Rhetorical Tricks Every Writer Should Know: Chiasmus


I haven’t received it yet, but I’m looking forward to reading Mark Forsyth’s book, The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase. I’ve spent some time on his excellent blog, The Inky Fool, and I enjoy not only what he writes, but, not surprisingly, how he writes.

The book discusses rhetorical devices and figures of speech that gifted writers employ in their prose. One of those devices is chiasmus — the balancing of clauses or phrases that have opposing structures. It doesn’t much matter that you know the term chiasmus, but if you are a writer, you should know how to use it. Chiasmus has been likened to verbal judo. “By keeping the phrase but inverting its meaning we use our opponent’s own power to overcome him, just as a judo expert does.”¹

Some well known examples include:

  • “But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first.” -Jesus
  • “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.”
  • “Failing to plan is preparing to fail.” -John Wooden

The graphic below includes more well and lesser-known examples of chiasmus.



¹Richard A. Lanham, Analyzing Prose, 2nd ed. Continuum, 2003

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. alhambra collana cuore buon mercato
    alhambra collana cuore buon mercato03-17-2017

    cartierbraceletlove I meant newly assigned as pastors so are in good position to change hearts.
    alhambra collana cuore buon mercato http://www.migliorecollana.net/tag/imitazione-van-cleef-collana

  2. replica cartier anello rosario oro
    replica cartier anello rosario oro03-17-2017

    cartierbraceletlove Twice the Safety at Half the Cost? or Double the Regulation at Quadruple the Price?
    replica cartier anello rosario oro http://www.miglioreanello.org/category/gioielli-love-cartier-replica

  3. must de cartier montre homme faux
    must de cartier montre homme faux03-17-2017

    cartierbraceletlove Paul, Thanks for your comments here and for spreading the word on Twitter! I’m glad you found value and enjoyed our podcast.
    must de cartier montre homme faux http://www.vendre-montres.ru/fr/cartier-must-21-chronograph-replica-watch-black-for-men-p576/

  4. copia cartier gioielli uomo
    copia cartier gioielli uomo03-08-2017

    cartierlovejesduas thank you. laziness delays someone s success and it makes someone to be stuck. We should watch out for us not to fall in it.
    copia cartier gioielli uomo http://www.mercibassocosto.net/

  5. love bangle pink Knockoff
    love bangle pink Knockoff03-08-2017

    cartierlovejesduas This especially helped my question, Cheers!
    love bangle pink Knockoff http://www.beauty-bracelet.com/category/imitation-cartier-love-bracelet-stainless-steel/page/3

  6. imitation montre cartier femme tank
    imitation montre cartier femme tank03-08-2017

    cartierlovejesduas I’ve been having trouble loading TWS. Did yours not load? Or was the problem something else. I’d like to know so I don’t get surprised myself.
    imitation montre cartier femme tank http://www.perfectcawatch.ru/fr/tank-de-cartier-c99/

  7. copia cartier ballon bleu usato
    copia cartier ballon bleu usato03-08-2017

    cartierlovejesduas It isn’t even that much work. When I was in college fifty years ago everybody in the dorm knew that if you locked yourself out of your room you borrowed a key to some other room to get in. It seemed there were only about ten different keys for the whole building. More recently I locked myself out of a Ford van. My buddy brought out a box of Ford keys and the second one he tried opened the door. It didn’t even look the same as my key!
    copia cartier ballon bleu usato http://www.supercawatch.cn/it/

  8. love bracelet men imitation
    love bracelet men imitation03-08-2017

    cartierlovejesduas Jay you’re right. It wasn’t even Howard’s fault; the kid didn’t start getting teary eyed until Sharon Osbourne hit the second X. Howard didn’t even start off by being mean, he called him a terrific young man. A 7 year old can’t take this kind of rejection on national television. He just did the natural thing and started to cry. Honestly though, I don’t know what he expected. He had to have known he wasn’t a great rapper, unless he’d never listened to any rap besides his own.
    love bracelet men imitation http://www.banglegold.com/

  9. montre rolex submariner occasion
    montre rolex submariner occasion03-08-2017

    cartierlovejesduas Бе лучший. Я его обожаю. Он супер, но я за наших. Наши ничем не хуже. Все молодцы. Работать нашим больше надо
    montre rolex submariner occasion http://www.datejustwatch.org/

  10. Carma Bookhardt
    Carma Bookhardt03-03-2017

    You are a very persuasive writer. I can see this in your article. You have a way of writing compelling information that sparks much interest.

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!