Using Repetition in Appellate Briefs

This post and the next several will cover ways to liven appellate arguments with classical rhetorical patterns or figures. Ward Farnsworth’s book, Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, is an excellent summary of these techniques. The book begins by discussing some of the techniques involving repetition:

  • repetition of words and phrases
  • repetition at the start
  • repetition at the end
  • repetition at the start and end
  • repeating the ending at the beginning
  • repeating the root

This does not advocate saying what you are going to say, say it, and say what you said. Nor does it advocate expressing the same thought over and over. This is not what the rhetorical patterns or figures mean. Using the figures may instead be as simple as rewriting a sentence.

Say, for example, that you want to say that the defendant was negligent by failing to stop at the red light, speeding, and texting while driving. One way to say it is that the defendant was negligent for failing to stop at the red light, was negligent for speeding, and was negligent for texting while driving. Repeating the word “was negligent” at the beginning is an example of anaphora.

Or you could say, Failing to stop at the red light was negligent. Speeding was negligent. Texting while driving was negligent. Repeating “was negligent” at the end of a series of clauses or sentences is known as epistrophe.

Or you can do both and repeat at the beginning and the end. The defendant’s failure the stop at the red light was negligent. The defendant’s speeding was negligent. The defendant’s texting while driving was negligent. This is known as symploce.

Or you can feather one sentence into the next. The defendant’s failure to stop at the red light

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