Last week we talked about asyndeton – a method of listing items without using a conjunction for the purpose of showing more by saying less – and the week before was onomotoepia.
Today we will study polysyndeton, which is diametrically opposed to asyndeton. Polysyndeton is the repeated use of conjunctions for the purpose of intensifying the scene, building the excitement and indicating (like asyndeton) an endless and innumerable list.
Our thanks to Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers for this example. This quote comes from Charlotte’s Web where a rat is telling Wilbur the pig, in no uncertain terms, what he expects.
“Struggle if you must,” said Templeton, “but kindly remember that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled, or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about, or bruised, or lacerated or scarred, or biffed.”
Do you think Templeton made himself clear? And how did he do that? He drove the point home by using the repetitious ‘or.’ You will find a lot of this in children’s books. If you will listen to children talk, they use a lot of polysndeton when they talk:
“Mommy, I want ice cream, and chocolate, and nuts, and whipped cream.”
Do you see how these examples build the scene by intensifying repetition? This is a simple technique, but don’t discount its importance.
P.S. Did you notice this example uses antiquated language? Writing styles are always morphing and wise is the writer who morphs with them. Today’s writer would have written “Templeton said” instead of “said Templeton.”
Write three sentences using ASYNDETON and three more sentences using POLYSYNDETON. Send them to DeborahOwen@CWinst.com. Memorize these words and know what they mean.
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