good guys", nmale and female, are paragons of virtue, while the villains are unredeemable monsters. There willl be much violent action, with credibility of plot often sacrificed to thrills and sensation.
metaphor
A figure of speech in which someone or something is said to be something else which it clearly is not, in order to emphasise a characteristic that the writer wishes to describe.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine" - popular song.
metonymy
A figure of speech (from the Greek "change of name") in which the term for someone or something is replaced by a term for something closely associated, as "the crown" for "the king".
mixed metaphor
The use of two metaphors in the same passage, with ludicrous results if the literal meaning is considered.
"A torrent of brimstone descended on him, and he was frozen out of the discussion." - Stephen Leacock.
MLA style
The style of writing and citing for scholars of language and literature, published in MLA Style Manual by the Modern Language Association, the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature.

N[edit]

narration
The writing that relates a story or a series of events, with emphasis on events and people.

O[edit]

onomatopoeia
The use of a word or words that just by their sound suggest what is happening. Simple examples include "hiss" and "buzz". A more elaborate example occurs in Tennyson's "Morte d'Arthur", where a series of hard sounds, indicating the clattering sound made by Sir Bedivere, suddenly changes into smooth liquid sounds when he reaches the calm lake.
Dry clash'd his harness in the icy caves
And barren chasms, and all to left and right
The bare black cliff clang'd round him, as he based
His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang
Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels--
And on a sudden, lo! the level lake,
And the long glories of the winter moon.
oxymoron
(From the Greek oxus, sharp + moros, foolish) A figure of speech where two contradictory words are juxtaposed, e.g. "hor ice" or 9it is often joked) "military intelligence".

P[edit]

paradox
A statement that on first reading or hearing seems absurd, but on closer examination is found to be true.
paragoge
The addition of an extra syllable at the end of a word; this is sometimes done in poetry for metrical reasons.
The Earl of Fife, withouten strife
"The Battle of Otterburn"
parallelism
The use of consecutive or nearly consecutive phrases of similar meaning and structure. It is common in Biblical poetry and song lyrics.
parody
An imitation of a poem or prose that apparently resembles the original fairly closely in style and seriousness, but is designed by its subject or method of treatment to make the original look ridiculous.
paronomasia
A play on words, like a pun, but intended for dramatic effect rather than as a joke.
pathetic fallacy
The fallacy of attributing human feelings and abilities to plants and inanimate objects. The term was coined by John Ruskin.
pathos
An attempt to persuade an audience by evoking feeings of pity, sympathetic sorrow or tenerness.
personification
A figure of speech where an abstract concept or an inanimate object is portrayed as a person, or something endowed with life and feelings. The Greek term is prosopopeia.
pleonasm
The use of more words than necessary; superfluous or redundant expression.
plurisignation
A word to describe deliberate ambiguity as a rhetorical device, to avoid the pejorative associations of ambiguity in its everyday sense.
poetic licence
The liberties that a poet may take in the name of poetry. These may be grammatical or factual. Supposedly, prose writers should not take such liberties, but they do.
portmanteau word
A new word that is created by a fusion of two existing words and combines their meaning. The term was coined by Lewis Carroll, who gives as an example "slithy" meaning "lithe and slimy"; many examples of such words occur in his books Through the Looking Glass and The Hunting of the Snark.
prewriting
An early stage in the writing process, consisting of loose activities such as brainstorming and outlining; a preparation for writing.
proof copy
In printing and publishing, a version of a manuscript that has been typeset after copy editing.
proofreading
Reading and correction of the final draft, with the focus on spelling, punctuation, formatting, typographical conventions and prevention of textual inconsistencies. See also editing and revising, and copy editing.
prosopopeia
see personification.
pun
A humorous play on words, using homonyms or similar-sounding words with very different meanings.
When is a door not a door? When it's ajar.
punctuation
Marks to indicate the structure of a sentence and indicate spoken dialogue. They include periods, colons, semi-colons, commas, question marks, exclamation points, apostrophes, hyphens, parentheses, brackets, and dashes.
purple patch
A passage (usually of prose but also of poetry) where the sudden heightening of diction makes the passage stand out from its context. it is now usually used disparagingly of an author who has self-consciously written something he considers especially good.

R[edit]

refrain
This is a passage, typically a line but sometimes a group of lines or even only a part of a line, that recurs at the end of each stanza of a poem. Sometimes it is repeated with slight variations. In some songs, the refrain is an opportunity for others to join in singing, and it is then called a chorus.
rhetoric
rhetorical question
This means asking a question, not with the intent of eliciting information, but intending the reader or hearer to know the answer and to achieve an emphasis stronger than a direct statement. Thus in Mark Anthony's speech in Julius Caesar he does not say "This was not ambition" but "Was this ambition?"
rough draft
See also early draft and final draft.

S[edit]

sarcasm
Often used as a synonym for [#irony|irony]], but strictly speaking it refers to dispraising someone by crude and blatant overpraising.
satire
Evoking scorn and derision towards someone or something by making the subject seem ridiculous.
scheme
A figure of speech in which the normal word order or pattern of a sentence is deliberately changed for emphasis. It can also include the omission or repetition of words or phrases.
"The helmsman steered; the ship moved on; yet never a breeze blew up." ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
simile
A figure of speech in which someone or something is claimed to be like something else.
"Nor dim, nor red, like God's own head, the glorious Sun uprist." ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Socratic irony
A form of irony, named after Socrates, in which a questioner pretends to be ignorant, and sympathetic to an assumption or point of view, so that his questions can rubbish the assumption.
soliloquy
The act of talking to oneself, either quietly or aloud. It is mainly used in plays; Shakespeare has several examples, such as Hamlet's "To be or not to be" and Macbeth's "Is this a dagger".
symploce
A combination of anaphora and epiphora.
synecdoche
A figure of speech (from the Greek for "taking together") in which the name for someone or something is replaced by the name of part of it, as "hand" for "workman".

T[edit]

thesis
The indicator in an essay, usually one or two sentences, in which the author reveals the main point of the essay; the line of argument that the author is pursuing in his essay; the statement of author's position on an issue, such as:
"By granting college students liberal lending arrangements,
credit card companies often hook them on a cycle of spending that can ultimately lead to financial ruin." ~Matt Watson
Because the internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential,
companies should utilize this resource by creating web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.
tone
The manner in which speech or writing is expressed, such as serious or conversational.
transition
A paragraph or a sentence at the beginning of a paragraph that supports the shift of the reader's attention from the subject treated in the previous paragraph to the new subject.
trope
A literary device that uses words in non-literal ways, changing or modifying the general meaning of a term.
"Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage." ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth

U[edit]

understatement
Implying that something is far less important or significant than it is. This is often done for ironic emphasis, e.g. "i got up at 5am today, just slightly earlier than normal". Compare litotes.

W[edit]

writer's anxiety
Anxiety with which writers sometimes have to deal when trying to write, starring in the blank paper, especially in the early phases of the writing process.

Z[edit]

zeugma
This comes from the Greek for "yoking". It means having one word in the same grammatical relation to two or more other words in a way that means that the first word has different meanings with respect to each of the others, e.g.
"Or stain her honour, or her new brocade" (Alexander Pope).
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