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Add rhetoric to your writing – with the periodic sentence

Even though it will take time to reach a climax, and even though the reader will have to wait and wait for the punchline, and even though this may make some readers think ‘hey, what’s this guy’s problem already,’ and even though it breaks just about every rule of blogging and SEO, even despite all these things and more – today, of all days, today I am going to start my post with a periodic sentence.

‘Blimey,’ you may well say, ‘Simon’s gone all rhetorical and portentous on us.’

But I may say in reply, in reply to your raised eyebrows and quizzical stare, I may say to you that you should stop for a moment and consider something important here, because if you want to write with power and impact, if you want to persuade and influence people, if you want to sway opinion and win over hearts and minds, then you will need some rhetorical tricks up your sleeve, and one of the most powerful of these is the periodic sentence.

It’s important to note, however, that a periodic sentence does not have to be long.

Indeed, some of the most powerful are very short.

There is one thing these long and short periodic sentences all have in common, though, and that is, as if you hadn’t already guessed, that the important point, the meat of the sentence, the real punch, always comes right at the end.

One thing I would stress, however, is that the periodic sentence technique should be used with moderation.

That’s not, you will have noticed, something I have done here. Here, in fact, the technique has been used in almost every sentence.

Clearly, that is overkill. It is excusable in this instance, I hope, because it is so clearly done for effect.

I hope you’ve found this little insight into rhetorical devices interesting, hopefully even useful. If so, please feel free to leave a comment, but please, for this post only, all comments must consist exclusively of periodic sentences.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • fairyhedgehog February 16, 2010, 3:28 pm

    This post is definitely amazing.

    • Simon February 16, 2010, 4:12 pm

      Well, thanks a lot. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • lyndon at seo packages February 20, 2010, 8:45 am

    Sometimes I actually add value to a post. Sometimes I read and then leave. This time I am gobsmacked. Well written sir!

  • lyndon at seo packages February 26, 2010, 11:59 am

    Be yourself albeit in the third person.


  • Adrian O'Connor March 3, 2010, 9:07 am

    This is a nice illustration, I like the way you put your point across, but I see a problem. The problem, the thing that will turn people off, the reason I would hesitate to use this technique myself, is that it makes you sound like a politician.

  • Simon March 4, 2010, 3:56 pm

    OMG, Adrian, you are so right. I guess they all spend a lot of time studying rhetoric. However, I did overdo it in the post, for effect. And I did include a warning about moderation. But good point. But everyone, take note. I can’t think of anything worse than sounding like a politician.

  • owl September 10, 2010, 1:02 am

    Once I read this I decided that I must say, if you care to read this, that I think without a doubt in my mind or anyone elses that this post has been quite an enjoyment to read. I had to do a project on the periodic sentence and it was a big help! I never would have thought if this rhetorical device as something interesting before reading this. Thank you!