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Rhetorical Devices Article Series

1. Speech Quotations
2. Rhetorical Questions
3. Triads (the Rule of Three)
4. Anaphora
5. Epiphora
6. Chiasmus
7. Parallelism
8. Contrast

1. How to Use Quotes in Your Speech: 8 Benefits and 21 Tips

by Andrew Dlugan, Sep 23rd, 2012.

Every speech does not need quotations, but every speaker needs to know why, how, and when
to use quotations in their speeches.
In this article, we examine eight benefits of using quotations in your speech, and then discuss
twenty-one tips for superpowering your speech with effective quotes.

Benefits of Using Quotations in Your Speech

There are numerous benefits to crafting quotations into your speech, including:
1. The primary reason to quote material in your speech is that it reinforces your ideas. A
quotation offers a second voice echoing your claims, but is more powerful than simply
repeating yourself in different words.
2. Quotations usually offer a concise, memorable phrasing of an idea. (This is why the
quotation gets remembered and repeated, isn’t it?)
3. Using a quotation boosts your credibility because it implies that the person you are
quoting agrees with the rest of your argument.
4. Most people do not have the ability to spontaneous offer relevant quotes to support their
statements. So, when you deliver a quotation, it demonstrates your domain knowledge
and preparation.
5. Quotations are one way to add variety to your logical arguments, along with facts,
statistics, stories, metaphors, and other material. Audiences get bored if you offer a one-
dimensional string of arguments of the same type.
6. Depending on how you deliver the quotation, you can create anticipation, suspense, or
drama. For example, if you begin “Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said…” followed by a
pause, then your audience will surely anticipate your next words. What did he say? What
did he say?
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7. Conversely, you might choose a quotation which adds humor to your presentation, due to
the content of the quote or perhaps the person you are quoting.
8. If you are delivering with visuals, you might choose to display the quotation on a slide and
let your audience read it. This creates a natural and purposeful pause in your vocal
delivery, allowing you to check your notes, take a sip of water, and collect your thoughts.

Tips for Using Quotations in Your Speech

Okay, you are convinced of the benefits of incorporating quotations into your speech. But how do
you do it? Who should you quote? When should you give the quotation? Read on to discover
numerous tips for using quotes effectively in your presentations.
Do your Research
1. Make sure you get the phrasing correct.
A quotation should boost your credibility, but quoting inaccurately weakens your
credibility. A sloppy quotation makes you look lazy.
2. Get a reliable source.
Wikipedia doesn’t count. Your credibility is on the line.
3. Beware quoting out-of-context.
Be careful when quoting material on controversial topics. Make sure you understand the
intent of the speaker, not only their words. A quotation taken out of context where you’ve
garbled the meaning makes you look like you are deliberately misleading your audience.
Quote People Your Audience Knows
4. Quote a well-known expert in the field.
Don’t quote individuals based purely on their fame or success; base your decision on their
expertise in the subject area you are talking about. Quote Aristotle on philosophy or
Serena Williams on tennis — doing the opposite gets you in trouble.
5. Quote a lesser-known expert in the field, but only with background context.
If your desired quote comes from someone who your audience won’t immediately
recognize, you’ll need to introduce the speaker and establish their credibility before
delivering their quote.
6. Quote an earlier speaker at your event.
Suppose you are speaking at an event where an earlier speaker made some statements
relevant to your message. Referring back to their words will not only impress your
audience, but also capitalize on the earlier speaker’s effectiveness.
7. Quote yourself (playfully).
I’ve done this many times, and it always receives a positive audience response. One way I
do this is to introduce a particularly important point as “Dlugan’s First Law of (whatever
topic I’m speaking on)”
Use your own words to open and close; quote in the middle.
8. Open your speech with a quote (sparingly).

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Starting with a quote can be effective, but don’t assume just any quotation will grab your
audience’s attention. I’ve watched speakers open with a quotation that wasn’t very
powerful, and even irrelevant to their content. There are usually more powerful ways to
grab your audience’s attention.
9. Avoid closing your speech with a quote.
I have heard speeches end strong with a quotation, usually when the quote refers back to
the beginning. However, I would not advise it generally. Your final words should be your
own. Ending with a quote is often a sign that you don’t have confidence in your own words.
10. Quotations work best in the body of your speech.
The best time to introduce a quote is when you need more support for one of your
arguments. One particularly effective time is near the end of a section. Reinforcing your
arguments with a quotation brings good closure to your argument.
Draw attention to the quote through your delivery.
11. The traditional formula is okay.
Most quotations are introduced simply: Albert Einstein once said “It’s not that I’m so smart,
it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” This simple formula is clear, direct, and
12. Reading the quote from notes is okay.
When possible, I would advise delivering the quote from memory. But sometimes, reading
it can be better. If the quote is lengthy, for example, it’s better to read it to ensure you are
accurate. Even a short quote can be read from notes effectively. I once saw a speaker who
produced the note paper from his pocket, and was almost reverent as he read it. In this
case, it could be argued that not reading it would have been disrespectful.
13. Or, let your audience read the quote.
If you are using visuals, you might choose to display the quotation. When you do this, do
NOT read it to your audience. Let them read it. (Remember, you should never read
material to your audience when they can see the words.) This technique has an added
benefit: you can stylize the slide to add impact. For example, you might add a photo of the
speaker, or perhaps use a font which conveys mood.
14. Pause before and after.
You should pause briefly before the quote (a little suspense, and to grab attention) and
then a little longer after the quote (to allow the meaning of the quotation to be absorbed
by your audience.) Give the quotation respect, and let its impact be felt.
15. Spice up your vocal delivery.
Of course, you should be varying your voice throughout your presentation. Just like other
key statements in your speech, a quotation deserves a little extra vocal emphasis. Maybe
louder, maybe softer. Maybe happier, maybe sadder. Let the mood of the quote guide your
16. Set the context when necessary.
Some quotations stand on their own, but other quotations won’t be effective unless you
establish the context first. A quotation which has your audience guessing is a missed

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opportunity. Perhaps you need to give the historical context, or explain something about
the life of the speaker. Make sure the quotation has maximum impact.
Use trustworthy sources.
17. Quotation compilations keep quotes within arm’s reach.
Every serious speaker should own at least one quotation compilation. (Bartlett’s Familiar
Quotations is my personal favorite, ever since I first found a copy of a previous edition on
my brother’s bookshelf 30 years ago.) A well-edited compilation provides several sort
indices to help you find the perfect quote faster. An added benefit is that these types of
sources should be trustworthy.
18. Biographies of famous people in your field are also rich sources.
For example, a biography on Steve Jobs is sure to have numerous quotable lines on his
business philosophy. Like quotation compilations, biographies are generally trustworthy.
19. Online quotation search engines offer unparalleled breadth.
Quotation websites help you find quotations using a given keyword or spoken by a given
person. It’s quick and easy, but the sources cannot always be trusted. Whenever I use
these sources, I seek out a second source to verify. (Be careful, many quotation websites
might use the same flawed source…)
Be selective.
20. Don’t use a quote that everyone knows.
If your audience has heard the quote before, you will receive virtually no benefit from
repeating it.
21. Don’t overdo it.
There’s no rule about how many quotes you should use, but their effectiveness gets diluted
if you use too many. Remember that your speech should primarily be told with your words,
not someone else’s. Keep just the best quotes you found in your research, and trim the

2. How to Use Rhetorical Questions in Your Speech

by Andrew Dlugan, Nov 4th, 2012.

