Tag Archives: asyndeton

Rhetorical Device Polysyndeton

Rhetorical cartoonThe rhetorical device, polysyndeton, is the opposite of asyndeton, the term I explained in my last post.

Asyndeton omits conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses. Polysyndeton adds several conjunctions in close succession between each word, phrase, or clause without commas. It makes the sentence slower and the items more emphatic than in asyndeton. The repetition of the conjunctions creates a rhythm and a feeling of endless continuity.

Examples: “…here and there and everywhere”

“They asked for cake and candy and ice cream and chocolate.”

“The student read and studied and wrote notes in the hope of passing the exam.”

“When she heard the news report, Jill grabbed her keys and her purse and her umbrella and her flashlight.” The use of polysyndeton slows her action which implies she was careful to take what she needed.

“When she heard the news report, Jill grabbed her keys, her purse, her umbrella, and her flashlight.” The use of asyndeton speeds up her action implying she’s in a hurry.

Write a sentence with a series of words and try one way with asyndeton, without conjunctions, and write it again with polysyndeton, with conjunctions (but no commas).

Which way worked better?

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Asyndeton, a Rhetorical Device

Rhetorical devicesRhetorical Devices attract and hold attention with words. Asyndeton is one in which conjunctions are omitted deliberately from a series. Julius Caesar eliminated “and” when he said, “I came. I saw. I conquered.”

Asyndeton produces a hurried rhythm in a sentence. It creates a concise, dramatic effect. Abraham Lincoln used asyndeton when he said, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Perhaps a character could be described as “She had cold feet, cold hands, cold heart.”

Maybe another character could speak Italian, French, German. An athlete could claim, “I play football, baseball, soccer, hockey.” A college student lists his subjects: “I’m taking Statistics, Physics, English, Film.”

In 2007. Steve Jobs described the new smart phone, “Thinner than the Q, thinner than the BlackJack, thinner than all of them.”

Have you used asyndeton in your writing?

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