Most classic figures of speech

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Most classic figures of speech
Images: comparison, metaphor, personification

In rhetoric, the queen figure is the metaphor. It is to take an image that will hit the mark, a sort of shortcut appealing to a common imagination. This makes it possible to be more impactful, and more original.

Example: A famous metaphor, often misused since the last financial crises, that of the “invisible hand” of the market.

Note that the original and powerful character loses its sharpness when everyone uses the same images and references.

Substitution: a shortcut

We can add to these figures of speech based on the image, substitution (such as metonymy), a very common practice used to avoid heaviness and repetition.

Contrast to give relief

Other figures of speech, more literary, are the figures of contrast: oxymoron and antithesis. These are images which, by associating two a priori incompatible words, strike the mind with their incongruous, write my lab report even provocative, character.

Ex.: "The superfluous, very necessary thing" (Voltaire)

Figures of thought

Finally, what we call “thought figures” is strongly linked to the context. We particularly remember among this irony, to be practiced with caution, either with an acquired audience or in a debate which is intended to be very controversial, where all blows are allowed. It requires a certain assurance on the part of the speaker, as well as the certainty of not being understood in the first degree.

To help with the presentation of an idea

There are what we call figures of modesty, rather, we would say most often, of false modesty, because they paradoxically give more legitimacy to those who recognize that they do not know everything, but that he is well informed:

I am not the most competent on the matter, but it seems to me ...  "

Another tactic, to mitigate or anticipate an opposition, the concession figure:

I will grant you that ..., nevertheless ...  "


In the same vein, one allows oneself more or less to speak for the listener (this figure is called prolapse): "  you will undoubtedly tell me that ..., but that does not hold because ...  "

To grab, hold or revive attention

Most of the speeches are long, and in the opinion of the audience, often too long.

A good speech, no matter how long, is one at the end of which you want to applaud, and not just out of deference or politeness (or even relief) to write my term paper cheap. Hence the importance of the fall. But we still have to get there, until this fall!

Attention is relaxed very quickly, more orally than in writing. How the speech is said or read, is therefore essential. However, there are good speakers… and others.

To help the chosen one to keep the attention of the public, setting the pace is essential.

For this, from the start, we can make the structure of the discourse visible.

Announcement of the plan

The simplest level is to set up beacons and announce them. It sounds like a planned announcement like “  I will develop this in three points…  ”, and the audience will appreciate your understanding of where you are in the exercise if you announce “the first point…, second point… etc. ". Be careful, however, to stick to it, and not to develop 10 parts where you had announced three.

Another variant: give rhythm to the sequences of parts with markers such as “  first…, then…, finally…  ”

“Trailer” effect

We cannot say everything from the start of the speech. Nevertheless, it can be useful to announce a strong idea very early, either to maintain certain suspense or quite simply as an announcement of a plan, to indicate to the audience that this question which interests them will be developed later. in the speech. It's the famous "  I'll get to that in a moment  ."

Shortened effect

We cannot say everything either, but nothing prevents alluding to a related subject that everyone has in mind: "  I will not dwell on ..., I will get to the point…  ”.

Beware of false shortcuts (that is to say to the chosen one who develops at length a point which he has just said was only a reminder).

Rhythm figures

There are rhythmic style figures, some of which are easily recognizable.

Pace the subject

The first is “  the anaphora  ”, ie the repetition of the same word at the beginning of a sentence.

Thus, a list can start with the same “sense” and thus create an effect of suspense and accumulation. Very effective in sustaining attention, with a galvanizing effect, we can blame it for its hammering effect and too artificial when the list of repetitions is long.

Another effect used and usable for the fall, the amplification. Quite adequate for polemical speeches.

Sounds and silences: speech as melody

And since we are speaking, the rhythm is also in a way the musical character of the speech seen as much as a story as a melody and the sounds play: we can also repeat them and play with them, but this is the icing on the cake. On the sound side, why not dare to use onomatopoeias, even if, as always, originality can backfire. Do not forget that, who says rhythm, also says “  silences  ”: Write my speech must leave a few breaths, which makes it possible to better capture the interest of the audience on what will follow. It is in the same logic that we use oratorical questions such as: "  Why?" I'll tell you … ”, false questions of a purely rhetorical nature.

Unity of speech: coherence and "good distance"

Discourse is the built-in fact around three pillars: a speaker, an audience, and, between the two, a message to convey, some will tell a “story”.

When we talk about history (this is the theory of storytelling), it allows us to insist on the fact that a speech has more than a common thread, it has a unity. Finding the tone of this narration may ultimately be a matter of finding the right distance between the speaker and his audience. And this question is particularly sensitive when we choose to use humor or rely on references.

The use of humor

Can we use humor in a political speech?  It is more about “laughing with” than “laughing at”. The "laugh at" positions, and this can be useful when you want to create a stir or an incident until you see the opposition leave the hemicycle.

Another technique: making fun (lightly) of yourself is a twist that matches the figure of modesty mentioned above.

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