Rhetorical Devices: Anaphora

This post is part of a series on rhetoric and rhetorical devices. For other posts in the series, please click this link.

Device: Anaphora

Origin: From the Greek ἀναφορά (anafora), meaning “to bring back” or “to carry back”.

In plain English: Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses.

Effect:

  • Key words or ideas are emphasized, often with great emotional pull.
  • Repetition makes the line memorable.
  • The speaker’s words have rhythm and cadence.

Notes:

  • In English, an active sentence (“We developed the plan.”) is more effective than a passive sentence (“The plan was developed by us.”). Thus, anaphora is particularly effective when one wishes to emphasize the subject of an action.
  • Anaphora, like any rhetorical device, can be overused.
  • Speakers should be careful to limit the number of times a word or phrase is used in a single anaphora. For most speeches and presentations, three is an ideal number. Beyond three, a speaker risks sounding affected, theatrical or bombastic.
  • The examples below from Churchill, Kinnock and King are exceptions, delivered by exceptional speakers in exceptional circumstances. The examples from Jobs and Aylward are better suited for most presentations.
  • The counterpoint to anaphora is epistrophe.

Examples:

I came, I saw, I conquered.”

— Julius Caesar, shortly after the Battle of Zela, 47 BC

———

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 …”

 Winston Churchill, House of Commons, London, England, 4 June 1940

———

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr., Washington, D.C., 28 August 1963

———

“If Margret Thatcher wins, I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, I warn you not to get old.”

— Neil Kinnock, Bridgend, Wales, 7 June 1983

———

“As you know, we’ve got the iPod, best music player in the world. We’ve got the iPod Nanos, brand new models, colors are back. We’ve got the amazing new iPod Shuffle.”

— Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007 Keynote Address

———

We have a new vaccine, we have new resolve and we have new tactics.”

— Bruce Aylward, TED Talk, March 2011

Advertisements

About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
This entry was posted in Rhetoric and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Rhetorical Devices: Anaphora

  1. Pingback: Rhetorical Devices: Symploce | Manner of Speaking

  2. Pingback: Analysis of a speech by Bishop Michael Curry | Manner of Speaking

  3. Pingback: 50th Anniversary of the Death of Martin Luther King Jr. | Manner of Speaking

  4. Salma says:

    Hey, Jon
    I’m trying to reference your work in my report, do you know the date which this page was published?
    Much thanks,
    Salma

    Like

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi Salma. You can find the date for any post by looking at the long URL address. The date is always there. In the case of this post on anaphora, the date was 4 June 2011. Be careful when reading the dates, the order (which is not set by me) is year / month / day. It can be tricky when the day in question is the 12th or earlier because it is easy to confuse with the month.

      Hope this helps and good luck with your report.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Analysis of a speech by Oprah Winfrey | Manner of Speaking

  6. Pingback: Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address | Manner of Speaking

  7. Pingback: Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech | Manner of Speaking

  8. Pingback: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: An analysis of their speeches | Manner of Speaking

  9. Pingback: Speechwriting Lessons from Trump, Obama, and Clinton | Sam Cooper

  10. Pingback: The Rhetorical Genius of Muhammad Ali | Manner of Speaking

  11. Pingback: The Most Astounding Fact – Neil deGrasse Tyson | Manner of Speaking

  12. Pingback: Barack Obama’s Speech on Gun Control | Manner of Speaking

  13. Pingback: Analysis of a speech by Dan Gilbert | Manner of Speaking

  14. Pingback: Analysis of a Speech by Monica Lewinsky | Manner of Speaking

  15. Pingback: Are you crafting words that have power?

  16. Pingback: The Elements of Eloquence | Manner of Speaking

  17. Pingback: “It’s Halftime in America” — An Analysis | Manner of Speaking

  18. Pingback: Rhetorical Devices: Commoratio | Manner of Speaking

  19. Pingback: Rhetorical Devices: Epanalepsis | Manner of Speaking

  20. Pingback: “It’s Halftime in America” — An Analysis | Manner of Speaking

  21. Pingback: Rhetorical Devices: Asyndeton | Manner of Speaking

  22. Pingback: Rhetorical Devices: Epizeuxis | Manner of Speaking

  23. Pingback: Rhetorical Devices: Epistrophe | Manner of Speaking

  24. Keith Davis says:

    Hi John
    “Rhetorical Devices: Anaphora”
    Well explained with great examples.

    I love a bit of rhetoric, but people seem reluctant to use it.
    Don’t know why.
    It can really lift a speech.

    I love Max Atkinson’s take on rhetoric.
    He explains things in a very easy to understand way – notice that you have a link to his blog.

    Got a very short video over on easyP.
    Would love to know what you think about it.
    I’ll say no more.

    Cheers John

    Keith

    Like

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hey, Keith. Thanks for the comment. I agree with you about rhetoric. It has managed to pick up a bad reputation over the years, which is a shame. I read Max’s blog all the time and he and I are in regular contact on Twitter. His book(s) is/are on my list of “must reads”. And I will certainly drop by Easy Public Speaking soon to check out the video. The last video was great, so you have a tough act to follow. But I’m sure you’ll be up to it.

      John

      Like

      • Keith Davis says:

        Hi John,

        Max’s book “Lend Me Your Ears” is a book I read about once a year. Always find something new in it.

        Don’t worry, this video is less than 4 mins.

        Like

Leave a Reply to John Zimmer Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.