Rhetorical Devices in Speech

When we hear a speech, it can be easy or difficult to remember the topic and the content depending on the skill of the speaker. But remembering key ideas is made easier when the speaker is not only a skilled orator, but a skilled writer. The better the writing, the more the audience remembers.

Even a so-so speaker can make memorable statement stick when a speech is well written. Let’s look at three good rhetorical devices that can help make speeches more memorable.


Parallelism is a literary device in which parts of the sentence are grammatically the same or are similar in construction. It can be a word, a phrase, or an entire sentence that is repeated. Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' repetition made his speech compelling and rhythmic, as well as memorable.

In his inaugural speech, John F. Kennedy used this device well when he said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Alliteration (one of my favorites)

Alliteration is a figure of speech and a stylistic literarydevice which is identified by the repeated sound of the first or second letter in a series of words, or the repetition of the same letter sounds in stressed syllables of a phrase.

There are two kinds of alliteration that we can distinguish:

The first is immediate juxtaposition. Immediate juxtaposition occurs when the second consonant sound follows right after the first like—back-to-back.

The second is non-immediate juxtaposition. This occurs when the consonants occur in nonadjacent words. For example:

“Somewhere at this very moment a child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child aa happy home, a healthy family, and a hopeful future.”


Antithesis means opposite and is used as a device to put two contrasting ideas together. This emphasizes the difference between the two ideas and adds interest when used in speaking. A good example can be found in the Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here. But it can never forget what they did here.”

Inserting these and other devices in your speech will improve not only the quality of the writing, but the adherence of the material—especially key points—in the ears and minds of your listeners.

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