A rhetorical question is a common rhetorical device where a question is asked by a speaker, but
no answer is expected from the audience. This distinguishes it from explicit verbal audience
interaction where a speaker asks a question, and then waits for a response or calls on someone to
answer it.
You are certainly aware of this technique, but are you aware that you can use a rhetorical question
in at least nine different ways? No? Read on!

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This article identifies nine ways to use rhetorical questions, and provides examples throughout.

Strategies when asking rhetorical questions

Like other speech techniques, rhetorical questions can be used in a variety of ways, depending on
the needs of the speaker and the speech.
It is rarely necessary to ask a rhetorical question; there is nearly always another way to convey the
same idea without using a question. But rhetorical questions, like other rhetorical devices, add
variety and interest to a speech.
Here are nine strategies that can be fulfilled (often in combination) with a carefully crafted rhetorical
1. Engage the audience to think with a rhetorical question.
The most popular use of a rhetorical question is to engage your audience to think. If your entire
speech is a series of statements, your audience may passively listen and absorb little. On the other
hand, you can make them active participants in your speech by inviting them to think about your
arguments. This is most effective if they are asked to think about an issue from a fresh perspective.
For example, suppose you are delivering a goal achievement seminar. While many people feel that
external forces prevent them from realizing their goals, you might engage your audience to think
about their self-defeating behaviors:
“Setting goals is easy, but achieving them isn’t. How are you sabotaging yourself?”

2. Invite your audience to agree with you by asking a rhetorical question.

To persuade your audience, they must see you as credible. One way to build credibility is to convince
your audience that you are similar to them and share their beliefs. One way to do this is by asking a
rhetorical question where the answer has the audience agreeing with you, perhaps even nodding
their head in agreement.
For example, suppose you are speaking at a networking event for working mothers, and you
represent a local health spa:
“Given how hard you work — both at the office and at home — don’t you deserve a day at the

[When your audience silently answers “Yes, I do deserve that”, the effect is that they see themselves
as more similar to you.]

3. Stir emotions by asking a rhetorical question.

Effective speakers know how to stir audience emotions. Rhetorical questions do this by making the
audience a partner in your emotional statements. Instead of delivering one-way emotional
statements, you can involve your audience more emotionally by hooking them with a rhetorical
For example, suppose you are at a political rally. Instead of saying:
“They’ve never done anything to help us.”
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“What have they ever done to help us?”
The latter version is stronger, because it triggers an emotional response by having the audience
thinking “Nothing! They’ve done nothing!”

4. Emphasize a previous statement with a rhetorical question.

Rhetorical questions can be used as an exclamation point on a preceding statement. While the
preceding statement may be a factual statement, a rhetorical question forces your audience to
think hard about it.
For example, suppose you are speaking out against gang violence in your community:
“17 of our sons and daughters have already died in gang-related crime. How many will it take
before we act?”

5. Invoke misdirection with a rhetorical question.

Careful use of misdirection in a speech is an effective way of generating audience surprise, and this
results in them being active participants. One form of misdirection is when you make a statement
which leads in one direction, and then follow it up with a statement that pulls in the opposite
For example, suppose you are trying to motivate your sales department:
“Financial analysts in our industry predict that sales are going to be down next year. But does that
prediction apply to us? [… and then you go on to show why it does not…]”

In the above example, the rhetorical question followed a contrasting statement. But this pattern
can be reversed with the rhetorical question preceding a contrasting statement. For example:
“Why would anyone care about the polling data, when it has proven to be inaccurate in the
past? The primary reason is that polling firms have been using entirely different methods this

6. Ask and answer a rhetorical question your audience may be thinking.

Thorough audience analysis will reveal many questions that members of your audience may have.
Rather than waiting to address these questions following your speech (e.g. in a Q&A session), you
can address them in the body of your speech by asking the question and immediately answering it.
For example, imagine that you are speaking to a new parents’ support group:
“As a new parent, you often wonder: What can I do to give my child an intellectual jump start?
The answer is reading aloud to them every day.”
Or, consider another example:
“Why is it important to exercise our right to vote? Voting is a duty of active citizenship!”

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7. Answer a question with another rhetorical question.

A common technique to answer a question (either one you have raised, or one coming from your
audience) is to respond with a rhetorical question. This is done when the two questions (the one
you were asked, and the one you responded with) have the same answer (typically, either “yes” or
For example:
“Will we win the contract? Is the sky blue?”
The obvious answer to the second question is “yes”, and this implies the answer to the first is also
Or, consider another example:
“Do you think we should give up on our school and close it? Do pigs fly?”
This time, the obvious answer to the second question is “no”, and this implies the answer to the first
is also “no”.
Beware when using this technique as it can sound cliche to your audience. If you can, make the
second question fresh and unique to your audience.

8. Ask a series of rhetorical questions to highlight divergent thoughts.

When speaking about a particularly complex issue, one technique that reinforces this complexity is
to ask a series of questions which, if answered, would all point in different directions.
For example:
“How can we stop bullying in school? Is the answer to educate the bullies? Or educate those
being bullied? Do we need more supervision on playgrounds? How about stricter penalties for
offenders? […]”
A series of questions like this might be used in the opening of a speech, while the body of the speech
might follow up on the individual questions one by one.

9. Ask a series of rhetorical questions to highlight convergent thoughts.

A series of rhetorical questions can also be used in situations where, if the questions were answered,
all of the answers would point in the same direction. This technique is a variation on repetition and
could be used to emphasize a point repeatedly.
For example:
“Who has turned around our club and made it prosperous? Who is tireless in her devotion to this
club? Who is our undisputed leader? Of course I am speaking of our club president Laurelle who
we honor here today.”

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3. How to Use the Rule of Three in Your Speeches

by Andrew Dlugan, May 27th, 2009.

The rule of three is powerful speechwriting technique that you should learn, practice, and master.
Using the Rule of Three allows you to express concepts more completely, emphasize your points,
and increase the memorability of your message.
That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
What is the rule of three? What are some famous examples? How do you use it in speeches? Read

Western Culture and the Rule of Three

Trios, triplets, and triads abound in Western culture in many disciplines. Just a small sampling of
memorable cultural triads include:
 Christianity
o Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
o Heaven, hell, and purgatory (Catholicism, primarily)
o Three Wise Men with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh
 Movies & Books
o The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
o Sex, Lies, and Videotape
o Superman’s “Truth, Justice, and the American Way“
o Nursery rhymes such as the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears
o In a more general sense, there is the allure of trilogies as with Indiana Jones, The
Godfather, The Matrix, Star Wars, and many others.
 Politics
o U.S. Branches of Government: Executive, Judicial, and Legislative
o U.S. Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
o French motto: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
o Abundance of tri-colored flags
 Civic, Organizational, and Societal Mottos
o Fire safety motto: Stop, Drop, and Roll
o Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius or Faster, Higher, Stronger
o Real estate: Location, Location, Location

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Historic Rule of Three Speech Examples

Speechwriting is, of course, part of our culture. Examples of the Rule of Three can be found in some
of the most famous speeches ever delivered:
 Julius Caesar
o “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered)
 Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
o “Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears.“
 Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
o “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground.“
o “Government of the people, by the people, for the people“
 General MacArthur, West Point Address, 1962
o “Duty, Honor, Country” [repeated several times in the speech]
 Barack Obama, Inaugural Speech
o “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking

What’s Magical About the Rule of Three?

