Over the last couple of months we have been touching on different figures of speech that are helpful tools for writing lyrics.  These blog posts introduce Simile, Metaphor, Synecdoche, Anaphora & Epiphora (one of our most popular posts), Alliteration and Assonance.  Check them out, if you haven’t already.

Apostrophe is an exclamatory rhetorical figure of speech in which some absent or nonexistent person or thing is addressed as if it were present and capable of understanding.

Here are a couple of popular examples of apostrophe that you may recognnize:

  • O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?   (1 Corinthians 15:55)
  • “Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…”   (Paul Simon, “The Sound of Silence”)

Apostrophe is related to personification, another figure of speech in which objects are represented as a person or implied to have human qualities/abilities (example: The fire roared with anger). The two can be combined, however with apostrophe, the object is actually addressed directly by the speaker or writer.

Most often, apostrophe is used as a tool to communicate extreme emotion, an example of such being Claudius’ passionate speech in Shakespeare’s  Hamlet.

Test various figures of speech in your next few lyric sessions.  See how they work for you.  You may find them to be helpful tools.


Anaphora & Epiphora

No, these are not Greek lovers.  But they ARE Greek words.  Anaphora and Epiphora are two rhetorical devices that are often used in literary works and song lyrics.  You need not worry so much about remembering the names, as long as you learn what these techniques can do to help in your songwriting.

Anaphora is possibly more common in songwriting than in poetry.  As a technique, anaphora repeats a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, thereby lending them emphasis.

Here’s a popular example from the classic Gershwin song, I’ve Got Rhythm.

I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man
Who could ask for anything more?
I’ve got daisies in green pastures
I’ve got my man
Who could ask for anything more?

And another example from Charles Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

Ephiphora (also called, Epistrophe), is simply the counterpart to anaphora.  It is the repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive phrases, clauses or sentences, placing the emphasis on the last word in a phrase or sentence.

Examples that you’ve probably heard before:

“…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  – Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child—  The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)

Both Anaphora and Epiphora can be quite effective techniques to provide special emphasis and memorable  hooks in your lyrics.  To stretch your boundaries and continue growing your lyric writing skills, I would encourage you to try applying one of these two techniques in your next song.  Have fun.

Synecdoche For Songwriting… What?

What in the world is synecdoche (se-NEK-da-key)?  In recent posts we’ve talked about figures of speech and how they are helpful tools to have at your disposal when writing lyrics. Don’t let the word scare you away, synecdoche is actually quite common in our everyday language.

Synecdoche is a figure of speech that simply substitutes either the part for the whole, or the whole for the part.  Here are ways that synecdoche shows up in our everyday language:

  • A part of something is used to refer to the whole thing.  Example:  “Nice wheels.” …  actually referring to the entire car, not just the wheels.  Or one of the more famous examples: “Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears.”
  • A thing (a “whole”) is used to refer to part of it.  Example: “The hospital tried to revive him”.   Literally, it was not the hospital, but the people working at the hospital, that tried to revive him, but “hospital” is used to refer to the individual doctors and nurses working there.
  • A specific class of thing is used to refer to a larger, more general class.  Example: the trademark “Band-Aid”, for any variety of adhesive bandage, or “bug” for any kind of insect.
  • A general class of thing is used to refer to a smaller, more specific class.  Example:  “truck” for any four-wheel drive vehicle.  Or how about a tricky one:  “He’s good people.” (Here, the word “people” is used to denote a specific instance of people, i.e. a person. So the sentence would be interpreted as, “He’s a good person.”)
  • A material is used to refer to an object composed of that material.  Example:  “threads” for clothing, “lead” for bullet, or “wood” for a certain type of golf club.
  • A container is used to refer to its contents.  a “keg” for a keg of beer.  Or “barrel” for a barrel of oil.
To follow are a few lyric line examples from popular songs:  “The canvas (sail) can do miracles” (Cross),”Diamond Bracelets Woolworth (a variety store) doesn’t sell.’ (Fields)  See if you can find more in songs you listen to.
As you scan your first draft, get into the habit of looking for opportunities to substitute a nickname, a brand name, a place name, or some significant part for the whole.