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Monday, February 10, 2020

Tricks of the Trade #3 - epiplexis, epistrophe, erotema and hypophora

Four more rhetorical techniques this week, with examples of how to use them in speeches on the motion: 'This house would make homophobic speech illegal.'

Epiplexis (a series of rhetorical questions)

This is when you ask several rhetorical questions (see erotema below), usually to express anger or indignation. ‘Are we going to stand by as gay teenagers are bullied? Will we do nothing as they self-harm? Will we remain silent as the suicide rate mounts? Will we be able to sleep at night if we do nothing? Are we really that unfeeling?’

Epistrophe (repeated endings)

This is a kind of opposite version of anaphora, in which the same word or phrase is repeated at the end of phrases or sentences. 

‘Controlling what people write in newspapers is oppressive; saying what they can and can't write online is oppressive; dictating to them what they message or say on phones is oppressive; policing what they say to each other is oppressive; forcing them to censor, perhaps, even their own thoughts, can only be described as oppressive.’

Erotema (rhetorical question)


A question which can only have one answer; one which will reinforce your argument. ‘Is it right that gay teenagers should walk in fear?’ ‘Do we want to live in a society where you can be sent to prison for what you say?’


Hypophora (asking yourself questions and answering them)


This is a technique much used by politicians, as it makes it look as if they are subjecting themselves to scrutiny, when in fact it is the equivalent of setting your own exam and then marking it yourself. However, it can be an effective, easy to follow way of setting out a case. ‘Why should we make homophobic speech illegal? Because words are not just words; they lead to actions. How do they lead to actions? Abusive language licenses violence. How does it license violence? If you demean people in the way you speak about them, you make it more acceptable to attack them physically.’


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