Today marks the first day of the West Cork Literary Festival. The festival began in 1997 and has since welcomed an array of talent, from emerging writers to international bestsellers.
To mark the occasion, we at MediaHQ have taken inspiration from the literary festival and have been looking at some of the most effective literary devices for you to use in your communications efforts.
Whether you’re crafting the perfect speech or writing an important press release, using literary devices to enhance your communications efforts can add structure to your work and boost the impact of your story.
The most well-remembered speeches are carefully crafted for maximum impact. In 2008, Barack Obama ran one of the most enduring campaigns in recent memory, his election successes can be attributed in large part to his near pitch-perfect speeches. Obama employed rhetorical devices in almost all of his public addresses, but the device we relate to him most strongly is perhaps his use of anaphora.
Anaphora is the repetition of key words or phrases at the start of successive clauses. It’s a clever and effective way of reiterating your central message. Here, in Obama’s 2009 inaugural address, we can find a perfect example of anaphora:
“Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many—and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”
“Our” is repeated throughout the address, but not so frequently that it becomes overwhelming.
Hypophora comes from the Greek “hypofora” meaning “putting under”. Hypophora occurs when a speaker, or writer, poses a question before immediately answering it. This has the effect of encouraging a sense of dialogue between a writer and their audience. The questions posed by the speaker are supposed to reflect the questions which might be occurring to the audience or readers at the time. Here is an example of hypophora from Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory:
“Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on window sills and shelves.Who are they for? Friends. Not necessarily neighbour friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we’ve met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who’ve struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt.”
Some of the best public speakers of all time have used hypophora to connect with listeners and to encourage closeness between themselves and their audience. Hypophora is also usually transitional, meaning that speakers will employ the use of this device when they want to smoothly transition to a new point.
Sometimes, in a bid to avoid wordiness, communications and PR professionals will be as economical as possible with their language. Often, however, pleonasm can be an effective literary tool to use in writing.
Pleonasm comes from the greek for “excess”, and it means to use more words than necessary to express an idea. Sometimes, this can be just one extra word, like “burning fire” instead of just “fire”. Pleonasm is effective as a communication tool because it allows you to add detail to your writing. It also allows you to subtly add emphasis where necessary. Here is an example of pleonasm from City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende:
“These terrible things I have seen with my own eyes, and I have heard with my own ears, and touched with my own hands…”
The word “own” is technically redundant, but it adds rhythm and emphasis to the sentence.
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