One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
-Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
What’s So Great About Peter Piper’s Peppers?
Okay, folks. Let’s talk more about rhetorical devices.
I promise you’re not going back to English class, here — not much, anyway. Rhetorical devices are just nifty language tricks that will make your audience read your work. That’s it. Simple, easy to learn, and incredibly effective.
Last time we discussed what rhetorical devices are (nifty word tricks), why they work (your brain likes patterns), why they’re important (your readers will keep reading), and which four devices are important for bloggers (alliteration, assonance, rhyme and meter.) Next up … alliteration!
Alliteration is the name for a series of identical initial consonants distributed throughout a phrase.
Big name for a simple concept, isn’t it? Alliteration is just the repetition of a consonant sound. It’s especially effective if you use it in words located near or next to each other. For instance, I used alliteration on an S in the header of my first blog post. “Say it in one second” is a five-word phrase in which two words begin with an S. That’s a high ratio of S to other consonants in a short phrase; your brain hasn’t had time to forget the first S before it hears the second one. And as we talked about last time, your brain likes patterns. Hearing the same sound twice in a row is like hearing people clap their hands in rhythm. It pleases some part of us, and makes us want to join in.
You definitely want your audience to want to join in your content. That’s a huge plus, right there.
So that’s it — alliteration in a nutshell. But if you want more about the nuts and bolts of the device … read on!
To have and to hold.
In my last post I discussed grabbing your audience quickly. But that leaves one important question: How?
By using time-tested combinations of sounds to create phrases that interest your audience, you can engage them quickly and often on an entirely unconscious level. These tools are called rhetorical devices. They are the purview of poets, lyricists, novelists, journalists … and you.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to review your entire high school English curriculum. In my opinion, bloggers need to know only four rhetorical devices to create engaging prose. I’ll give you their names, but you don’t have to remember those if you don’t want to. Just remember how these tools work and you’ll be on your way to better, more interesting blog content.
The top four blogger-friendly rhetorical devices are:
Rhyme (all kinds); and
Why Use Rhetorical Devices?
Rhetorical devices work because the human brain likes patterns. Each of the devices above involves creating a pattern of sounds by using words that are similar in some way.
Say it in one second.
This is the secret to writing for the web: grab your audience in one second flat. That’s it. One second. Not three, not two. Five, as they say, is right out.
Your audience’s attention comes at a premium. It doesn’t matter how eloquent you are, how graceful your prose, if you lose their interest. Don’t mince words.
Why? Just look around you.
Go on … right now. Look at your screen. What do you see?
Words. You see thousands of words. Your screen is saturated with words from advertisers, from your friends, from this and the other ten articles you’re reading while you email your brother and G-chat your college suitemate. (No, really — that’s what I’m doing right this second. Sound familiar?)
We’re all minnows in the great river of the Internet, and it moves quickly. So if you want your audience swimming in your particular current, catch them fast or lost them forever. Then, once you’ve caught them — keep them.
So what should you say?
That’s the more interesting question. You have this new blog, this new product to sell, this new business to get underway. You want to be successful. You’re excited about connecting with your audience. You know you have great ideas — you just have to figure out how to get people to read them. So what should you say?