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What are examples of maxim?

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Quick Answer

A maxim refers to a basic rule of conduct or principle that's generally accepted as truth, or it may refer to a succinct saying of such rule or principle. Maxims, such as "the bigger the better" and "opposites attract," are brief, forceful and witty.

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Maxims that contradict each other are known as dueling maxims. For instance, a wise person may say that "you're never too old to learn," but another may say that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." A cautious person believes in the saying that "it's better to be safe than sorry," whereas a risk taker could counter it with "nothing ventured, nothing gained." A maxim is often believable by itself as long as no other maxims challenge it.

Though they also appear in writing, a maxim is primarily a tool in oral communication for relaying one's wisdom and learning. A maxim often sounds smart and is easy to memorize because it employs a certain rhetorical strategy, figurative language or grammatical structure. These include ellipses, hyperbole, paradox and parallelism. Because it validates the speaker's extent of his experience and knowledge, a maxim is also effective in persuasion. In enthymemes, or arguments that omit certain elements of truths in their logic, a maxim can appear as either the premise or conclusion.

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