Understanding Rhetoric B-E Terms

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AP English Language and Composition

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36 Terms


inflated or pretentious language that does not match the context of its use ('I have an affinity for that peculiarly American sandwich, known to commoners as a hamburger")


an author's choice of words, usually alliterative, that create a harsh, discordant, grating sound when read aloud. ("I beat the Crab King and killed his pitiful pets.")


occurs when an author exaggerates or distorts certain traits of an individual for a ludicrous effect (Roderigo's weakness, exaggerated to an almost humorous level)


the reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases. (Fair is foul, and foul is fair)


unnecessary wordiness, the use of many words when a few would express the idea with clarity. ("She successfully avoided the tag" obviously it was successful, why add the word?)


the proposition put forth in an argument. Can be absolute or qualified. (Ants are a nuisance.)


a statement that contains a noun and a verb. Can be dependent on another one (Odysseus being very cunning and able to get out of any scrape) or independent (Odysseus was cunning and could get out of any scrape)


an expression that has become ineffective through overuse. (as easy as pie)


an informal expression that is conversational in nature and usually reflects the culture or an area/group; vernacular. Acceptable in writing if used purposefully, since they can provide characterization. (sub vs hoagie, can explain where the character is from)


a form of punctuation typically used to introduce lists in a sentence. Should not interrupt an independent clause (Today at camp we did my favorite things: hiking, swimming, and storytelling)

Complex sentence

composed of at least one dependent clause and one independent clause joined in one sentence. (Because you dropped the ball, you are benched.)

Compound sentence

composed of two or more independent clauses that are joined in one sentence. (I like coffee, but she likes tea) (Number 3 Sentence)


refers to specific, particular, or material details. Opposite of abstract. (He grinned as he pocketed the coin.)


refers to the implied or suggested meaning of a word. (fox implies slick, sneaky)


the repetition of two or more consonant sounds in a series of words. (Splish splash)

Coordinating conjunction

words that provide a loose link among items that are equal in rank. (FANBOYS)


the process of reasoning from a general claim to the specific cases.


refers to the direct relationship between a term and the object, idea, or action it signifies (fox is a small woodland creature)

Dependent clause

A clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence, it requires an independent clause to give it meaning (Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me)


one of the four primary modes of writing in composition courses, exposition, narrative, and analysis are the others. Can be either objective or subjective


spoken words, either real or imagined, that are recorded in a piece of writing. Useful for revealing aspects of a character's personality, as well as events in the narrative


refers to the choice of words in a piece of speech or writing. Closely related to tone.


attempts to teach a moral or lesson in a work or fiction or non-fiction.


a movement away from the main focus in a speech or writing. Can be intentional or unintentional

Direct Object

a person or thing affected by the action of a transitive verb. ("James fought his nemesis behind Walmart" who did James fight? His nemesis)


a belittling expression used to describe someone or something. Used to emphasize shortcomings, failings. ("I hate your stupid, ugly monster face" instead of just "I think you're unattractive")


3 successive periods that indicate the intentional omission of words in a thought or quote. (...)

Elliptical Construction

the deliberate omission of words from a sentence for rhetorical effect. ("Junior year was rough and senior year the same." no "was" when talking about senior year)


the placement of important ideas and words within sentences and longer units of writing so that they have the greatest impact. Achieved by any means that highlight a syllable, word, phrase, etc. ("Get to your room, now!" Now is highlighted by the exclamation mark and placement in the sentence.)


a work of poetry or prose that is presented in a series of letters.


a figure of speech where successive phrases or clauses all end with the same word. (When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child)


a word or phrase which is attached to a character for the purposes of description in a work of literature or non-fiction. (Alexander the Great)


a person in a work of fiction whose name is derived from the title or vice versa (Song of Achilles)


the characteristic spirit or ideal that informs a work. Also refers more generally to the ethics or values of the the arguer: honesty, trust-worthiness, and morality. (My 10 years of military experience should indicate that I am ready to lead the country as President)


a mild or pleasant-sounding expression that substitutes for harsh, indelicate ideas. Often used to soften the impact of what is being discussed. ("Gil has passed away" vs "He died of a crippling heart attack")


the grounds upon which a judgement or argument is based, proof.