A rhetorical review

Tony Blair’s former speech-writer, Philip Collins, has written a very useful guide to speech-writing.

At the back of the book, he lists and handful of rhetorical devices, though he places little emphasis on learning them – on the contrary.

But I like the sheer writing exercises, and for the sheer pleasure of it I used the rhetorical figures he listed to write up my thoughts about his book.

Please don’t expect to be stunned by my rhetorical genius. I was doing this for my own pleasure. If you think you could do better (or even if you don’t) why not have a go yourself?

Philip Collins book: review in rhetoric

Rules and regulations of writing (and reading) rhetoric for relatively rapid returns. (Alliteration)

Starts and ends with structure, structured to encourage readers to experiment, experiments with a sample speech about business. (Anadiplosis)

Written to help. Written to persuade. Written to show off (a little). Written by a former speech-writer. Written well. (Anaphora)

Collins argues that we can’t all be Obama. The alternative is clear: we can all be Obama. (Antithesis)

Rubbish! We can’t. Collins is right. (Apodioxis)

And yet… might it really be possible, if we wore masks, and trained with a voice coach, and built a space like the Oval Office? (Aporia)

How can we be sure. If Trump could answer the question, I’d say: ‘Donald, help me out! Can we all be Obama?’ Or I might ask the man himself: ‘Barrack, what do you think?’ (Apostrophe)

Don’t write for somebody well versed in your topic but unintelligent – write for someone intelligent, who may not be particularly well versed in your topic. (Chiasmus)

Start steadily, with a one-line summary, then gradually build out a full page, then a proper outline, artfully putting together your facts in the shape of stories; and be sure to stretch, and breath deeply, before walking on to the stage, staring out and acknowledging your audience – then let rip. (Climax)

Collins argues that a solid collection of logos will ensure that you never give a bad speech. And he’s right. But most people want to aim a little higher than that. (Concession)

Anyway, that’s what I’m writing here, as the clock ticks to midnight and I hardly expect anyone will read this. (Decorum)

Nobody? Not one person? None. (Dialogismus)

Cliches are easy to use, fresh coinage takes ounces of brain juice. (Dialysis)

What is the point of rhetorical questions, one after another? Who benefits? Will people be tempted to give answers? Will they put them on a postcard? Will I need to hire someone to read them? Will I go crazy answering them all? (Epiplexis)

I used to write speeches for Tony Blair. (Ethos)

Oops. Should have written this one first. (Exordium)

Does Collins mention that he worked with Prime Minister Tony Blair? He does. (Hypophora)

I’m writing a book about speaking and presenting, and Collins book suddenly seemed more interesting to me than before (Kairos)

Collins isn’t a huge fan of making it up on the spur of the moment. (Litotes)

Collins wrote for Prime Minister Tony Blair, and knows what he’s talking about. You should follow his advice. (Logos)

Collins’s example speech blows up steadily, getting bigger and bigger, so that an onlooker might worry that it will imminently explode – but miraculously, it doesn’t. (Metaphor)

His pages fly past (Metonymy)

Oops, this part should have gone earlier, a slab of facts and figures describing the book, just after the exordium. (Narration)

Not to mention the other stuff. (Paralipsis)

Philip and the Giant Speech. (Paronomasia)

If you ever sweated over a piece of writing, you’ll know how I feel now – awful. (Pathos)

The former Prime Minister’s former speech writer fills 200+ pages. (Periphrasis)

Is it literature? Not the kind that wins prizes. Nor will it ever make the reader cry, or throw themselves into the arms of their lover. Collins has deceived us! (Philippic)

In the past, confronted with a book like this, I have scribbled all over it, and made notes in the back, with satisfying results (Phronesis)

Earlier, I agreed that sturdy logos will prevent an awful speech. Now I shall tell you why that is insufficient… (Prolepsis)

It’s not enough, because we want more: we want to be fresh, insightful and inspiring. (Tricolon)

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