Stylistic devices

What is a stylistic device?

When you start to analyze the language of a speech, it may be useful to consider both the general style of the language and the stylistic devices that the speaker makes use of.

Note that the distinction between stylistic devices and rhetorical devices is somewhat debatable, so you may sometimes encounter a different division from the one we use in this guide. However, the most important thing is that you are aware of how each individual device works.

We generally regard stylistic devices as those devices which are used to make the speech look and sound better, in order to gain more attention and sympathy from the audience. In contrast, rhetorical devices are used to make the speech more convincing. Note that some devices may play both of these roles at once, which once again makes it difficult to make a sharp distinction between the two types of device.

As you can see, we cover a lot of different devices below. It is important to note that you should not attempt to find all of them in each individual speech you are working with. Instead, we recommend that you simply use this page to look up any specific devices that you may need to study in your particular speech.

Style

The style of a speech is affected by many different language elements, such as its sentence structure, grammar and choice of words.

A speech with a formal style will typically have long and somewhat complex sentences and will often contain advanced or technical words and phrases. In contrast, a speech with an informal style will have shorter sentences, which may even be incomplete. Other marks of informal style could be heavy use of contractions and the inclusion of everyday phrases, or slang.

It is usually important to consider the level of formality when you are working with a speech. However, note that few speeches are purely informal or purely formal, often they fall somewhere in between.

The style of a speech might also reflect the speaker’s personality and background, or the target audience the speech is meant to reach. For example, a speaker might wish to express herself in formal terms if she talks about a very theoretical subject or knows that her audience is formed of intellectuals. On the other hand, a speaker might wish to speak more informally to give the impression of being more relaxed and present herself as being on the same level of the audience - which might be a useful strategy when speaking to a non-specialist group of people.

It may be interesting to consider whether a speech breaks conventional stylistic norms. For example, Donald Trump is known for speaking in a very informal style where he tends to avoid advanced words and often includes incomplete sentences or slang. This is highly atypical for a political speaker, but might reflect his desire to reach a certain type of audience.

Choice of words

The choice of words in the speech can have a significant effect on how it is received. For example, it may be interesting to consider whether the w...

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