It is reasonable to ask what’s so special about three? Why is it so popular in our culture? Aren’t
there just as many examples of two- or four-element famous speech lines?
For a famous duo, there is Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.”
For a classic quartet, it is tough to beat Winston Churchill’s “I would say to the House as I said to
those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Despite examples like these, there is something magical about the Rule of Three in the way that it
allows a speaker to express a concept, emphasize it, and make it memorable.
In his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark provides insights
to the magic of the number three:
“The mojo of three offers a greater sense of completeness than four or more.”
-- Roy Peter Clark
“… the “encompassing” magic of number three … in our language or culture, three provides a sense
of the whole …
… in the anti-math of writing, the number three is greater than four. The mojo of three offers a
greater sense of completeness than four or more. …”
Use one for power. Use two for comparison, contrast. Use three for completeness, wholeness,
roundness. Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, and expand.

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Rhetorical Devices — Rule of Three

The rule of three describes triads of all types — any collection of three related elements. Two more
specific triad variants are hendiatris and tricolon.
A hendiatris is a figure of speech where three successive words are used to express a central idea.
Examples of hendiatris include:
 “Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]
 “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité“ [French motto]
 “Citius, Altius, Fortius” [Olympic motto]
 “Wine, women, and song” [Anonymous]
A tricolon is a series of three parallel elements (words or phrases). In a strict tricolon, the elements
have the same length but this condition is often put aside.
Examples of tricola include:
 “Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]
 “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt]
 “Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation – not because of [1] the height of
our skyscrapers, or [2] the power of our military, or [3] the size of our economy.” [Barack
Obama, Keynote speech to Democratic National Convention, July 2004]

Contemporary Speech Examples using the Rule of Three

“Using the Rule of Three allows you to express concepts more completely, emphasize your
points, and increase the memorability of your message.”
Nearly every speech critiqued on Six Minutes has wielded the magic of the Rule of Three, as shown
by numerous examples below.
 Click through the links to read the detailed analysis.
 Watch the speech being delivered, and note the delivery of these key triads.
 Note how memorable these passages are within the whole speech.
Examples like these cross a wide array of speech types and settings. You can study these examples,
and then apply the lessons to your own speechwriting to see how you can incorporate the Rule of
 5 Speechwriting Lessons from Obama’s Inaugural Speech
“Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered.”
 Steve Jobs: Stanford Commencement Address, 2005
“[1] It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them
in just a few months. [2] It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy
as possible for your family. [3] It means to say your goodbyes.”

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 Dalton Sherman: Do you believe?

“You’re the ones [1] who feed us, [2] who wipe our tears, [3] who hold our hands or hug us when we
need it.”
 J.A. Gamache: Toastmasters, 2007
“A sandal of hope when you reach out.
A sandal of joy when you listen to your heart.
A sandal of courage when you dare to care.”
 Electrify Your Audience with a Shocking Speech Opening
“Tobacco. [long pause]
Alcohol. [long pause]
Guns. [long pause]
Criminal items seized in a search [slight pause] of a 6th grade locker in a bad school district.”
 Patrick Henry Winston: How to Speak
“Your careers will be determined largely by how well you speak, by how well you write, and by the
quality of your ideas… in that order.”
 Speech Preparation #6: Add Impact with Rhetorical Devices
“… we cannot predict when the wind blows. We cannot predict how strong it will be. We certainly
cannot predict its direction.”

Why Successful Speech Outlines follow the Rule of Three

by Andrew Dlugan, Jun 3rd, 2009.

Previously, we learned how the rule of three improves speeches when used at the micro-speech
level, to craft memorable triads of words, phrases, and sentences.
In this article, we will learn how the rule of three improves speeches at the macro-speech level when
applied to speech stories or to entire speech outlines.
Storytelling and the Rule of Three
Last week, my daughter and I visited our local library to fetch another bounty of children’s books.
We returned with a diverse collection that included:
 the educational Sesame Subjects: My First Book About Fish,
 the hilarious Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business;
 the classic The Golden Goose from the Brothers Grimm.

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(Note to parents: All highly recommended!)

The Golden Goose is the story of three brothers who attempt to chop down the thickest tree in the
forest. First, the oldest brother fails; then, the middle brother fails; finally, the youngest brother
succeeds — a three-part plot structure.
“Every great movie, book or play that has stood the test of time has a solid Three-Act structure.”
-- Stephen J. Cannell

The three-part story outline is a common structure in folk tales, Biblical tales, and Hollywood plots:
 Three Little Pigs — The first two pigs get eaten because their houses are weak; the third
pig’s house of bricks is strong.
 Goldilocks and the Three Bears — The porridge was too hot; the porridge was too cold; the
porridge was just right.
 The Three Billy Goats Gruff — The first two goats sneak past the troll, while the third goat
defeats the troll.
 The Good Samaritan [New Testament, Bible] — The first traveller passes. The second
traveller passes. The third (the Samaritan) helps the injured man.
 Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl in the end.
The Three Act Structure
These fall under a general pattern known as a Three Act Structure. It is widely used in storytelling
and screenwriting because it is a proven formula. Stephen J. Cannell claims that “Every great movie,
book or play that has stood the test of time has a solid Three-Act structure.”
Syd Field (author of The Screen Writer’s Workbook and other instructive screenwriting guides)
asserts that most successful screenplays follow a structure like this:
 Act I: Setup (approximately 30 minutes of a 2-hour movie)
 Act II: Confrontation (approximately 60 minutes)
 Act III: Resolution (approximately 30 minutes)
He further asserts that these acts are separated by two plot points: events that thrust the plot in a
new direction. For example, plot point #1 might be the pivotal moment when the reluctant hero is
convinced to join the crusade for justice (after spending most of Act One refusing to do so). Plot
point #2 might be the moment when the momentum swings from the villain to the hero, eventually
leading to a triumphant climax.

This three-part structure is so pervasive in movies, books, and other storytelling forms that
audiences feel naturally comfortable when it is used. This comfort can be leveraged by a skillful
public speaker.

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Three-Part Speech Outlines

When you apply the rule of three to your speech outline, you gain all the benefits of the three-part
structure. Your presentation gains warmth, familiarity, and understandability. With the three-part
outline framing your ideas, your speech will be easier to follow and remember.
Let’s examine a variety of three-part speech outlines, beginning with the most basic.
Speech Outline #1A: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion
It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Even if you don’t read the rest of this article, you will improve
as a speaker if you consistently apply this generic speech outline.
It seems obvious. Almost too obvious. Yet two of the most common speaking blunders are:
1. Omit the introduction: The speaker launches directly into the meat of the content without
providing a roadmap or context.
o Result: The audience wonders “How did we get here?“
2. Omit the conclusion: The presentation ends abruptly immediately after the last statistic or
slide with “So… any questions?” Perhaps this is the result of poor time management and a
novice speaker who decides “I’m running short on time. I’ll skip the conclusion.”
o Result: The audience feels stranded, far from the point of origin, wondering “That’s
it? What does it mean?“
Speech Outline #1B: Tell them what you’re going to say, Say it, Tell them what you said
“Repetition is a powerful speechwriting technique.”
This isn’t a new speech outline, but a slight elaboration of the first:
1. Tell them what you’re going to say (Introduction)
2. Say it (Body)
3. Tell them what you said (Conclusion)
Some may say that this speech structure is almost too simplistic. If it is accompanied by boring
content and lifeless delivery, that’s a fair critique.
However, repetition is a powerful speechwriting technique, and you can do much worse than
repeating your key points three times during a speech to persuade your audience. Take inspiration
from Lewis Carroll in The Hunting of the Snark:
I have said it thrice: What i tell you three times is true.
Speech Outline #2: Past, Present, Future
This speech outline can either stand on its own:
 Past, Present, Future
or take the place of “Body” in the pattern above to make:
 Introduction, Body [= Past, Present, Future], Conclusion
A common application is a persuasive speech where you pitch a solution to a business problem:
 Past – You set the context by identifying a problem facing your company, and describing how
it came to be.
 Present – You lay out the decision to be made now, and the alternatives to choose from.

