The Dandelion Group

Technique of the week

Why anaphoras return

Bad speeches make bad speakers. We have all pulled out our phone during a boring presentation. We have all daydreamed in an endless meeting. We have all wondered how we could captivate our audience. Preparing anaphoras is a quick and easy solution.

An anaphora is a rhetorical device whereby you repeat a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences. Martin Luther King used it in his “I have a dream” speech in 1963, and so does the first paragraph of this article.

How do you compose an anaphora? 

  1. Sketch the messages of your speech or presentation.
    (e.g. It’s a pity that black and white people sit on different spots. The world would be better without racists. I have a dream that people are created equal and should be judged by their character and not the skin.)

  2. Say it out loud to identify potential slogans and pick the one that suits the occasion best.
    (e.g. I have a dream that […])

  3. Create an anaphora by introducing two (or more) sentences with the same slogan.
    (e.g. I have a dream that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that this will even happen in Alabama, with its vicious racists. I have a dream today!)

  4. The audience remembers the beginning and the end in particular. Psychologists call these phenomena the primacy and recency effect. If you want to speak with even more power, start or conclude your speech with an anaphora of five sentences, building up to a grande finale.

Epiphoras are a variation. Instead of starting sentences in a similar manner, you can also finish sentences with the same slogan.

Exercise

The following text is an excerpt of Eurogroup President Mario Centeno’s speech at the Brussels Economic Forum on 5 June 2018. Try to spice it up by transforming the three sentences into an anaphora or epiphora.

“[…] The financial crisis exposed the flaws in the design of our economic and monetary union. We asked too much of our labour and financial markets. In hindsight, it became clear that the Maastricht architecture was fragile and needed to be completed. […]”

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Ben WilhelmComment