What Is Repetition? Repetition in Writing With Examples

What is Repetition?

Repetition is a literary device that involves using the same word or phrase over and over again in a piece of writing or speech. Proper use of repetition can add emphasis and catchiness to a body of work, as well as engage the reader with the text.

There are several elements to repetition, including its different types and placement choice. You may have not even noticed usage of repetition in writings by Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and William Shakespeare. For future recognition of repetition, here are the various types of how it is used.

1. ​Anaphora

This is a popular tactic in oration that it appears in two of history’s most famous speeches—Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on These Beaches” address. The repetition of the opening phrases used in these speeches are the examples of anaphora.

2. ​Epistrophe

This can be identified in the Bible: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

3. ​Symploce

This tactic combines anaphora and epistrophe. Bill Clinton once used in this example: “When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it.”

4. ​Antanaclasis

Contradicting meaning of words is how to identify this use of repetition. Benjamin Franklin used it once when he said: “Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.”

5. ​Antistasis

Similarly to antanaclasis, antistasis demonstrates the repetition of a word in an oppositional manner. Benjamin Franklin Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

6. ​Negative-positive restatement

This method states an idea twice, first negatively, and then positively. John F. Kennedy exemplified this when he said : “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

7. ​Epizeuxis, a.k.a. "palilogia."

In this tactic, a word is repeated consecutively. Take this example from Macduff in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “O horror, horror, horror!”

How to Use Repetition

1. Choose words that you think are important and worth stressing.

2. Repeat the words or phrases in a way that is memorable. Doing so helps makes them stick out in your audience’s mind and establishes them as meaningful.

3. Refrain from overusing it, or it will lose its effect—just use repetition at points when it will have the most impact.

What Is the Difference Between Repetition and Repetition of Sounds?

  • Consonance​ where a consonant sound repeats in a string of words
  • Assonance​ the repetition of vowel sounds
  • Alliteration​ where initial letter sounds repeat

Classic examples of repetition that audiences love

  • Janice in the TV show ​Friends:​ she has a classic line of "Oh! My! God!"
  • Barney Stinson in ​How I Met Your Mother: "​Challenge accepted."
  • Gossip Girl​ narration where every episode ends with: "You know you love me. Xoxo, Gossip Girl."