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 Future – You paint a picture of prosperity that will be realized if the right choice is made
(perhaps you use a successful case study).
If you apply this speech outline well, your audience will more easily understand your message. On
the other hand, your audience is more likely to be confused if you jump forward and backward in
time repeatedly (talk about the decision first, then the future prosperity, then the root cause of the
past problem, then another alternative, then…)
Speech Outline #3: Complication, Resolution, Example
Another three part speech outline for persuasive speeches is the S.Co.R.E. method offered by
Andrew Abela in Advanced Presentations by Design: Creating Communication that Drives Action
(read the Six Minutes book review).
Abela recommends starting your speech (Introduction) by establishing the Situation, and then
iterating through a three-element series of Complication, Resolution, Example. In a sequence form,
your speech might look like:
 Introduction – Situation
 Body
o Complication, Resolution, Example
o Complication, Resolution, Example
o Complication, Resolution, Example
o …, …, …
 Conclusion
The three-part Complication-Resolution-Example structure can be repeated once (e.g. a five-minute
speech) or many times (e.g. a one-hour seminar).
Speech Outline #4A: Three Main Points
“Limit yourself to your best three points. Any fewer, and your message won’t be compelling. Any
more, and your message risks becoming tedious.”
A basic three-part informative speech outline is as follows:
1. Introduction — Establish topic and core message; list supporting points
2. Body
1. Supporting Point One
2. Supporting Point Two
3. Supporting Point Three
3. Conclusion — Recap main points; summarize core message; call-to-action
In this case, the rule of three magic lies in limiting yourself to your best three points. Any fewer,
and your message won’t be compelling. Any more, and your message risks becoming tedious.
Brainstorm many, but select your best three.
The Decker Grid System (from You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard – reviewed here) is built on
this foundation. Bert Decker goes on to say that, for longer speeches, each of your three supporting
points can be reinforced with (no surprise) three sub-points each.
Speech Outline #4B: Three Stories

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Stories can strengthen any type of speech, but are especially powerful in motivational speeches
where making an emotional connection with your audience is required. When you tell stories,
pattern them on the three-act structure for maximum impact.
The Three Main Points speech outline can be given a storytelling slant with the following:
“When you tell stories, pattern them on the three-act structure for maximum impact.”
1. Attention grabbing opening which introduces the topic and core message
2. Tell story #1.
o Make point #1.
3. Tell story #2.
o Make point #2.
4. Tell story #3.
o Make point #3.
5. Memorable conclusion which ties together all three stories to support the core message.
Speech Outline #5: Pros, Cons, Recommendation
We’ll conclude with a common speech outline used for persuasive speeches where you are
recommending a course of action.
1. Introduction – Brief setup of problem and proposal
2. Body
1. Pros – What are the benefits of this proposal?
2. Cons – What are the drawbacks of this proposal?
3. Recommendation – Why do the pros outweigh the cons?
3. Conclusion – Restate the pros and repeat the recommendation

How to Add Power or Humor with the Rule of Three

by Andrew Dlugan, Jun 8th, 2009.

In the first two articles of this series, we learned how using the rule of three can improve your
speeches by [1] writing triads of words, phrases, and sentences and [2] by applying three-part
speech outlines.
In this article, you will learn how adding an unexpected twist to the third element can add power
or humor to your speech.

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Rule of Three + Unexpected Twist = Speech Gold

As we’ve learned in the earlier articles, there’s something magical about words, phrases, or
sentences that come in sets of three. Three-element sets are found in many cultural areas, including
In Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, author Nick Morgan searches for an
“Why do we respond so powerfully to them? It’s a mystery — something psychological. Some say it
has to do with religious symbolism, since there are groups of three in most major religions, but that
may be putting the cart before the horse: the religions may have settled on groups of threes for the
same psychological reasons that everyone else finds them powerful. Whatever the reason, we find
something complete and satisfying in a group of three, like a three-legged stool that can stand firmly
on uneven ground […]”

“We find something complete and satisfying in a group of three, like a three-legged stool that
can stand firmly on uneven ground”
-- Nick Morgan
Triads are a classical speechwriting technique, but you can squeeze even more power out of them
by carefully choosing your order and adding a twist to the third element.
In Lend Me Your Ears: All you Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations, Professor
Max Atkinson suggests one way to add a twist:
“If your third point is the most important of the three, making it longer is a simple way of implicitly
highlighting its greater significance compared with the first two.”

The third element in a list of three is often followed by a pause when speaking, so it will linger
longest in your audience’s memory. This creates a natural emphasis on this element, even if the
three elements are perfectly parallel.
You can take advantage of this natural emphasis by deviating from true parallelism. You could make
the third element longer, or shorter, or give it a twist in meaning. All of these will cause your
audience to think deeper.
In Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark advises writers to “establish
a pattern, then give it a twist”. He notes that three parallel elements create a rhythm of “boom
boom boom”, but adding a twist to the third element creates the more memorable “boom boom
Consider the “bang” created in these examples where the third element deviates from the pattern
in length and/or meaning:
 Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness [U.S. Declaration of Independence]
 Truth, Justice, and the American Way [Superman]
 Sex, Lies, and Videotape [movie title]
 “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking
America” [Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech]
 God, grant me

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the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can; and
the wisdom to know the difference.
 “[1] It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to
tell them in just a few months. [2] It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that
it will be as easy as possible for your family. [3] It means to say your goodbyes.” [Steve Jobs,
Stanford Commencement]

Humor and the Rule of Three

Adding a twist to the third element is also the key to creating humor in your speeches.
Consider one popular example that is attributed to both Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain:
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Why does this work? Let’s break it down. The first two elements (“lies” and “damned lies”) set a
pattern in the mind of the audience. They expect a third element such as “white lies”, “torturous
lies”, ‘or even “deadly lies”. Humor results from the mismatch between expectation and reality.
I like this technique because it is like a magician who is able to distract us with one hand while deftly
completing the “trick” with the other. In speeches, the pattern distracts, and thus magnifies the
“Humor results from the mismatch between expectation and reality.”
Thus, the recipe for a humorous triad in your next speech is simple.
 Set a pattern with the first two elements to create audience expectations. These elements
could be words, phrases, or sentences.
 Break the pattern with the third element. Maximize your audience response by making the
third element as absurd as you can while ensuring there is still a connection.
In my “Face the Wind” speech (the focus of a 10-article series on Speech Preparation), I opened with
a humorous triad.
“Eighteen months ago, my wife and I traded our condo keys for house keys. [1] Our floor space
doubled. [2] Our mortgage tripled. [3] Our income didn’t change.”

This triad works because the pattern begins with doubled and tripled. The audience expected
quadrupled or some other multiplier in the third element.
To perfect the rule of three humor technique, study stand-up comedians. Watch for it the next time
you are watching the monologue on the late-night talk shows. The first sentence introduces a new
topic. The second sentence establishes the pattern. The third sentence breaks the pattern with a
punch line.
Some time ago, I delivered a humorous (and rhyming) speech about the (fictitious) origins of
Toastmasters. In the couplet below, I suggested (with tongue firmly in cheek) possible motivations
for young men to improve their speaking skills:
“Strong speaking will earn you money, diamonds and pearls,

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Dignity, respect, and — most importantly — girls!”

The couplet above includes two different triads:

1. The first triad — money, diamonds and pearls — includes three common material benefits.
It is not very memorable because all three elements form a consistent pattern.
2. The second triad, on the other hand, begins with two desirable character traits — dignity
and respect — and concludes with an unexpected twist. This line provokes laughter from
audience members. They expect the pattern to continue with another noble quality (e.g.
wisdom, charisma, confidence); while the third element may be human, it’s not exactly
Remember, the last element of your triad is the key which will determine whether you are
humorous, memorable, or forgettable.

