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Last Wednesday through Sunday, I went to Reykjavik, Iceland with some friends thanks to Groupon. Fortunately, the jet lag hasn’t hit much since coming home, but it was a great weekend. We saw the Northern Lights, we saw waterfalls, we saw geysers, and we saw a place where two tectonic plates meet.

By the way, that last text pattern, with the repetition of “we saw”, is what’s called anaphora.

Repetition

Photo by Sheila Sund (creative commons)

What Is Anaphora?

Anaphora is when the first word or series of words in a phrase, sentence, or clause repeats itself for emphasis.

The most famous anaphora that we’re all probably familiar with comes from the opening lines of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. You know, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” etc.

Martin Luther King Jr. also used anaphora in his “I have a dream” speech, with the repetition of that famous phrase.

How About Epistrophe?

But what if the repetition happens at the end of the phrase/sentence/clause? Is there a term for that?

There sure is! That’s called epistrophe, or epiphora, or antistrophe. Take your pick; they’re all correct.

Examples of epistrophe appear in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address ( “…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”), and in Lyndon B. Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” speech (“There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.“).

There’s even a song by Thelonious Monk called “Epistrophy”, which uses notes in a pattern of epistrophe. Like anaphora, epistrophe is used to add emphasis.

And what happens when anaphora and epistrophe combine? You get symploce, which is when phrases/sentences/clauses have words at both the beginning and end repeating themselves.

Isn’t that neat? Now go looking for examples of epistrophy on your own!

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes and write about traveling. Use anaphora, epistrophe, and symploce as often as possible. Post your practice in the comments, and leave notes for your fellow writers.

Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.
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