Amplification (rhetoric)

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Amplification comes from the Greek word auxesis.[1]Merriam-Webster defines amplification as follows: "the particulars by which a statement is expanded." [2] Specifically when a sentence is too abrupt, amplification is then used as a way to expand upon any details.[3] It can also be used to enhance the reader's attention to things which could be missed.[4] Furthermore, amplification refers to a rhetorical device used to add features to a statement.

In rhetoric, amplification refers to the act and means of extending thoughts or statements:

  • to increase rhetorical effect,
  • to add importance,
  • to make the most of a thought or circumstance,
  • to add an exaggeration,
  • or to change the arrangement of words or clauses in a sequence to increase force.

Amplification may refer to exaggeration or to stylistic vices such as figures of excess or superfluity (e.g., hyperbole).

Amplification involves identifying parts of a text by means of a process of division; each part of the text may be subjected to amplification. Amplification is thus a set of strategies which, taken together, constitute Inventio, one of the five classical canons of rhetoric.

As a means of developing multiple forms of expression for a thought, amplification “names an important point of intersection where figures of speech and figures of thought coalesce.”[5]

In his book, A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, author Robert Harris explains in depth, "Amplification involves repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it, in order to emphasize what might otherwise be passed over. In other words, amplification allows you to call attention to, emphasize, and expand a word or idea to make sure the reader realizes its important or centrality in the discussion." Harris provides examples of amplification: "In my hunger after ten days of rigorous dieting I saw visions of ice cream--mountains of creamy, luscious ice cream, dripping with gooey syrup and calories." [6] This example illustrates the rhetorical use of amplification to motivate readers to recognize the significance of this sentence, not just ignore it.

According to the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, the word amplification is one of the "special" topics used in epideictic poetry or ceremonial discourse, usually for praise, but it has been used to refer to both the expansion and the diminution of an idea or an argument.[7] The use of the word needs to be defined precisely and used with care.[7] The Princeton Encyclopedia also states that, "limits become clear only when a text signals by some other means (semantic: change of subject; syntactic: end of stanza/poem; pragmatic; change of voice, person, or form of address) a change of direction.[7]" Amplification was considered at different times in history "a subset of both inventio and dispositio.[7] " Aristotle mentions in The Poetics "maximizing and minimizing" as important elements in relation to amplification.[7] This is similar to the way we commonly think of amplification; that is going from something smaller and being enlarged. In The Rhetoric, Aristotle contrasts amplification with depreciation and admits "they both derive from an enthymeme which serves to show how a thing is great or small.[7]" The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics also tells us that Cicero in De Oratore "introduced the confusion between amplification and attenuation by saying that the highest distinction of eloquence consists in amplification by means of ornament, which can be used to make one's speech not only increase the importance of a subject and raise it to a higher level, but also to diminish and disparage it [7] ". The relationship between the words 'conciseness' and 'amplification' is heavy. Nevin Laib, author of Conciseness and Amplification explains that, "We need to encourage profuseness as well as concision, to teach not just brevity but also loquacity, the ability to extend, vary, and expatiate upon one's subject at length to shape, build, augment, or alter the force and effect of communication, and to repeat oneself inventively.[8] In classical rhetoric, this was the art of amplification.[8] It included elaboration, emphasis, and copiousness of style.[8]" The message and understanding of amplification seems blurry to many students.[8] Laib says, "The stylistic values implicit in our theories, pedagogy, and culture, so overwhelmingly favor consciousness, that elaboration gets lost in the learning process".[8] Silva Rhetoricae provided by Dr. Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University understands amplification as something that can be used as a basic notion of imitation: to change the content of a model while retaining its form, or to change its form while retaining the content. Varying a sentence. Double Translation. Metaphrasis. Paraphrasis. Epitome.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burton, Gideon O. "Figures of Amplification (Auxesis)." Silva Rhetoricae. Brigham Young University, 2007. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.
  2. ^ "Amplification." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster: An Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <>.
  3. ^ "Amplification." Literary Devices. N.p., 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
  4. ^ Nordquist, Richard. "What is the Rhetorical Strategy of Amplification?" About. Np., N.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
  5. ^ Silva Rhetoricae
  6. ^ Harris, Robert A. A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices. Virtual Salt, 1997, 2002, 2008. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <>.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Brogan, T.V.F; Halsall (2012). "Amplification". The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Laib, Nevin (December 1990). "Conciseness and Amplification". College Composition and Communication 41 (4): 443–459. doi:10.2307/357934. Retrieved 5 March 2014. 
  9. ^ Burton, Gideon. "The Forest of Rhetoric". Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Retrieved 5 March 2014.