4. Be More Memorable by Repeating Your Speech Words (Anaphora)

by Andrew Dlugan, Jul 30th, 2012.

What if your speeches were more quotable?

What if your speeches were more powerful?
What if your speeches were more memorable?
Anaphora can do this for you. In this article, we examine how strategic use of repetition can elevate
your speechwriting.

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What is Anaphora? A Definition…

Anaphora is the Greek term used to describe the repetition of the same word or phrase at the
beginning of successive clauses or sentences.
Anaphora, like many other rhetorical techniques, is commonly used in literature as well as in
speeches. From literature, consider the opening words from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way” —

Dickens’ use of anaphora (combined with skillful use of contrast) helps make this passage one of the
most famous openings in all of literature. He uses anaphora three times:
 10 clauses beginning with “it was the”
 2 clauses beginning with “we had”
 2 clauses beginning with “we were all going direct”

Anaphora in “I Have a Dream” and “We Shall Fight”

In August, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave us one of the richest speech examples for anaphora.
This includes “I have a dream …” and many other repetition-laden passages, including:
“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of
racial justice.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

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In all, King’s speech contains eight examples of anaphora. For more examples, see the Six
Minutes Speech Analysis of “I Have a Dream”.
Another famous anaphora passage was delivered in the midst of World War II by Winston Churchill
in the House of Commons, June 4, 1940:
“We shall go on to the end,
we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.”

Other Anaphora Examples

While anaphora was used by King and Churchill in highly emotional passages, it doesn’t always need
to be used in this way.
In the three examples below, anaphora is used more for its emphatic and unifying characteristics.
As well, note that the second and third examples involve the repetition at the beginning of phrases
(as opposed to the beginning of sentences):
Senator Margaret Chase, addressing Congress to speak against McCarthyism, June 1, 1950:
“I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with
irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as
possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly
in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.
I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as
an American.”

Ronald Reagan, address following Challenger disaster, January 28, 1986:

“We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews
and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our
hopes and our journeys continue.”

Justin Trudeau, eulogy for his father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, 2000:
“My father’s fundamental belief never came from a textbook. It stemmed from his deep love
for and faith in all Canadians and over the past few days, with every card, every rose, every
tear, every wave and every pirouette, you returned his love.”

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A Guide for Using Anaphora in Your Speeches

The examples above highlight how anaphora helps create more emotional, more powerful, more
quotable, and more memorable passages. But let’s be honest. We are rarely called to address a
national or global audience on historic occasions.
So, in a “normal” speech, can you benefit by using anaphora too? Yes, absolutely! You can use
anaphora in the classroom, the boardroom, or the ballroom.
Keep these guidelines in mind when stitching anaphora into your speeches.
“Use anaphora strategically to highlight a passage which is central to your core message.”

Guideline #1: Don’t overdo it.

Contrary to the example from “I have a dream”, it may be best to use anaphora sparingly within a
speech. If you use it over and over again in every paragraph, its impact may be reduced. In most
speeches, once or twice is probably enough.
Instead, use anaphora strategically to highlight a passage which is central to your core message.
There’s no rule that says where this should be, but opening or closing a speech with anaphora is

Guideline #2: Choose simple, yet important words to repeat.

In nearly every example in this article, the speaker chose to repeat common, one-syllable words.
Simple language is always a good choice, but this is especially so for repeated words.
But “simple” doesn’t mean the words are negligible. Consider:
 King: “Now is the time …” and “I have a dream …”
 Churchill: “We shall fight …”
 Pope John Paul II: “I hope that …” (example below)
In each case, the repeated words echo key themes of the speech. King was sharing his dream and
believed that the time had come for action. Churchill served notice that Britain was ready to fight.
Pope John Paul II expressed hope for the future.

Guideline #3: Emphasize your delivery.

When speech examples are written out (as in this article), the anaphora is obvious. In a spoken
speech, however, your audience doesn’t have this luxury. To achieve maximum effect, be sure to
emphasize the repetitive words in your delivery. Enunciate clearly. Pause appropriately. Add vocal
power if it makes sense to do so.

Guideline #4: Consider combining anaphora with other rhetorical devices.

To craft a really memorable passage, try weaving anaphora with another rhetorical device, such as:
 the rule of three

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 epiphora
 climax

Rule of Three
When you combine anaphora with the rule of three, the result is strong unity between the three
statements. For example, consider these three contemporary speech examples:
Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, June 12, 2005:
“My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for
prepare to die.
It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell
them in just a few months.
It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your
It means to say your goodbyes.”
Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009:
“For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search
of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and
plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
J.A. Gamache, “Being a Mr. G“, 2007:
“A sandal of hope when you reach out.
A sandal of joy when you listen to your heart.
A sandal of courage when you dare to care.”

The mirror of anaphora, epiphora is repetition at the end of consecutive clauses or sentences. With
anaphora and epiphora combined, you get sentences which begin and end with the same words.
This focuses the attention on the connecting words in the middle, and magnifies the similarities or
differences. For example:
Lyndon B. Johnson, March 15, 1965:
“There is no Negro problem.
There is no Southern problem.
There is no Northern problem.
There is only an American problem.”


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When successive sentences increase in scope, this is known as climax. Note the amplification in the
passage below from Pope John Paul II as he transitions from individual (1 and 2) to country (3 and
4) to global community (5).
Pope John Paul II, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, October 2, 1979:
“At the close of this address, I wish to express once more before all the high representatives
of the States who are present a word of esteem and deep love for all the peoples, all the
nations of the earth, for all human communities. Each one has its own history and culture.
I hope that they will live and grow in the freedom and truth of their own history for that is
the measure of the common good of each one of them.
I hope that each person will live and grow strong with the moral force of the community that
forms its members as citizens.
I hope that the State authorities, while respecting the just rights of each citizen, will enjoy
the confidence of all for the common good.
I hope that all the nations, even the smallest, even those that do not yet enjoy full
sovereignty, and those that have been forcibly robbed of it, will meet in full equality with the
others in the United Nations Organization.
I hope that the United Nations will ever remain the supreme forum of peace and justice, the
authentic seat of freedom of peoples and individuals in their longing for a better future.”

5. Spice Up Your Speechwriting (Epiphora)

by Andrew Dlugan, Sep 7th, 2015.

If you could easily highlight key messages in your speech, would you do it?
If there were a simple way to be more memorable, would you do it?
If you could craft speech phrases that are more quotable, would you do it?
Epiphora is the key to spicing up your speechwriting. In this article, we define epiphora, cite several
famous examples, and help you add this rhetorical device to your speechwriting toolbox.

What is Epiphora? A Definition…

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Epiphora (or epistrophe) is the Greek term used to describe the repetition of the same word or
phrase at the end of successive clauses or sentences. It is sometimes called epistrophe and
antistrophe; however, I prefer to call it epiphora because it emphasizes the close relationship to
anaphora (repetition at the start of successive clauses or sentences).
One of the most famous examples of epiphora is from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,
November 19, 1863:
“… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of
the people,
by the people,
for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.”

In this case, Lincoln repeats “the people” at the end of three successive clauses. This amplifies his
idea that government is not an abstract, distant thing; government is intimately interconnected with
the people.
This technique is used heavily as a rhetorical device throughout literature, the arts, and famous
speeches. Through repetition, epiphora provides emphasis of key words and phrases. With
repetition falling at the end of clauses or sentences, epiphora draws words and ideas together to
create a focal point of sound and meaning.

