Chiasmus: When Words Mirror Each Other in a Sentence

Paul Barton communications

By Barbara McNichol
Guest Blogger

Using figures of speech in our business writing makes it fun. Truly my favorite figure of speech is the chiasmus (ky-AZ-mus). That’s when words in a sentence mirror each other.

Politicians have made them famous (e.g., Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. – John F. Kennedy). Experts have made them accessible and even fun (e.g., Dr. Mardy Grothe’s book: Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You: Chiasmus and a World of Quotations That Say What They Mean and Mean What They Say).

My contribution to the joy of words is a four-page Chiasmus Collection I’d like to share. Simply email me with Chiasmus Collection in the subject line.

The ones I’ve included come from years of gleaning them from authors, clients, and subscribers in my daily editing work.

Here are a few choice examples:

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Write only what you love, and love what you write. – Ray Bradbury

New York is the perfect model of a city, not the model of a perfect city. – Sir Lewis Mumford

So, what’s your favorite chiasmus? Email it to me to add to the Chiasmus Collection.


Phoenix Public Speaking Barbara McNichol

On a crusade to boost the quality of business writing, Barbara McNichol conducts Writing Essentials WordShops and edits nonfiction books. Over the past 24 years, she has placed more than 350 books on her editor’s “trophy shelf.” She is the author of Word Trippers: Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters.

On an ongoing basis, you’ll gain valuable writing tips by requesting her free monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen and subscribing to her Word Trippers Tips program (details at

Feel free to contact Barbara at 520-615-7910 or and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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