A Working Vocabulary of Fundamental Terms

active voice

the opposite of passive voice; essentially any sentence with an active verb

ad hominem

an attack on the person rather than the issues at hand (a common fallacy)


the repetition of a phonetic sound at the beginning of several words in a sentence


a reference that recalls another work, another time in history, another famous person, and so forth


a wonderful technique of repetition in which the last word of the clause begins the next clause, creating a connection of ideas important to the author's purpose in some way


a term that signifies a relational comparison of or similarity between two objects or ideas


the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive poetic lines, prose sentences, clauses, or paragraphs


the reversal of the natural order of words in a sentence or line of poetry


an observation or claim that is in opposition to your claim or an author's claim


a brief statement of an opinion or elemental truth


prayer-like, this is a direct address to someone who is not present, to a deity or muse, or to some other power


also called a noun phrase, this modifies the noun next to it

argument from ignorance

an argument stating that something is true because it has never been proven false


the deliberate omission of conjunctions from a series of related independent clauses


also called vox populi, this argument is the "everyone's doing it" fallacy

begging the question

this argument occurs when the speaker states a claim that includes a word or phrase that needs to be defined before the argument can proceed

cause and effect

another fallacy, this is also known as post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for "after this, therefore because of this"), and it falls under the general umbrella of a causality fallacy or false cause


this is an ABBA syntactical structure rather than the more common parallel ABAB structure

complex sentence

a sentence structure that is a combination of a dependent clause and an independent clause

compound sentence

a sentence structure made up of two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction

compound-complex sentence

a combination of a compound and a complex sentence


the associations or moods that accompany a word

declarative sentence

a basic statement or an assertion; the most common type of sentence


a form of logical argumentation that uses claims or premises, where the author assumes that you will accept the claims as true and that you will then deduce the correct conclusion from the accepted premises at the outset


the opposite of connotation; quite literally the dictionary meaning of a word

dependent clause

this clause contains a noun and a verb but is set up with a subordinate conjunction, which makes the clause an incomplete thought


a regional speech pattern; the way people talk in different parts of the world


the particular words an author uses in an essay


a possible answer that seems to be correct, but is either wrong or is not as good as other answers


three dots that indicate words have been left out of a quotation; they also can be used to create suspense


like chiasmus, this figure repeats the opening word or phrase at the end of the sentence to emphasize a statement or idea, but it is not an ABBA reversal


a minor device, this is the ending of a series of lines, phrases, clauses, or sentences with the same word or words


one of the fundamental strategies of argumentation identified by Aristotle; basically an appeal to credibility


the study of the origin of words and their historical uses


to use a safer or nicer word for something others find inappropriate or unappealing

exclamatory sentence

a sentence that conveys excitement or force


a failure of logical reasoning

false analogy

an argument using an inappropriate metaphor

false dilemma

also known as an either/or fallacy; the suggestion is made in the argument that the problem or debate only has two solutions; can also be called the fallacy of the excluded middle


a verb ending in "ing" that serves as a noun


an exaggeration, fairly common in nonfiction prose arguments, that bolsters an argument


any time one of the five senses (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory) is evoked by what you have read, you have encountered this

imperative sentence

a command

independent clause

a clause that can stand alone as a sentence; it must have a noun and a verb (subject and predicate)


a form of logical argumentation that requires the use of examples


the word "to" plus a verb, usually functioning as a noun, and often as a predicate in a sentence

interrogative sentence

a question


the use of words to express something other than and often the opposite of the literal meaning


a pattern of speech and vocabulary associated with a particular group of people


making one idea more dramatic by placing it next to its opposite


an appeal to reason; one of the fundamental strategies of argumentation identified by Aristotle

loose sentence

an independent clause followed by all sorts of debris, usually dependent clauses


a wonderful form of word play in which one word is mistakenly substituted for another that sounds similar


a figure of speech in which what is unknown is compared to something that is known in order to better gauge its importance


a minor figure of speech in which the name of one thing is substituted for another with which it is closely associated

non sequitur

this literally means "it does not follow"; this is an argument by misdirection and is logically irrelevant


a noun toward which thought, feeling, or action is directed


a minor figure of speech in which a sound imitates the thing or action associated with it


two words that together create a sense of opposition


a major figure of speech in rhetorical analysis that seeks to create a mental discontinuity, which then forces the reader to pause and seek clarity

parallel syntax (or parallelism)

a pattern of speech or language that creates a rhythm of repetition often combined with some other language of repetition


phrases, sentences, and words inside parentheses ( )


a verbal (expressing action or a state of being) that is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or -ed

passive voice

the opposite of active voice; in this voice, something happens to someone


an appeal to emotion; one of the fundamental strategies of argumentation identified by Aristotle

periodic sentence

a sentence with several dependent clauses that precede the independent clause


giving human attributes to non-human things


a grouping of words that define or clarity; a group of words that is not a sentence because there is no verb

point of view

the perspective from which the writer chooses to present his or her story (fiction) or essay (nonfiction)

poisoning the well

a person or character is introduced with language that suggests that he is not at all reliable before the listener/reader knows anything about him


the use of consecutive coordinating conjunctions even when they are not needed


the formal term for the verb that conveys the meaning or carries the action of the sentence

predicate adjective

an adjective that follows a linking verb and modifies the subject of the sentence

predicate nominative

a noun or pronoun that uses a linking verb to unite, describe, or rename the noun in the subject of the sentence


another word for a claim; a statement of truth, at least to the person making the argument


in essay questions, this has two definitions: the correct one and the common one; the correct one is that this is the paragraph or language that defines the essay task (doesn't include the passage itself); the common definition of this is one you will hear teachers and consultants use to refer to any and all parts of an essay question


a play on words; in an argument, this usually calls humorous attention to a particular point

red herring

an argument that distracts the reader by raising issues irrelevant to the case


a fundamental form of rhetorical stress that calls the reader's attention to a particular word, phrase, or image for emphasis of meaning

rhetorical question

a question whose answer is assumed, this is designed to force the reader to respond in a predetermined manner and is a significant tool in the study of rhetoric

rhetorical shift

this occurs when the author of an essay significantly alters his or her diction, syntax, or both


a crucial figure of speech in an argument when what is unknown is compared to something that is known using the word "like," or "as," or "than" in order to better perceive its importance

simple sentence

an independent clause; has a subject and a verb, and that's pretty much it

slippery slope (also called domino theory)

this fallacy of argumentation argues that one thing inevitably leads to another


in the multiple-choice section, this is the question you are asked to complete with the given possible answers

straw man

this occurs when a person engaging in an argument defines his opponent's position when the opponent is not present and defines it in a manner that is easy to attack


the formal term for the noun that is the basic focus of the sentence; it is who or what is doing the action in the sentence

subordinate conjunction

a conjunction that makes an independent clause into a dependent clause


in its basic form, this is a three-part argument construction in which two premises lead to a truth


a minor figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole


the study of the rules of grammar that define the formation of sentences


to unite or synthesize a variety of sources to achieve a common end


the basic message or meaning conveyed through elements of character and conflict; appears often in literature and is paralleled in nonfiction prose by an argument's thesis


the writer's statement of purpose; the focal intent of the essay


a sentence with three equally distinct and equally long parts


this creates exaggeration by showing restraint; it is the opposite of hyperbole


a minor device in which two or more elements in a sentence are tied together by the same verb or noun; these are especially acute if the noun or verb does not have the exact same meaning in both parts of the sentence