Language describing ideas and qualities rather than observable or specific things, people, or places. The observable or "physical" is usually described in concrete language.
Ad Hominem Argument/Attack
A personal attack on the character or other traits of one's opponent rather than an argument against his/her ideas.
The representation of an abstract idea through more concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another.
A direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably commonly known, such as an event, book, myth, place, or work of art. Can be historical (like referring to Abraham Lincoln), literary (like referring to Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter ), religious (like referring to Noah and the flood), or mythical (like referring to Atlas). There are, of course, many more possibilities, and a work may simultaneously use multiple layers.
The multiple meanings, either intentional or unintentional, of a word, phrase, sentence, or passage. Implies that either meaning could be correct.
A similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between them. The comparison is often between two things in which the complex is explained in terms of the simple, or something unfamiliar is associated with something more familiar. The comparison suggests that if the two things are alike in certain respects, they will probably be alike in other ways as well. Can make writing more vivid, imaginative, or intellectually engaging. They may be used effectively to persuade, but logically they prove nothing.
A brief recounting of a relevant episode, frequently personal or biographical. Often inserted into fiction or nonfiction as a way of developing a point or injecting humor.
A sudden drop from the dignified or important in thought or expression to the commonplace or trivial, often for humorous effect.
A balancing of two opposite or contrasting words, phrases, or clauses. Ex.) "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." - John F. Kennedy
The word, phrase, or clause referred to by a pronoun.
A terse statement of known authorship which expresses a general truth or a moral principle. (If the authorship is unknown, the statement is generally considered to be a folk proverb.) Can be a memorable summation of an author's point, or it can be a focusing device at the beginning of the essay.
A figure of speech that directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, a personified abstraction, or sometimes an inanimate object. The effect may add emotional intensity or familiarity. For example, Walt Whitman addresses the assassinated Abraham Lincoln as "O Captain! my Captain!"
Logos: an appeal to the audience's sense of reason; pathos, an appeal to emotion; ethos, a appeal aimed at establishing the credibility of the speaker and/or common values or ethics shared with the audience.
The emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work, established partly by the setting and partly by the author's choice of objects that are described. Even such elements as a description of the weather can contribute to the this. Frequently, this foreshadows events.
Begging the Question
Often called circular reasoning. Occurs when the believability of the evidence depends on the believability of the claim. In other words, one assumes a statement to be true when it has not been proven to be so.
A grotesque likeness of striking characteristics in persons or things.
The use of slang or informalities in speech or writing. These expressions in writing include local or regional dialects and usage. Usually avoided in formal writing; e.g. Jack was "bummed out" about his chemistry grade instead of Jack was upset about his chemistry grade.
A rhetorical mode or strategy that examines similarities and differences.
The non-literal, associative meaning of a word; the implied, suggested meaning.
Reasoning that applies a generalization to a specific situation in order to arrive at a conclusion. A syllogism is an example of this type of reasoning.
The strict, literal, dictionary definition of a word.
(from the Greek, "teaching") A term used to describe a work that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of moral or ethical behavior or thinking.
Reducing an argument or issue to two polar opposites and ignoring possible middle ground.
(1) In grammar, the omission of a word or words necessary for complete construction but understood in context; e.g., "If [it is] possible, [you] come early." ( 2) The sign [. . . ] that something has been left out of a quotation; e.g., "To be or not . . .that is the question."
A quotation or aphorism at the beginning of a literary work that is suggestive of the theme.
The use of the same term in two different senses in an argument.
(From the Greek, "good speech") A more agreeable or less unpleasant substitute for a generally unpleasant word or concept (e.g. substituting "passed away" for died).
Writing that explains or analyzes.
A metaphor developed at length, occurring frequently in or throughout a work.
When two cases are not sufficiently parallel to lead readers to accept a claim of connnection between them.
Writing or speech not intended to convey literal meaning, usually imaginative and vivid.
Figure of Speech
A device used to produce figurative language. Example: apostrophe, metaphor, personification, simile, etc.
The major category into which a literary work fits. The basic divisions are poetry, prose, and drama. However, subdivisions may occur: prose can be divided into fiction (novels and short stories) and non-fiction (essays, biography, journals, autobiography, etc.)
Figure of speech using deliberate exaggeration or overstatement. Not intended literally; may be humorous or serious:
Sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions. May use terms related to the five senses: visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, or olfactory imagery. May be used with other figures of speech, especially metaphor and simile, to create a strong, unified sensory impression.
A form of reasoning which works from a body of fact to the formulation of a generalization (opposite of deduction); frequently used as the principal form of reasoning in science and history.
An emotionally violent verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language.
Reversing the normal word order of a sentence ( e.g."Whose woods these are I think I know"). [Robert Frost].
The contrast between what is stated explicitly and what is really meant; the difference between what appears to be and what is actually true. Also used to define the tragic contrast between the aspirations of human beings and the dark elements of life that frustrate them; in addition, when used to describe the view of humanity in which human limitations and posturings are seen as debasing and ridiculous, there is an element of mockery. May be verbal, situational, or dramatic.
