Deploying Style Effectively


Alliteration is a stylistic device whereby a series of words begin with the same consonant sound, which can help your audience’s listening.

Learning Objectives

Explain why public speakers use alliteration in public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Phrases like “busy as a bee,” “drop dead gorgeous,” “friends and family” are all examples of alliteration.
  • Alliteration adds a textural complexity to your speech that makes your words more engaging.
  • Take a creative writing or poetic mindset to approach adding alliteration to your speech.

Key Terms

  • alliteration: The repetition of consonants at the beginning of two or more words immediately succeeding each other, or at short intervals.

Alliteration: The game of Tic-Tac-Toe is a perfect example of alliteration. Each word in the game’s name begins with the letter “T.”

Alliteration: What Is It?

When you use the same repetitive sound at the beginning of a series of words or phrases, you are using alliteration. Typically, this means a string of words beginning with the same consonant or syllabic sound. While alliteration doesn’t serve much rhetorical purpose, you do make your case more compelling by using a beautiful form of expression and language.

Famous Alliteration in Speech

“I see also the dull, drilled, docile, brutish masses of the Hun soldiery plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts.” –Winston Churchill on the German invasion of Russia
“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. ” –John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
“Veni, vidi, vici. ” –Julius Caesar

Why Use It?

As mentioned, it won’t boost the efficacy of your argument but it will make it sound better. Alliteration adds a textural complexity to your speech that makes your words more engaging. When your speech is more engaging, your audience is more apt to pay attention and remain engaged with your words.

How to Use Alliteration

As you craft your speech, try to put on your poet’s cap. Alliteration is a technique often found in poetry, so take the time to get creative with the words and phrasing of your speech. Look for sentences that could use a little “oomph” and try playing around with alliterative words and phrases to make your words sparkle.


Anthesis adds stylistic texture to your speech through the presentation of contrasting ideas and an opposite point of view.

Learning Objectives

Give examples of antithesis in public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Contrast helps fully illustrate a concept by giving your audience a 360 degree understanding of your idea, claim, or argument.
  • Giving your audience a contrast of the thesis with an opposite point of view aims them in the direction of understanding the concept; you can then use your speech to more fully flesh out that idea.
  • If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to use antithesis in your speech, consider the opposing viewpoint of your main argument. From there, consider all the points of contrast that could be made from your main antithetical point.

Key Terms

  • antithesis: A device by which two contrasting ideas are juxtaposed in parallel form.


Antithesis is a counter-proposition that denotes a direct contrast to the original proposition. Antithesis is a way to express contrast through direct opposites. Light is the antithesis of dark, heaven is the antithesis of hell, and some would even say that cats are the antithesis of dogs.


Antithesis: Anthesis is a way of presenting contrast. Black is the antithesis of white and vice-versa.

Antithesis is also a way to describe contrasting ideas or themes: genocide is the antithesis of world peace, for example.

Why it is Used

Contrast is a very important stylistic choice to fully illustrate a concept. By explaining a concept, idea or argument with its opposite, you give your audience a 360 degree understanding of your point. Using something’s opposite helps to bolster the definition about what you’re speaking. By giving your audience a contrast with the opposite point of view, they have a better idea of the concept; if they do not, you can clarify further. Antithesis is a great way to lead into exactly how you want to portray an idea or argument.

How to Use Antithesis

Antithesis makes for a great way to set up your argument or idea by showing your audience the opposite. From there, you can then specifically tailor your argument to fill the void left when describing its opposite. If you are having a hard time trying to decide how to use antithesis effectively, consider the main point you are trying to make with your speech. What would the opposing point be? Use that as a springboard to begin pinning down points of contrast to give your speech stylistic texture.


Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration or overstatement to get your point across to your audience.

Learning Objectives

State how hyperbole can be used as a stylistic tool in speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • When hearing a hyperbole, ask yourself: is this claim really true?
  • While you want to avoid generalizations in your speech as much as possible, there are advantages to using hyperbole since it can be used as an effective persuasive device.
  • Don’t rely on hyperbole alone to substantiate your claims; instead, use it as a strategic stylistic choice to enliven your words and infuse them with persuasive meaning.

Key Terms

  • hyperbole: Extreme exaggeration or overstatement; especially as a literary or rhetorical device.

Hyberbole: Hyperbole is a form of exaggeration. Do you really think these are THE most touching records EVER made?

Hyperbole: What Is It?

Hyperbole comes from the Greek word meaning exaggeration and that is exactly what it is. Often, you can identify hyperbolic claims by certain trigger words such as “most,” “best,” or “worst. ” But not all hyperbole is that clear cut. The question you must ask upon hearing a hyperbolic statement is whether or not it’s actually a true statement. Hyperbole would have you believe so, and that’s what makes it an effective and strategic stylistic choice.

Why Use It?

