Advanced Business Writing
Rhetoric and Narrative

Engage

Certain word patterns demonstrate a sense of balance in your thinking. People appreciate this. It shows you are being reasonable. And it helps them relax and enjoy reading your words and sentences.

We begin with word patterns that engage the reader.

Tricolon - list things in threes

A list of two things unavoidably invites a mental comparison.

eat and drink

A list of three things is universally preferred.

eat, drink, and be merry

A list of three things should end with the longest thing.

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

A list of four things is often remembered as a list of three things.

blood, toil, tears and sweat
[Churchill, 1940]

blood, sweat, and tears
[all of us, ever since then]

Anadiplosis - repeat last words as first words

Character leads to integrity; integrity leads to effort; effort leads to success.

When you get put on hold, you get frustrated. When you get frustrated, you make bad decisions.

Note: Whether or not your pattern of repetitions is flawless logic, to readers it tends to seem that way. Do your best to be an ethical editor.

Alliteration - begin nearby words with the same sound

Their proposal was cohesive, convincing, and commercially viable.

That use of alliteration makes the sentence fun to read and the content of the sentence easier to remember. But alliteration doesn't have to be that blatant to be effective. Consider the following description of a webpage:

Users can adjust graphics and zoom in on maps. They can also view statistical information by choosing display options.

With a bit of subtle alliteration it's more engaging:

Users can customize graphics and zoom in on maps. They can also view statistics by selecting display options.

It's simple, subtle, and surprisingly effective. Why do readers appreciate it so much? No one knows. Well, there probably are a few brilliant psychologists who could feud over a few favorite theories. So, perhaps the more pertinent question is: Who cares? It works, so have fun doing it (but avoid overdoing it).

Lesson: Engage
Module: Rhetoric and Narrative
Course: Advanced Business Writing