Epiphora and anaphora are words you likely don’t recognize. However, it’s safe to assume that you have read and heard these rhetorical devices many times before without realizing it.
If you know repetition in writing, then you are already familiar with the concepts of epiphora and anaphora. In fact, a variety of written compositions—from literary works to debates and political speeches—apply these stylistic techniques because they are so effective.
But what is epiphora and anaphora? What is the purpose of epiphora and anaphora? And what is the difference between epiphora and anaphora?
Let’s get some answers without repeating ourselves!
What is Epiphora?
Epiphora—also called an epistrophe—is a writing technique where a word or phrase is repeated at the end of neighboring clauses or sentences.
Felicia knows your secret, Barry knows your secret, my parents know your secret—so why can’t I know your secret?
The repetitive phrase is “your secret,” appearing at the end of successive clauses within the same sentence.
Epiphora can be stretched across several sentences without losing its emphasis or cadence.
Gerald studied last night, just as he promised. Gerald went to school today, just as he promised. And Gerald aced the exam, just as he promised.
The repetitive phrase is “just as he promised,” appearing at the end of successive clauses across multiple sentences.
What is Anaphora?
Anaphora is a writing technique where a word or phrase is repeated at the start of neighboring clauses or sentences.
It rained all morning, it rained all afternoon, and it rained all night.
The repetitive phrase “it rained” appears at the beginning of successive clauses within the same sentence.
Like epiphora, anaphora can be applied across consecutive sentences.
Chemistry is so confusing. Chemistry is so exasperating. And chemistry is so dull.
The repetitive phrase “chemistry is so” appears at the beginning of each of these three sentences.
What is Symploce?
When epiphora and anaphora join forces, they create the superhuman rhetoric device called symploce. In short, symploce is when both epiphora and anaphora appear within neighboring clauses or sentences.
If you need to talk, call me. If you need advice, call me. If you need a laugh, call me.
The repetitive phrase “if you need” appears at the beginning of these neighboring sentences—that’s anaphora. And the repetitive phrase “call me” appears at the end of these neighboring sentences—that’s epiphora.
What’s the Difference Between Epiphora and Anaphora?
The easiest way to remember the difference between epiphora and anaphora is to start at the very beginning. That is, the beginning of each word.
Both words have Ancient Greek origins as epiphorá and anaphorá. Both share the same root word pherein meaning “to bear or carry.” But both do not share the same prefix.
Let’s first cover epiphora. The prefix is epi- which, in this instance, means “after” or “in addition to.” This implies that the repetition appears later in the clause or sentence.
This should make it easier to understand anaphora. The prefix is ana- which, in this instance, means “up.” More simply, the repetition appears at the beginning of the clause or sentence.
Need a cheat-sheet? This chart can help you remember the difference between these writing techniques:
|Stylistic Device||Location of Repetition|
|Epiphora||After (later in clause or sentence)|
|Anaphora||Up (beginning of clause or sentence)|
|Symploce||Both (epiphora and anaphora both present)|
The Purpose of Epiphora and Anaphora
It’s no coincidence that anaphora and epiphora continue to be showcased across a range of writing styles. In fact, there are many reasons why writers turn to these stylistic techniques within their writing.
Both drive emphasis on a specific idea in order to appeal to the emotions of the audience. Both add a recognizable rhythm to the text, making it easier for the writer to memorize. And all these factors create a pleasant and more memorable experience for the audience.