While you want to avoid generalizations in your speech as much as possible, there are advantages to using hyperbole. They can be used like any other descriptive form of language to help paint a more vivid picture for your audience. Hyperbole also serves as a form of persuasion, to really make your case to an audience. The use of exaggeration or overstatement can make your speech that much more persuasive.

How to Use Hyperbole

Like any stylistic choice, be strategic. You don’t want your speech to consist solely of hyperbole as your audience will quickly begin to see that your argument has no basis. You can also use it to be more relatable to your audience or to simply communicate your point with a more vivid, engaging style. If you were speaking about a world leader, you might say, “they have the weight of the world on their shoulders” instead of “world leaders have a lot to deal with. ” We know that a world leader does not, in fact carry a weight of 6.6 sextillion tons of the Earth’s physical weight. But using that phrase communicates just how difficult it is to carry the burdens of global leadership.


Onomatopoeia is a stylistic choice to represent sound within words and can be used as an attention-getting device in your speech.

Learning Objectives

Indicate when and how onomatopoeia should be used in speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Words like “meow,” “boom,” “bleep” and “boing” each represent the sound they make. These are each examples of onomatopoeia.
  • Onomatopoeia, because of its jarring nature, often acts as a great way to emphasize something.
  • Consider using onomatopoeia strategically and sparingly to make a bold or memorable statement.

Key Terms

  • onomatopoeia: A word that sounds like what it represents, such as “gurgle” or “hiss.”
The word "Slam."

Onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates a sound.

Onomatopoeia: What Is It?

Have you ever read an old Batman comic and seen action bubbles with words like “Boff! ” “Pow! ” and “Boom!”? These are all examples of onomatopoeia.

From the Greek, onomatopoeia is a combination of the words “I make” and “sound. ” At its most basic, onomatopoeia are words that represent the sounds they make. Whether it’s the woof of a dog or the wubwubwub of dub step, onomatopoeia captures that sound within a representational word. Many of these words have become a part of everyday language and you may not even realize you’re using onomatopoeia in the first place.

Why Use It?

Onomatopoeia can be a very effective and catchy stylistic choice to use in your speech. Since these words are representations of sound, they can often be jarring. They’re a great way to grab an audience ‘s attention when used in the right way. Some onomatopoeia are even part of common phrases and quotes, adding to the relatability of your speech:

  • Pow! Right in the kisser.
  • If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.
  • Snap, crackle, pop! (Rice Krispies jingle)

How to Use Onomatopoeia

The key to using onomatopoeia is to use it sparingly. Because onomatopoeia can be jarring, you don’t want your speech to be so punctuated by it that it makes it hard to listen to as an audience member. Consider using onomatopoeia when you need to make a bold or memorable point with your audience, perhaps as even a form of verbal punctuation. Onomatopoeia, like other styles of descriptive language, can help paint a visual – and aural – picture in the minds of your audience.


Personification can refer to speaking as another person or thing, or assigning human qualities to a non-human animal, object or idea.

Learning Objectives

Identify the the different uses of personification in public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Personification adds a colorful way to describe complex ideas to your audience.
  • When using prosopopoeia, your audience will project their reaction on that which you’re trying to be and not on you as the speaker.
  • Speaking as another person or idea is helpful to deflect negative response to the words you’re saying, but because you’re saying them as someone else, the audience is less likely to blame you for your words.

Key Terms

  • personification: A figure of speech, prosopopeia, in which an inanimate object or an abstraction is given human qualities.
  • prosopopoeia: A prosopopoeia (Greek: π) is a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer communicates to the audience by speaking as another person or object.
A picture of Donald Duck.

Personification: Anthropomorphism is a form of personification. It associates human qualities and characteristics with non-human animals.

Personification: What Is It?

Personification is a rhetorical device where a speaker speaks as another person or object (in a style known as prosopopoeia). It can also refer to the assignment of human characteristics and qualities to non-human animals, inanimate objects or abstract ideas. A simple way to think about personification is to consider the characters of some of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons: Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As a form of hyperbole, we know these animals can’t speak English, go on madcap adventures in Disney World or use martial arts to right crime. But their personification makes them more human to us.

Why Use It?

In addition to being an artful form of speaking, personification can be used to more vividly make your point. Personification is a way of using storytelling to craft your speech by personifying complex or abstract ideas or thoughts. Your audience may better understand a complex subject when you give it human qualities and characteristics.

How to Use Personification

There are two ways to approach personification: to speak as another person to make a point or to personify an inanimate object, animal or abstract thought. In the former case, when you speak as someone or something else, your audience will project their reaction on that which you’re trying to be and not on you as the speaker. This is helpful to deflect negative response to the words you’re saying, but because you’re saying them as someone else, the audience is less likely to blame you for your words.

