Some of the most enjoyable rhetorical tools to use are figures of speech. They add fun to the fray and spice up your argumentation skills. Word Hero and Thank You For Arguing, both written by Jay Heinrich, are two of the best books on rhetorical skills I have read. He provides many options.
Here are five of my personal favorites:
This figure allows you to change a concept by putting another next to it to make it seem better or worse.
Common: “He has an excellent sense of direction, I have none at all.”
Contraster: “After one day in a foreign city he can move about as thoughtlessly as a butterfly. I have to ask directions to get from my office to home.”
2. Feigned Precision.
Giving an exact-sounding number when exaggerating. Best used for humorous effect.
Common: “They have a million kids!”
Feigned Precision: “I think they must have 38 kids.”
3. Getting Medieval.
Takes a word or phrase and uses it as the object of a sentence. (Heinrichs named this figure after a Pulp Fiction movie line which contained “I’m gonna get medieval on you’re a__.”)
Common: “Her patronizing baby-talk was annoying.”
Getting Medieval: “We stopped dating after she got all kindergarten teacher on me.”
A fabrication of a short story that ends with an elaborate pun.
Example: From the motion picture Master and Commander, starring Russell Crowe:
[Dinner in the officers' mess. The captain is inebriated, and asks, apparently seriously…]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you see those two weevils doctor?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: I do.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Which would you choose?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: [sighs annoyed] Neither; there is not a scrap a difference between them. They are the same species of Curculio.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: If you had to choose. If you were forced to make a choice. If there was no other response...
Dr. Stephen Maturin: [Exasperated] Well then if you are going to push me...
[the doctor studies the weevils briefly]
Dr. Stephen Maturin: ...I would choose the right hand weevil; it has... significant advantage in both length and breadth.
[the captain thumps his fist in the table]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: There, I have you! You're completely dished! Do you not know that in the service... [pauses]...one must always choose the lesser of two weevils.
5. Kindergarten Imperative:
Instead of issuing a command, you state your own need.
Example 1 with child: “Danny, I need you to put down that rock.”
Example 2 on airplane: “I need all seat backs and tray tables in the upright position.”
Look for places to interject these figures in your conversations, speaking and writing opportunities and see the smiles and laughter begin.
Coming soon: Figures of Speech - Part II
"It isn't what you do, but how you do it."
-Coach John Wooden