involves repetition of the same grammatical structure in two
or more phrases or clauses. This means that the
grammatical structures are parallel forms, typically with
the same number of words. Deliberate isocolon works to provide or
build rhythm which can be used to tie together ideas in a
graceful, memorable way. One of the most famous examples of
isocolon is Julius Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came; I
saw; I conquered."), but we're also familiar with its use
from modern day advertising jingles like "I'm a Pepper, he's
a Pepper, she's a Pepper, we're a Pepper, wouldn't you like
to be a Pepper, too? Dr. Pepper!"
way to identify this form of repetition is to line up
sentences or phrases vertically. Label each word according
to its classification (article, adjective, noun, verb,
adverb, etc.). If all the sentences match up in the number
and class of words, the sentences use isocolon.
“…government of the people, by the people,
for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham
Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address”
these parallel structures is a prepositional phrase. But
this is not their only similar characteristic; each
prepositional phrase is precisely made up of a preposition +
an article + a noun/object of the preposition.
it is quicker to avoid isocolon and write in a simplified
form, but writers may miss out on an opportunity to add emphasis to
especially important points. For example, look at Abraham Lincoln’s
address. Imagine it in simplified form.
“…government of, by, for the people shall not perish from
the sentence still makes sense, with each of the three
prepositions taking the shared object (the
people). But what it lacks is the repetition that makes
each prepositional phrase such an important element of the
sentence. In other words, that repetition forces us to slow
down and think about what the phrases mean.
Isocolon can be
equally effective in written passages (papers, memos, reports); we
respond to momentum and rhythm in the written word as well as in
speech, in part because the repetition forces the reader to slow
down, focusing on the point at hand.
members of the board did not consider the well-being of the
company, nor the ethics of their actions, nor the effect on
we've mainly discussed isocolon as elements within a
sentence, but isocolon
can also mean two or more completely parallel sentences
Ex. "The louder
he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." Ralph
Today, I will be working ‘til midnight. Tomorrow, I
will be sleeping ’til noon.
Bears wield their claws; cheetahs use their
speed; snakes inject their venom. Clearly,
predation is action.
Essentially, isocolon is
a structural repetition technique that can give academic and
business writing—as much as literature and speech—momentum
and rhythm, as well as emphasis, that carries readers
along as they take in the information.
attended UHV until 2007 and will graduate with a B.A. in
English from Rice University in May 2009. In her free time,
she enjoys traveling and exploring foreign cultures, reading
books of choice not assigned in any of her numerous English
courses, trying to save the world in small ways, and
thinking in paradoxes--and just thinking.
Ideas for the
“Gettysburg Address” discussion were taken from the
following text book:
Kolln, Martha. Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices,
Rhetorical Effects. 5th ed. New York: Pearson