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Syntax Style

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The syntax of a sentence can be used to affect the style of writing and to spice up the prose if not overused. There are several kinds of syntactical devices. Here are a few:

Anaphora

It’s a syntax style consisting of a repetition of the same word at the start of a sentence.

Example: “I despise the man. I despise his stand on the issues. I despise those who admire him!”

Antithesis

These are concepts standing in opposition of one another.

Example: “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

Example: “Setting foot on the moon is one small step for a man and one giant leap for mankind.”

Chiasmus

It is symmetry in grammatical structure whereby two clauses are used with a reversal of structure against one another.

Example: John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Epistrophe

This is a repetition of the same word at the end of a sentence (the opposite of anaphora).

Example: “I avoid the man. I despise the man. I condemn the man!”

Parallelism

This is another form of symmetry in grammatical structure using elements that are similar or identical in meaning, meter, sound, or structure.

Example: They include common expressions like, “Easy come, easy go”; “Like father, like son”; or “What goes around, comes around.”

Example: “Walking is slow, long, and tiring.”

Zeugma

This is a single word (most often a verb) that applies to two or more words (usually nouns) in the same sentence. The meanings can create literal and metaphorical connotations.

Example: “He opened her front door and the secrets in his heart.”

Example: “His plane and his ambitions crashed.”

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Eugene Orlando is a board member, group leader, regional director, and lifetime member of the FWA. He is also an author of works of fiction and books on writing. Early in 2015, he became an editor for FWA’s “Editors Helping Writers” program and is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

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5 Responses

  1. Marie Brack
    | Reply

    The items mentioned are “literary devices.” They add color and flavor to writing. There are a zillion of them at http://www.literarydevices.net, a very interesting site.

    Syntax is something else:
    syn·tax ˈsinˌtaks/
    noun
    the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language. “the syntax of English”
    a set of rules for or an analysis of this.
    plural noun: syntaxes
    “generative syntax”
    the branch of linguistics that deals with this.

    • Preston
      | Reply

      Actually, they might more properly be called “rhetorical devices,” although the article does not address why these devices might be used.

      I have issues with some example and definitions, but the ones for parallelism bothers me the most. A sentence does not have to contain clichés or other “common” sayings in order to have parallel construction. Plus, if you’re going to capitalize each sentence in the example, then end each sentence with a period, not a semicolon. Semicolons connect two independent clauses (with the second one not being capitalized.) Semicolons are not terminal punctuation.

  2. Tricia Pimental
    | Reply

    Super post, Eugene. Thank you much.

  3. Marie Brack
    | Reply

    Semicolons seem to go outside the quotes, at least according to Grammar Girl: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-use-quotation-marks

    Periods and commas inside the quotation marks, in American usage.

  4. Elle Andrews Patt
    | Reply

    Love this post, Eugene! I never knew the names for a couple of these various syntactical structures. Chiasmus. Zeugma. They’re even fun to say 🙂

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