Epiphora Speech Examples

In each of these examples, note how the repeated words (in bold) are central to the speaker’s
John F. Kennedy, “The Strategy for Peace”, June 10, 1963:
“The United States, as the world knows,
will never start a war.
We do not want a war.
We do not now expect a war.”
Malcolm X, “The Black Revolution”, June, 1963:
“Our brothers and sisters in Asia, who were colonized by the Europeans,
our brothers and sisters in Africa, who were colonized by the Europeans,
and in Latin America, the peasants, who were colonized by the Europeans,
have been involved in a struggle since 1945 to get the colonialists, or the colonizing powers,
the Europeans, off their land, out of their country.”
Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream“, August 28, 1963:
“With this faith, we will be able to work together,
to pray together,
to struggle together,

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to go to jail together,
to stand up for freedom together,
knowing that we will be free one day.”
Lyndon B. Johnson, March 15, 1965:
“There is no Negro problem.
There is no Southern problem.
There is no Northern problem.
There is only an American problem.
And we are met here tonight as Americans-not as Democrats or Republicans-we are met here
as Americans to solve that problem.”
Justin Trudeau, eulogy for his father (Pierre Elliot Trudeau), October 3, 2000:
“But more than anything, to me, he was dad.
And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He
taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept
responsibility for ourselves.”
Barack Obama, speech after New Hampshire primary loss, January 8, 2008:
“For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or
that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a
simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.
It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes,
we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through
the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed
westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.”
Kevin Rudd, “Indigenous Australian Stolen Generation”, February 13, 2008:
“For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their
families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families
and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture,
we say sorry.
To the stolen generations, I say the following:
as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.
On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry.
On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry.”

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“With repetition falling at the end of clauses or sentences, epiphora draws words and ideas
together to create a focal point of sound and meaning.”

With or Without Epiphora: Which is more powerful?

In compiling a list of epiphora examples, I discovered an interesting case where a Biblical passage is
published both with and without epiphora.
1 Corinthians 13: 11, New International Version Bible:
“When I was a child,
I talked like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
1 Corinthians 13: 11, New Living Translation Bible:
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put
away childish things.”

Though these translations essentially say the same thing, they have a different impact. The second
version (without epiphora) is shorter (and shorter is generally better in speeches), but the first
version (with epiphora) makes more impact. Imagine hearing this passage out loud, with vocal
emphasis on the repeated words and effective pauses.

A Guide for Using Epiphora in Your Speeches

Can you benefit from using ephiphora in your speeches? Absolutely! It doesn’t matter where you
speak, whether the boardroom, the ballroom, or the pulpit.
Guideline #1 – Don’t overdo it.
Like many other rhetorical devices, the impact is strongest when they stand out. For this reason, use
epiphora sparingly. In many speeches, one use is adequate.
In many famous speeches (like those quoted above), it is common to find one or two examples of
epiphora, but only very long speeches tend to have more than that.

Guideline #2 – Choose words key to your message.

Did you notice how the repeated words above were central to each speaker’s message?
 Malcolm X: “Europeans”
 Dr. King: “together”
 Kevin Rudd: “sorry”

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These words were not randomly selected. In the same way, you should choose key words for your
message and build epiphora around them.

Guideline #3 – Use pauses and vocal emphasis.

For maximum impact, use your vocal powers to draw attention to the repeated words. In this way,
the words help build up an emphatic cadence that your audience will long remember.

6. How to Write Memorable Speech Lines (Chiasmus)

by Andrew Dlugan, Nov 25th, 2012.

You can’t give the speech of your life until you first give life to your speeches.
One way to breathe life into your speeches is to craft memorable phrases that will linger on the lips
of your audience, and a great tool to help you achieve this goal is chiasmus.
In this article, we define what chiasmus is, study several famous (and not-so-famous) chiasmus
examples, and give some tips for crafting chiasmus into your own speeches.

What is Chiasmus? A Definition…

Chiasmus is a Greek term meaning “diagonal arrangement” It is used to describe two successive
clauses or sentences where the key words or phrases are repeated in both clauses, but in reverse
order. For this reason, chiasmus is sometimes known as a criss-cross figure of speech.
For example, consider the common phrase:
“When the going gets tough,
the tough get going!”
“Going” and “tough” are reversed in successive clauses, while the other words (when, the, gets)
bind them together and often include straightforward repetition (the, get/gets).

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In the general pattern, when your first clause contains two words A and B, then the second clause
contains the same words, but in reverse order:
“[1] … A… B…
[2] … B… A…”
Each of “A” and “B” can be either a single word, or a group of words. Graphically, it looks like this:

Isn’t that antimetabole?

Some rhetorical glossaries distinguish between chiasmus (diagonal arrangement of ideas and
grammar) and antimetabole (diagonal arrangement of exact words). According to this, every
example on this page is antimetabole. However, chiasmus is the more common term, and this subtle
distinction is probably beyond what most speakers care about. So, I’ll follow the lead of those who
describe both as chiasmus, like Jay Heinrichs. The key point is not knowing what it is called, but
rather using it in your speeches!

Chiasmus from John F. Kennedy

Chiasmus was a common technique used by John F. Kennedy (or perhaps his speechwriters). We
include just a few of his chiastic phrases here.
For example, the most famous line from his Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961) reverses your
country and you in successive parallel clauses:
“Ask not what your country can do for you
— ask what you can do for your country.”
In the same speech, he says:
“Let us never negotiate out of fear.
But let us never fear to negotiate.”
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 1961, he repeats that line,
slightly massaged to reflect his audience and his relationship to it:
“[…] we shall never negotiate out of fear,
we shall never fear to negotiate.”
The same speech includes:
“Mankind must put an end to war,
or war will put an end to mankind.”
Finally, his 1963 address on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty includes:
“Each increase of tension has produced an increase of arms;
each increase of arms has produced an increase of tension.”

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More Chiasmus Examples

Winston Churchill used chiasmus in his Iron Curtain speech (March 5, 1946):
“Let us preach what we practise —
let us practise what we preach.”
Ronald Reagan, speaking of relations between the United States and Soviet Union:
“We don’t mistrust each other because we’re armed;
we’re armed because we mistrust each other.”
Barack Obama, in 2006:
“My job is not to represent Washington to you,
but to represent you to Washington.”
Bill Clinton, 2008 Democratic National Convention:
“People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example
than by the example of our power.”
Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican National Convention:
“In politics there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers,
and there are those like John McCain who use their careers to promote change.”

Chiasmus in the Bible

There are entire websites devoted to Biblical passages built around chiastic patterns. Here, we
include just a couple from the New Testament:
Matthew 19:30 …
“But many who are first will be last,
and many who are last will be first.”
Matthew 23:12 …
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Chiasmus in Music
Crosby Stills, Nash & Young sang a famous song titled “Love the One You’re With”:
“And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey,
Love the one you’re with.”

Chiasmus in Literature
William Shakespeare, Richard II:
“I wasted time,
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and now time doth waste me.”

The motto of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Muskateers, (and also the unofficial motto of
“All for one,
and one for all.”
Horton the elephant’s signature phrase in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg:
“I meant what I said,
and I said what I meant.”

Chiasmus in Advertising
Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages:
“I am stuck on Band-Aid,
and Band-Aid‘s stuck on me.”

Chiasmus in Everyday Sayings

From popular wisdom:
“If you fail to plan,
then you plan to fail.”
“You can take the boy out of the country,
but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”
“Quitters never win
and winners never quit.”

