grand style (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Rhetorica ad Herennium (c. 90 BC).


In classical rhetoric, the grand style refers to speech or writing that's characterized by a heightened emotional tone, imposing diction, and highly ornate figures of speech. Also called high style.

See the observations below. Also see:


  • "Alas! the grand style is the last matter in the world for verbal definition to deal with adequately. One may say of it as is said of faith: 'One must feel it in order to know what it is.'"
    (Matthew Arnold, "Last Words on Translating Homer," 1873)
  • "The 'grand' style of oratory Cicero described was magnificent, stately, opulent, and ornate. The grand orator was fiery, impetuous; his eloquence 'rushes along with the roar of a mighty stream.' Such a speaker might sway thousands if conditions were right. But if he resorted to dramatic delivery and majestic speech without first preparing his listeners, he would be 'like a drunken reveller in the midst of sober men.' Timing and a clear understanding of the speaking situation were critical. The grand orator must be familiar with the other two forms of style or his manner would strike the listener as 'scarcely sane.' The 'eloquent speaker' was Cicero's ideal. No one ever achieved the eminence he had in mind but like Plato's philosopher king, the ideal sometimes motivated man's best efforts."
    (James L. Golden et al., The Rhetoric of Western Thought, 8th ed. Kendall Hunt, 2004)
  • "[In De Doctrina Christiana] Augustine notes that for Christians all matters are equally significant because they concern man's eternal welfare, so one's use of different stylistic registers should be linked to one's rhetorical purpose. A pastor should use a plain style for instructing the faithful, a moderate style for delighting an audience and making it more receptive or sympathetic to sacred teachings, and a grand style for moving the faithful to action. Although Augustine says that a preacher's chief homiletic purpose is instruction, he acknowledges that few people will act based on instruction alone; most must be moved to act through the psychological and rhetorical means employed in the grand style."
    (Richard Penticoff, "Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, ed. by Theresa Enos. Taylor & Francis, 1996)
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Nordquist, Richard. "grand style (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, February 16). grand style (rhetoric). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "grand style (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).