Chiasmus: When Words Mirror Each Other in a Sentence

Using figures of speech in our business writing makes it fun for us and entertaining for our readers. 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 popular (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 4-page Chiasmus Collection I’d like to share. Simply email me with Chiasmus Collection in the subject line.

Those included come from years of gleaning examples from authors, clients, and subscribers in my daily editing work. A few choice examples:

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

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

What is your favorite chiasmus—one you’ve found or one you’ve written yourself? Email it to me to add to this Chiasmus Collection.


Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource to quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent weekly resources in your inbox, including a webinar, crossword puzzles, and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Enjoy a $30 discount at checkout with the code ODI at


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