A Guide for Using Chiasmus in Your Speeches

It’s not that hard to create your own chiasmus for your speeches. I crafted several of the examples
in this article in just a few minutes, including this one:
“I’d rather have lots of love and little money,
instead of lots of money and little love.”
It’s not as polished as “Ask not…”, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
To help you along, here are a few guidelines:
1. Use with moderation
2. Rethink relationships
3. Question causation

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4. Riff off chiasmus examples

Guideline 1: Use with Moderation

Chiasmus, like most rhetorical devices, is best when used in moderation. If you use chiasmus over
and over again, you’ll diminish the impact, and you’ll start to sound gimmicky.
For most speeches, one or two is enough.

Guideline 2: Rethink Relationships

Kennedy’s most famous chiasmus plays on the relationship between the country and the individual.
The criss-cross invites his audience to rethink the relationship between the two.
You, too, can take relationships and flip them around. Consider the relationship between a speaker
and the audience:
“A good audience listens to the speaker.
A great speaker listens to the audience.”
Or, the relationship between parents and children:
“In middle age, parents take care of their children;
In old age, children take care of them.”

Guideline 3: Question Causation

Several famous chiastic phrases play on the causation between two entities.
For example, the quotation from Ronald Reagan above questions whether arms cause mistrust, or
whether mistrust causes arms:
“We don’t mistrust each other because we’re armed;
we’re armed because we mistrust each other.”
Try taking other concepts and flipping them around. For example, in a speech questioning whether
failure causes despair, or vice versa:
“I give up when all is lost,
but all is lost only when I give up.”

Guideline 4: Riff off Chiasmus Examples

If you’ve never tried to craft chiasmus before, a good place to start is taking a known chiasmus and
using it as a template into which you can substitute one or both key repeated words.
Cicero is quoted as saying:
“One should eat to live,
not live to eat.”
This has been morphed numerous ways, including:

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“One should work to live,

not live to work.”
You could take the basic pattern and apply it your situation. For example, a speech about passion
while speaking might include:
“A professional speaker doesn’t just speak to live
— she lives to speak!”

While researching this article, I came across an intriguing book titled Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a
Kiss Fool You by Mardy Grothe. With hundreds of chiasmus examples, there’s an awful lot to riff off
of. I may have to add this to my Christmas list.

7. Parallelism 101: Add Clarity and Balance to Your Speeches

by Andrew Dlugan, 1.Aug 13th, 2013

Do you ever find yourself wishing that your audience understood you better? Do you have difficulty
conveying your great ideas clearly?
One of the most important writing techniques I ever learned was parallelism. Parallelism leads to
clear writing, and clear writing leads to clear speaking.
In this article, we define parallelism, study numerous examples, and discuss how you can
incorporate it into your speeches.

What is Parallelism?
Parallelism is the successive use of identical grammatical patterns of words, phrases, or sentences.
Sound boring? Wait — don’t give up yet!
Parallelism may involve repetition of some words, but more generally involves repetition of parts of
speech (e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives). It is sometimes referred to as parallel structure or parallel

Examples of Parallelism
Consider two examples from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, both of which involve some
repetition of individual words. In the first, the parallel pattern is “[preposition] the people”. In the
second, the parallel pattern is “we can not [verb]”.
“… government of the people, by the people, for the people…”
“… we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.”

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Feel the “[verb] any [noun]” parallel pattern repeated in John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural address:
“… we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose
any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

For a more contemporary example, consider Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:
“… that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never
graduated from high school.”

The parallel pattern here is a little longer: “that my [noun — related to me] had never graduated
from [noun — educational level]”

Benefits of Parallelism
Frequent effective use of parallelism is essential for clear writing.
Don’t believe me? Stroll through a sample of writing in any newspaper, magazine, textbook, or novel
and you are sure to trip over numerous examples of parallelism.
Speechwriting is no exception. Every speech benefits from the use of parallel structure. These
benefits include:
 Clarity – By organizing into parallel structures, you make it easier for your audience to
understand. This is especially important for speeches (compared with writing meant to be
read), as your audience doesn’t have the benefit of “re-reading” a passage over and over to
“get” the meaning.
 Balance – Pairs of parallel patterns roll off the tongue, resulting in a feeling of satisfaction.
 Rhythm – Three or more parallel patterns are often used to establish a powerful rhythmic
beat. (See the JFK example above.)
 Comparability – The similarity or contrast between two or more elements is emphasized
when brought together with parallel structure.
 Concision – Rephrasing an idea using parallelism nearly always results in a more concise
 Memorability – Because parallelism boosts all of the above qualities, the result is often more
memorable and more quotable lines in your speech.

How to Use Parallelism in Your Speeches

1. Use parallelism to emphasize a comparison or contrast.
Consider Neil Armstrong’s famous line spoken from the moon on July 20, 1969:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Note the contrast between “small step” and “giant leap”; and between “man” and “mankind”.
This form of parallelism even has a fancy name: syncrisis.

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For a less grand example, study Henry Ford’s off-the-mark comments about exercise:
“Exercise is bunk. If you are healthy, you don’t need it; if you are sick, you shouldn’t take it.”
Note the use of contrasting terms (“healthy”, “sick”) in parallel structure.

Finally, consider this hypothetical example from a political debate which uses parallel structure to
magnify the contrast between opposing ideologies:
“My social policies hold families together; your policies rip families apart.”

2. Use parallel structure for lists of words or phrases.

For example, note the repeated parallel structure “[verb] the [noun]”
“In anticipation of a visit, the homeowner cut the grass, trimmed the hedge, painted the
fence, and cleared the path.”

3. End parallel words or phrases with same letter combinations.

For example:
“The scientist hypothesized wisely, measured precisely, calculated exactly, and reported
With this “[past tense verb] [adverb]” parallel pattern, each phrase ends in “-ly”. This partial rhyme
creates a balanced, rhythmic sound.
This form of parallelism also has a fancy name: homoioteleuton. (Don’t worry… I don’t remember
that name either.)

4. Combine parallelism with the power of 3.

While you only need two elements to create parallel structures, there’s something magical about
three parallel elements. Read more in How to Use the Rule of Three in Your Speeches.
Once you’ve mastered the parallel triad, consider intentionally breaking the pattern in the last
element for a powerful or comedic effect. This is described in How to Add Power or Humor with the
Rule of Three.

5. Use parallelism on your slides and handouts.

Just as parallelism benefits your spoken words, it also benefits your printed words. Your slides and
handouts (when used) are an important presentation element; don’t neglect them. In particular,
check your bulleted lists to make sure that you’ve used parallelism correctly.
Caution! Don’t make your slides too wordy; audiences hate being read to. But if you must have text,
consider using parallel structure.

6. Use pauses and vocal variety to “mark” parallel structures.

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No matter how well a speech is written, a speaker who delivers it in a flat, monotone voice will ruin
it. Don’t be that speaker!
Use pauses and vocal variety to help convey the start or end of the parallel patterns. Your audience
can’t “see” your commas (or any other punctuation) to know where the parallel structures are
divided, so you have to convey them vocally.

8. 8 Ways to Use Contrast in Your Speeches

by Andrew Dlugan, May 21st, 2018.

What quality is vital to virtually all creative art forms, including literature, music, painting, sculpture,
photography, drama, and speechwriting?
What quality both sharpens the attention of your audience and makes them understand you better?
In this article, we’ll define contrast, explore its benefits, and examine many strategies for using
contrast in your next presentation.

