A Rhetorically Dissipated Day.


I have not yet written today.

Do I feel bad about it? Am I berating myself for my irresponsible laziness?

Not really, no.

I spent the day reading The Elements of Eloquenceby Mark Forsyth, otherwise known as “The Inky Fool.” (The links are to the book’s listing on Amazon and Mr. Forsyth’s blog, respectively, by the way.) I’ve studied the rhetorical devices before, and I’m not going to lie, I found them mind-numbingly dull. In fact, I was bored out of my gourd. But this book, ladies and gents, THIS BOOK IS HILARIOUS. And I’m actually learning. I mean, listen to this definition of Pleonasm:

“Pleonasm is the use of unneeded words that are superfluous and unnecessary in a sentence that doesn’t require them. It’s repeating the same thing again twice, and it annoys and irritates people…”

“… I have never said the words ‘free gift.’ It would seem a sinister thing to say when gathered around the Christmas tree. ‘Here’s my free gift, and, as an added bonus, here’s a festive Christmas card.’ People would think I’d gone mad. Yet, if you wander into a shop or make the terrible mistake of turning on the television or radio, you will hear of havens that are safe, cooperation that is mutual, and prizes that are, it turns out, to be won.”

Come on. If that isn’t the best way to make the definition of Pleonasm stick in your head, I’d like to see your way. He also has his fantastically British way of putting things working in his favor, and demonstrates the various verse meters with “te-TUM te-TUM te-TUM” and “higgledy piggledy wiggledy woo.”

I’m sold.

Add to that the fact that he quotes everybody from Shakespeare to P.G. Wodehouse to Katy Perry as examples, and I’d say that my day has been well spent.

Note: I don’t intend for this blog to become a book-review blog, but I simply couldn’t resist, in this case. I’m enjoying it so much. Just call it part of my toolkit, and it becomes as much a part of my writing process as anything else.


3 thoughts on “A Rhetorically Dissipated Day.

  1. Same here. I just loved it.
    But being a writer myself, I tried to put the knowledge into practice. And that’s when I discovered that Forsyth is not very clear about the effect of many of the rhetorical devices. The book would have been better, even better, more useful, if he had added this sort of information. I mean, some devices are pure ornaments, others help to persuade the reader, others yet make complicated concepts clearer, then there are the ones that help the reader memorise stuff, those that build up suspense, etc. Forsyth mentions several of these things, but in passing and far from consistently.
    I will recommend the book as it is to anyone who loves language and wants to have a good time. But it had this disappointing little flaw. What do you think?


    • Interesting thought. I have begun to notice when I inadvertently use the devices in my writing, but I have not yet actively practiced them, so it’s hard to say. I found, at least in passing, that many of the effects were easy to see simply from reading the examples he provides, but I agree with you that it would have been great, as a writer-in-training, if he had stated them explicitly. Thanks for commenting! I’ll definitely be reading the book again with this in mind.


  2. Pingback: Intoxicating Rhetorical Poetry. | elisabeth anne writes things

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