Rhetorical devices and literary techniques are closely related to tone and style. In fact, an author’s style partly consists of selecting and using certain devices; an author’s tone is partially determined by the type of techniques an author uses.
Many SAT books will list lots of Greek terms you don’t need to know, such as synecdoche and anaphora. But the Critical Reading section won’t require that you know the names of rhetorical devices or literary techniques.
Rather than bombard you with dozens of unfamiliar terms, we’ll categorize and clump the most common types of devices and techniques below and provide some examples and commentary. As we said, you won’t be specifically tested on these concepts, but they do lurk beneath the surface in the passages. Having a solid understanding of these devices and techniques will improve your ability to handle RPs. Focus on absorbing the similarities and differences between and among them. As you read through the list, note the one key feature all of these techniques and devices share: they allow words and sentences to carry more than only their literal meaning.
Here is a list of the most important devices and techniques. We’ve included examples along with commentary on each one:
I’m as hungry as a starving lion.
Hyperbole is a synonym for exaggeration. Clearly, the speaker is not really as hungry as a starving lion. A hyperbole is just a figure of speech we use to emphasize a point. The opposite device is understatement: I’m a little tired is a purposeful understatement if the speaker has been up for 48 hours.
Duty does not trump honesty. Duty does not trump common sense. And duty, my friends, does not trump morality.
Repetition is the conscious and purposeful replication of words or phrases in order to make a point. In this example, it’s clear that the limits of duty are being sketched out. The speaker is trying to show that duty is not the