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A Powerful Communication Lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by | Jan 15, 2024

Note – This blog, originally published on 1.17.17, has been one of our most popular posts. The message remains true and I’d like to share it again on this Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.

MLK uses the Anaphora Effect.

You’re asking, “What’s the Anaphora Effect?”

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s American federal holiday marking his birthday, celebrated earlier this week, let’s highlight one of the genius components of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

He uses the Anaphora Effect exquisitely.

Definition of Anaphora

It’s the repetition of words at the start of successive clauses, phrases or sentences.

Why use Anaphora phrases? To create a rhythm, heighten emotion, and add emphasis to make the message easier to remember.

In MLK’s famous speech:

  • Now is the time” is repeated three times in the sixth paragraph.
  • One hundred years later”, “We can never be satisfied”, “With this faith”, “Let freedom ring”, and “free at last” are also repeated.
  • Of course, the most widely cited example of anaphora is found in the often quoted phrase “I have a dream”, which is repeated eight times as King paints a picture of an integrated and unified America.

You might have learned in your English writing classes to not repeat words too often in written form. It depends. Using a catchy phrase can enhance your email or Chairman’s Report.

Your Speak For Yourself® challenge:

Use the Anaphora Effect digitally, informally and in formal presentations to create more buy-in.

 

 

Photos taken by Robin Sachs Photography. Thank you to Robin for joining me in Atlanta to tour the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and the Martin Luther King National Historical Park!

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved

 

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