An example of speaking as something else is when President Abraham Lincoln constructs a mock debate between Republicans and the South, emerging as the spokesman for the Republican party:

“You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it; and what is your proof? Harper’s Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper’s Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need to be told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true, is simply malicious slander. ” – Abraham Lincoln, Cooper Union Address

In the second instance, assigning human qualities to an object or idea also helps deflect negativity while bolstering the strength of your words and ideas. A particularly stark example of this could be seen at the 2012 Republican National Convention, when actor Clint Eastwood physically addressed and spoke to an empty chair representing President Barack Obama as if he were sitting there:

“So I — so I’ve got Mr. Obama sitting here. And he’s — I was going to ask him a couple of questions. So, Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? ” – Clint Eastwood, Republican National Convention speech

Repetition and Parallelism

Repetition and parallelism can add clarity and dramatic punch to your speech.

Learning Objectives

Distinguish between the use of repetition and parallelism in speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Repetition should be used sparingly and strategically. Pick your most influential statement and weave its repetition throughout your speech.
  • Use parallelism to use similar constructs to approach the same sentence. Add balance and break up repetition by adding parallelism to further emphasize your ideas.
  • You may decide to use repetition and parallelism to drive home the most important takeaway messages from your speech.

Key Terms

  • Parallelism: the juxtaposition of two or more identical or equivalent syntactic constructions, especially those expressing the same sentiment with slight modifications, introduced for rhetorical effect.
  • repetition: the act or an instance of repeating or being repeated.
A picture of a man and woman talking while sitting next to a statue.

Repetition and Parallelism: Repetition and parallelism of ideas and concepts can really emphasize the point of a speech to an audience, while establishing balance in the argument.

Repetition & Parallelism: What Are They?

When you repeat similar ideas or themes in your speech, you are using repetition as a stylistic choice. Similarly, parallelism is a structured use of repetition by using identical or equivalent constructions in corresponding clauses to express the same sentiment.

Why Use Them?

Parallelism is an especially effective technique to provide structure, order, and balance in your speech, in addition to clarifying your argument. Repetition also helps emphasize your point to your directly to your audience. The audience is more likely to remember something that has been repeated. Parallelism works the same way but without rote repetition of words or ideas and instead constructs them from similar examples.

How to Use Repetition and Parallelism

Repetition is fine in small doses, but you don’t want to sound like a broken record. Consider using repetition of the same phrase or words only for those statements that you would like to be the most memorable and influential and weave them throughout your speech. You can also use them in close proximity for an especially dramatic effect. For example:

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end,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; we shall never surrender. ” – Winston Churchill

Parallelism is a very effective way to break up your use of repetition by laying out many different ways of expressing the same thought or idea. See below how parallelism was used in these two speakers:

“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. ” – John F. Kennedy
“Today’s students can put dope in their veins or hope in their brains. If they can conceive it and believe it, they can achieve it. They must know it is not their aptitude but their attitude that will determine their altitude. ” – Reverend Jesse Jackson

Simile and Metaphor

Simile and metaphor are creative ways of making comparisons in your speech.

Learning Objectives

Differentiate between the use of a simile and metaphor in public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Similes and metaphors are composed of two parts: a tenor and a vehicle. A tenor is the subject that is being compared or described; the vehicle is the comparison used to describe the subject.
  • Both similes and metaphors use tenors and vehicles, the only difference being that similes connect the two with the words “like” or “as” while a metaphor simply states a tenor is a vehicle.
  • Similes and metaphors are wonderful ways to bring your creativity and style to your speech.

Key Terms

  • simile: A figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another, in the case of English generally using like or as.
  • metaphor: The use of a word or phrase to refer to something that it isn’t, invoking a direct similarity between the word or phrase used and the thing described, but without the words like or as, which would imply a simile.

Metaphor: Using descriptive language adds variety and creativity to your speech.

Simile & Metaphor: What Are They?

Similes and metaphors are forms of descriptive language that make comparisons. Similes make their comparisons by using the words “like” or “as” while metaphors directly state what something is.

Why Use Them?

Simile and metaphor are artful ways of speaking to make a comparison. With simile and metaphor, you can paint pictures in the minds of your audience members. They make for more engaging and compelling ways of describing something, which means your audience is more likely to pay attention to what you have to say. Additionally, you have the chance to make bold stylistic choices in your speech through the construction of creative similes and metaphors.

How to Use Simile and Metaphor

Simile and metaphor are constructed of two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor refers to the subject itself, that which is being described. The vehicle is the comparison or description used to describe the subject. With simile, the tenor and vehicle are linked by the words “like” or “as” whereas metaphor simply states the tenor is the vehicle.

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances. ” William Shakespeare, As You Like It

In the example above, the tenor of Shakespeare’s line is the world. The vehicle of this metaphor is a stage, with an additional tenor of men and women represented by actors as a vehicle.

As you craft your speech, look for sections that could use vivd imagery; how do you want to make your words stand out in the minds of your audience? What picture do you want to paint with your words?