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.

Hardcover Internal Communications Book Sold Out

The hardcover version of Maximizing Internal Communication: Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Results, the No. 1 book on employee communications on Amazon, has sold out.

However, you may still order the book in eBook format from this website or from wherever fine eBooks are sold.

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Prefer to buy on Amazon? That’s cool. Just tell ’em we sent you. ;>)

Tips to Communicate to a Global Audience

I was on a conference call with a client’s communications team a couple of weeks ago. We discussed a variety of assignments that needed to be done and began to discuss deadlines when one of the participants who happened to be in Salt Lake City said, “Excuse me, but am I the only one here who plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with their family?” A few embarrassed voices from Canada said “Oh my, we forgot. We celebrated our Thanksgiving two and a half months ago and we weren’t thinking.”

Add that one to the list of cultural considerations to look out for when communicating to with a global workforce. About four years ago, I posted 10 Tips to Communicate with a Global Workforce. Well, make that 11 tips. The rest of the list is below.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Cultural Differences to Watch Out for in Global Communications

  1. Colloquialisms, idioms and humor don’t translate well. Avoid them.
  2. Weights and measures are expressed in metric units in most of the world.
  3. Currencies vary in different parts of the world. If you’re writing about U.S. dollars, be sure to designate accordingly.
  4. The seasons are opposite between the north and south equators. Summer in Colorado is ski season in Tasmania.
  5. In many parts of the worlds, date formats are written with the day first followed by the month and year.
  6. Make sure your language translation service is familiar with the host country you are targeting. For instance, the Spanish spoken in Mexico is not the same as the Spanish spoken in Chile.
  7. Your translation service may be familiar with the language spoken in the country you are targeting but likely isn’t familiar with the terms used in your industry in that language. Have an employee in the host country you are targeting check all copy before posting.
  8. Text translated from English to another language likely will not take up the same amount of space. For instance, English text translated to Spanish is about a third longer.
  9. Contractions and possessives are confusing in some countries. Choose “cannot” instead of “can’t,” and rewrite sentences to say “the book that belongs to Joe” instead of “Joe’s book.”
  10. Language differences are just scratching the surface. Cultural differences are far more important.

There is much more to communicating to a global audience than just these tips, but following them, being respectful of cultures and seeking to understand your international audiences will get you headed in the right direction.

What tips would you add?