What is Contrast?
Contrast is a very broad term referring to any difference–usually a large difference–between two or
more elements. The elements being contrasted might be anything: words, phrases, concepts,
anecdotes, story characters, sounds, actions, shapes, visuals, or emotions.
There are several degrees of contrast available to you, and each can be effectively used in speeches
and presentations:
 Opposite pairs of elements may be contrasted against one another, each helping to define
the other through their differences.
 Two or more elements which are not commonly associated with each other may be
juxtaposed in surprising ways.
 Two or more elements that belong in the same category are examined to highlight their

Contrast is Ubiquitous
Contrast is everywhere, so our brains are hard-wired to recognize it and seek it out. Don’t believe
me? Let’s consider just two examples, one contemporary and one from over 150 years ago.
For a lyrical example of contrast, consider the chorus for John Legend’s 2013 hit “All of Me”:
“Cause all of me
Loves all of you

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Love your curves and all your edges

All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning”

In eight short lines, five contrasting pairs of words (me-you, curves-edges, perfect-imperfections,
end-beginning, lose-winning) create wonderful balance and evocative imagery.
Arguably the most famous use of literary contrast is found in the opening lines of A Tale of Two
Cities (1859) by Charles Dickens:
“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way —“

Benefits of Contrast in Your Speeches

The first benefit of using contrast is that it sharpens the attention of your audience. Contrast
surprises your audience and draws them into your presentation because contrast is appealing. The
more you are able to capture and sustain your audience’s attention, the more likely they will
remember your message.
In her excellent book Resonate (Six Minutes review), Nancy Duarte expresses this idea powerfully:
“Presentations with a pulse have an ebb and flow to them. Those bursts of movement result
from contrast—contrast in content, emotion, and delivery. […]
Contrast […] is at the heart of communication, because people are attracted to things that
stand out.”

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The second benefit of using contrast is that it adds precision to your words and ideas by placing
them next to contrasting words and ideas. This, in turn, helps your audience understand your
In Writing Tools (Six Minutes review), Roy Peter Clark conveys this benefit succinctly:
“Put odd and interesting things next to each other. Help the reader learn from contrast.”

How to use Contrast in Your Presentation

If contrast is so vital, how can you incorporate it into your speeches and presentations? There are
numerous ways to inject contrast into both your content and delivery. Let’s examine just a few.
1. Contrasting Concepts
Organizing your overall presentation around contrasting themes is one of the most reliable
techniques you can choose. For example, consider the following common speech organization
 Advantages versus Disadvantages
 Status Quo versus Proposed
 Risks versus Opportunities
 Past/Present versus Future
 Problems versus Solutions
When you organize your speech around contrasting concepts, you create a natural cadence as you
shift between the two poles of the argument.

2. Contrasting Viewpoints
Within a presentation, you can study a topic from two or more contrasting viewpoints. For example,
consider three diverse speech topics–mass transit, corporate restructuring, and after-school
programs–which can be presented using a contrasting viewpoint strategy:
 Consider the impact of mass transit design on local residents, commuters, and tourists.
 Analyze the impact of corporate restructuring on engineering, accounting, and service
 Study the impact of after-school programs on students, staff, and parents.
By contrasting several different perspectives (e.g. local residents, commuters, and tourists), the
salient qualities of each perspective are clarified and amplified.
In addition, when you devote time to contrasting perspectives, you are generally seen as being fair,
balanced, and comprehensive.

3. Contrasting Phrases and Words

An easy technique to make your words more memorable is to employ contrasting phrases and
words in close proximity to one another. In his TED talk, Dan Pink (watch and read review) uses
contrast wonderfully, including this memorable line which he repeats four separate times:

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“There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.”

In Speak like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln (Six Minutes review), James C. Humes writes:
“If you want to coin your own Power Line, try pairing […] antonyms. Take one word for the
first part of the sentence and then its opposite for the second part.”

Two of the antonym pairs mentioned by Humes (end-beginning; win-lose) are employed in the John
Legend lyrics quoted earlier in this article.

4. Contrasting Visuals
Yesterday, I saw a television commercial which depicts a healthy, prosperous family having a
delightful lunch in a park. All seems normal until the parents hand their children bottles of (very)
dirty water. The commercial achieves its purpose—to highlight the lack of clean drinking water for
1.1 billion people—by using a contrasting visual scene to surprise the viewer.
You can trigger emotional and cognitive responses in your audience by employing contrasting slide
visuals in a variety of ways, including:
 Juxtapose objects which don’t “belong together” into a single image, like the dirty water
bottles in the park scene described above.
 Use a pair of contrasting images on the same slide.
 Use a series of slide images to set a pattern, and then follow them with a highly contrasting
image to create visual tension.

5. Contrasting Voice
Monotone speaking is sure to put your audience to sleep, so effective speakers incorporate a
healthy dose of vocal variety into their delivery. In particular, contrasting vocal qualities can be used
strategically as you present:
 Speak louder or quieter — Variations in volume should be used sparingly as you don’t want
to seem like you are yelling or whispering for the bulk of your presentation. However, when
used to emphasize special words or sentences, the contrast in your voice will immediately
heighten the attention of your audience.
 Speaking faster or slower — As with volume, your regular speaking rate should allow your
audience to understand you comfortably. In small doses, however, altering your rate is
powerful. Slowing down signals that you are delivering a key message that you want your
audience to remember. Speeding up, on the other hand, conveys heightened emotion and

6. Contrasting Gestures
One of my personal speaking challenges is to avoid the repetitive “arm thrust” throughout my talk.
It’s not that the action is necessarily negative when used in isolation, but any gesture that is used
too much weakens its effectiveness and leads to audience boredom. Instead, using varied gestures
is more effective.
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There are many types of contrasting gestures that complement your message effectively. For
 Left versus Right – You can indicate the passage of time by gesturing to the audience’s left
(past) or right (future).
 Down versus Up – You can emphasize the contrast between something short (by gesturing
down) and something tall (by gesturing up).
 Small versus Large – If you use smaller, constrained gestures (i.e. gestures close to the body)
for most of your presentation, you can generate huge impact by using a larger gesture (i.e.
gesture with arms extended).

7. Contrasting Movement
Just like contrasting gestures, contrasting full-body movement can be very effective in accentuating
your message and maintaining audience attention. There are infinite possibilities for full-body
movements; if you choose movements which are unique, you will achieve the desired contrast.
Note that the contrasting movement does not need to be relative to yourself. If you offer
movements which contrast other speakers at the event, the effect can be just as positive. For
example, if all other speakers at the event speak from a stationary position behind a lectern, you
have a great opportunity for contrast simply by venturing away from the lectern.
Beware of a pitfall when it comes to body movement. Avoid pacing methodically left and right, or
rocking forward and backward. Even though these are technically “contrasting movements”, the
effect you will produce is one of a swinging pendulum which will slowly soothe your audience to

8. Contrasting Emotions
I once attended a conference with a fabulously inspiring keynote speaker. Later at the conference,
I asked the speaker what she thought was the most important quality for a keynote address. She
said that her goal is always to make the audience laugh several times, cry several times, and end
with a smile. This reinforces the importance not only of connecting emotionally with an audience,
but also offering the audience contrasting emotions.
An entire presentation which evokes the same emotion throughout — whether it be sorrow, joy,
empathy, humor, love, or anything else — can be very flat and one-dimensional, just like a
monotone voice. On the other hand, a presentation which offers an array of contrasting emotional
cues creates an exciting cadence or rhythm that draws in audience members.
Contrasting emotions can be achieved in a variety of ways mentioned earlier, including your speech
themes, words, vocal variety, gestures, and visuals.

Andrew Dlugan is the editor and founder of Six Minutes. He teaches courses, leads seminars,
coaches speakers, and strives to avoid Suicide by PowerPoint. He is an award-winning public speaker
and speech evaluator. Andrew is a father and husband who resides in British Columbia, Canada.
Twitter: @6minutes

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