The placement of elements, characters, scenes, objects, etc. side by side for purposes of comparison and contrast.
A sentence in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by dependent grammatical units such as phrases and clauses.
Incorrect usage of a word by substituting a similar sounding word with different meaning (i.e. an incorrect word alludes to another word (e.g. "Calm down, don't get historical.").
An understatement. The ironic minimizing of fact, understatement presents something as less significant than it is. The effect frequently can be humorous and emphatic. For example, Jonathan Swift wrote, "Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her appearance." The opposite of hyperbole.
A figure of speech in which one this is something else (e.g. "Life is a highway"). Creates a close association between the two entities and underscores some important similarity between them (e.g. "Richard is a pig,").
The usually unintentional combining of two or more incompatible metaphors, resulting in ridiculousness or nonsense (e.g. "Mary was such a tower of strength that she breezed her way through all the work,").
(From the Greek, "changed label" or "substitute name") A figure of speech in which the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it. Referring to someone's handwriting as his or her "hand," or calling a monarch "the crown," involves use of this.
(From the Greek, "pointedly foolish") A figure of speech in which an author juxtaposes apparently contradictory terms-- rhetorical antithesis. Examples: wise fool; thundering silence
A brief story from which a lesson may be drawn; Jesus used these to teach his followers moral truths. The story of the Good Samaritan is an example.
A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon closer inspection contains an acceptable and often profound meaning. Often used for emphasis or to attract attention (e.g. "One must lose oneself in order to find oneself).
The repetition of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs to give structural similarity. This can involve, but is not limited to, repetition of a grammatical element such as a preposition or verbal phrase.
A work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the specific aim of comic effect and/or ridicule. As comedy, it distorts or exaggerates distinctive features of the original. As ridicule, it mimics the work by repeating and borrowing words, phrases, or characteristics in order to illuminate weaknesses in the original.
A form of word play which suggests two or more meanings by exploiting multiple meanings of words or of similar sounding words for a rhetorical effect (e.g. camping is intense).
A sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end, after all introductory elements such as words, phrases, and dependent clauses. The effect is to add emphasis and structural variety; e.g., "Across the stream, beyond the clearing, from behind a fallen tree, the lion emerged."
The fictional voice (or mask) that a writer adopts to tell a story. Usually determined by a combination of subject matter and audience.
A figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animals, or inanimate objects by endowing them with human attributes. Used to make these abstractions, animals, or objects appear more vivid to the reader.
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
When a writer implies that because one thing follows another, the first caused the second. Confusing sequence with causation.
The spreading of information (usually by a government or organization) in hopes of influencing the opinions of masses of people.
The fallacy of raising an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue.
The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse. Focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create felicitous and appropriate discourse.
This flexible term describes the variety, the conventions, and the purposes of the major kinds of writing. The four most common ones are exposition, argumentation, description, and narration. Others are comparison/contrast, classification and definition.
(from the Greek, "to tear the flesh") This involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something. It may use irony as a device, but not all ironic statements are in this manner, that is, intending to ridicule. When well done, this can be witty and insightful; when poorly done, it is simply cruel.
A work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule. Regardless of whether the work aims to reform humans or their society, this is best seen as a style of writing rather than a purpose for writing. It can be recognized by the many devices used effectively by the writer, such as irony, wit, parody, caricature, hyperbole, understatement, and sarcasm. Its effects are varied, depending on the writer's goal, but when used well, it is often humorous, thought-provoking and insightful about the human condition.
A play on words in which corresponding consonants or vowels are switched (e.g. "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?").
The voice of the writer. The sum of the choices an author makes in blending diction, syntax, imagery, details, tone, figurative language, and other literary devices.
A form of deductive reasoning comprising a major premise (a generalization), a minor premise (a specific application of the major premise) and a conclusion (e.g. All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, Therefore, Socrates is mortal).
Generally, anything that represents, stands for, something else. Usually, it is something concrete--such as an object, character, action or scene--that represents something more abstract. However, it can be much more complex. One system classifies this in three categories: (1) Natural: uses objects and events in nature to represent ideas commonly associated with them. (2) Conventional: has been invested with meaning by a group. (Language, Code words) (3) Literary: found in a variety of works and are generally recognized.
A figure of speech in which a part of something stands for the whole thing. In the expression, "I've got wheels," wheels stands for the whole vehicle, usually a car.
A sensation produced in one sense when stimulus is applied to another; i.e., seeing a color when hearing a sound.
The main idea or larger meaning of a work of literature. May be a message or a moral, but it is more likely to be a central, unifying insight or viewpoint.
The attitude toward a subject conveyed in a literary work. Not created by a single stylistic device; it is the net result of the various elements an author brings to creating the work's feeling and manner.
The quality of realism in a work that persuades the reader that he/she is getting a vision of life as it really is.
The quickness of intellect and the power and talent for saying brilliant things that surprise and delight by their unexpectedness; the power to comment subtly and pointedly on the foibles of the passing scene.