Aristotle's Rhetoric
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Book III - Chapter 6

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The following suggestions will help to give your language impressiveness. (1) Describe a thing instead of naming it: do not say "circle," but "that surface which extends equally from the middle every way." To achieve conciseness, do the opposite -- put the name instead of the description. When mentioning anything ugly or unseemly, use its name if it is the description that is ugly, and describe it if it is the name that is ugly. (2) Represent things with the help of metaphors and epithets, being careful to avoid poetical effects. (3) Use plural for singular, as in poetry, where one finds

Unto havens Achaean,

though only one haven is meant, and

Here are my letter's many-leaved folds.

(4) Do not bracket two words under one article, but put one article with each; e.g. "that wife of ours." The reverse to secure conciseness; e.g. "our wife." (5) Use plenty of connecting words; conversely, to secure conciseness, dispense with connectives, while still preserving connexion; [1408a] e.g. "having gone and spoken," and "having gone, I spoke," respectively. (6) And the practice of Antimachus, too, is useful -- to describe a thing by mentioning attributes it does not possess; as he does in talking of Teumessus --

There is a little wind-swept knoll . . .

A subject can be developed indefinitely along these lines. You may apply this method of treatment by negation either to good or to bad qualities, according to which your subject requires. It is from this source that the poets draw expressions such as the "stringless" or "lyreless" melody, thus forming epithets out of negations. This device is popular in proportional metaphors, as when the trumpet's note is called "a lyreless melody."

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Lee Honeycutt ( Last modified:3/15/04
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