What Is Epiphora? (Deliberate Repetition)

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Epiphora

Epiphora is a writing technique that involves repeating terms at the back of neighboring clauses or sentences. (NB: Epiphora is also called "epistrophe.")

epiphora examples

Examples of Epiphora

Epiphora is deliberately repeating terms at the end of clauses or sentences. For example:
  • "He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
  • "She's safe, just like I promised. She's all set to marry Norrington, just like she promised. And you get to die for her, just like you promised." (Jack Sparrow)
  • (Note that the words do not have to be identical. The copied structure is also part of the epiphora.)

Other Types of Repetition

There are three main types of repetition:

More Examples of Epiphora

This is an example from "The Merchant of Venice" by William Shakespeare:
  • BASSANIO: Sweet Portia,
    If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
    If you did know for whom I gave the ring,
    And would conceive for what I gave the ring,
    And how unwillingly I left the ring
    When naught would be accepted but the ring,
    You would abate the strength of your displeasure.
  • (Remember that the copied structure is also part of the epiphora. So, "to whom," "for whom," and "for what" are considered part of the shared endings.)
This is an example from the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln:
  • "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
This is an example from Corinthians (The Apostle Paul):
  • "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child."

Examples of Epiphora in Songs

Here is an example of epiphora that features in "Single Ladies" by Beyoncé:
  • ‘Cause if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it
    If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it
    Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
    ‘Cause if you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.

Why Should I Care about Epiphora?

Repetition creates pattern and rhythm. Therefore, it is widely used in poetry and song (i.e., verse). It is less common in business writing, but it does have some utility. Used infrequently, deliberate repetition like epiphora can:
  • Be used for emphasis.
  • Be memorable.
  • Make an impact.
  • Make you look confident.
Here is an example of how epiphora might look in a business document:
  • In our opinion, the answer to the current situation is not making 10 people redundant. All that achieves is making 10 people redundant.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What is anaphora? What is commoratio? Glossary of grammatical terms