Advertisement Upgrade to remove ads


refers to language that describes concepts rather than concrete images ( ideas and qualities rather than observable or specific things, people, or places). The observable or "physical" is usually described in concrete language.

Ad Hominem

In an argument, this is an attack on the person rather than on the opponent's ideas. It comes from the Latin meaning "against the man."


an extended narrative in prose or verse in which characters, events, and settings represent abstract qualities and in which the writer intends a second meaning to be read beneath the surface of the story.


Comparison of two similar but different things, usually to clarify an action or a relationship, such as comparing the work of a heart to that of a pump.


Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of two or more sentences in a row; helps make the writer's point more coherent. (Ex: "There was the delight I caught...There was the faint...There was the vague sense....")


a short, simple narrative of an incident; often used for humorous effect or to make a point.


Explanatory notes added to a text to explain, cite sources, or give bibliographical data.


the presentation of two contrasting images. The ideas are balanced by word, phrase, clause, or paragraphs. "To be or not to be..." "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country...."


a short, often witty statement of a principle or a truth about life: "Early bird gets the worm."


usually in poetry but sometimes in prose; the device of calling out to an imaginary, dead, or absent person or to a place, thing, or personified abstraction


repetition of vowel sounds between different consonants, such as in neigh/fade


Commas used to separate a series of words. The parts are emphasized equally; flow speeds up. Asyndeton takes the form of X, Y, Z as opposed to X, Y, and Z.


quality of a piece of writing in which all the parts contribute to the development of the central idea, theme, or organizing principle


repetition of identical consonant sounds within two or more words in close proximity, as in boost/best; it can also be seen within several compound words, such as fulfill and ping-pong


the picturing in words of something or someone through detailed observation of color, motion, sound, taste, smell, and touch; one of the four modes of discourse


word choice, an element of style; creates tone, attitude, and style, as well as meaning. An essay written in academic diction would be much less colorful, but perhaps more precise than street slang.


writing whose purpose is to instruct or to teach. A didactic work is usually formal and focuses on moral or ethical concerns. May be fiction or nonfiction that teaches a specific lesson or moral or provides a model of correct behavior or thinking.


spoken or written language, including literary works; the four traditionally classified modes of discourse are description, exposition, narration, and persuasion.


harsh or grating sounds that do not go together


the use of a quotation at the beginning of a work that hints at its theme. Hemingway begins The Sun Also Rises with two epigraphs. One of them is "You are all a lost generation" by Gertrude Stein.


a succession of harmonious sounds used in poetry or prose; the opposite of cacophony


An individual instance taken to be representative of a general pattern. Arguing by example is considered reliable if examples are demonstrable true or factual as well as relevant.


The art of interpreting or discovering the meaning of a text. Usually involves close reading and special attention to figurative language.


the immediate revelation to the audience of the setting and other background information necessary for understanding the plot; also, explanation; one of the four modes of discourse

Extended Metaphor

a sustained comparison, often referred to as a conceit. Is developed throughout a piece of writing

Figurative Language

language that contains figures of speech, such as similes and metaphors, in order to create associations that are imaginative rather than literal.

Figures of Speech

expressions, such as similes, metaphors, and personifications, that make imaginative, rather than literal, comparisons or associations.


Sentence consisting of three or more very short independent clauses joined by conjunctions.


When a writer bases a claim upon an isolated example or asserts that a claim is certain rather than probable. Sweeping _____s occur when a writer asserts that a claim applies to all instances instead of some.


deliberate exaggeration in order to create humor or emphasis (Ex: He was so hungry he could have eaten a horse.)


A word or words, either figurative or literal, used to describe a sensory experience or an object perceived by the sense. Always a concrete representation.


words or phrases that use a collection of images to appeal to one or more of the five senses in order to create a mental picture


the process that moves from a given series of specifics to a generalization


a conclusion one can draw from the presented details

Interior Monologue

writing that records the conversation that occurs inside a character's head


a verbally abusive attack


reversing the customary (subject first, then verb, then complement) order of elements in a sentence or phrase. Usually, the element that appears first is emphasized more than the subject.


a situation or statement in which the actual outcome or meaning is opposite to what was expected.


a figure of speech that uses the name of an object, person, or idea to represent something with which it is associated, such as using "the crown" to refer to a monarch ; Also, "The pen is mightier than the sword."


the method or form of a literary work; the manner in which a work of literature is written


similar to tone, mood is the primary emotional attitude of a work (the feeling of the work; the atmosphere). Syntax is also a determiner of mood because sentence strength, length, and complexity affect pacing.


The lesson drawn from a fictional or non-fictional story. It can also mean a heavily didactic story.


the telling of a story in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or drama; one of the four modes of discourse


When a writer obscures or denies the complexity of the issues in an argument


a figure of speech composed of contradictory words or phrases, such as "wise fool," bitter-sweet," "pretty ugly," "jumbo shrimp," "cold fire"


the movement of a literary piece from one point or one section to another


the technique of arranging words, phrases, clauses, or larger structures by placing them side by side and making them similar in form. Ex: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields."


the aspects of a literary work that elicit sorrow or pity from the audience. An appeal to emotion that can be used as a means to persuade. Over-emotionalism can be the result of an excess of pathos.


a term used to describe writing that borders on lecturing. It is scholarly and academic and often overly difficult and distant


a form of argumentation, one of the four modes of discourse; language intended to convince through appeals to reason or emotion.

Point of View

the perspective from which a story is presented; common ones include first person narrator, stream of consciousness, omniscient, limited omniscient and objective

First person narrator

A point of view in which a narrator, referred to as "I," who is a character in the story and relates the actions through his or her own perspective, also revealing his or her own thoughts

Stream of Consciousness

A point of view like a first person narrator, but placing reader inside the character's head, making the reader privy to the continuous, chaotic flow of disconnected, half-formed thoughts and impressions in the character's mind


A point of view in which third person narrator, referred to as "he," "she," or "they," who is able to see into each character's mind and understands all the action

Limited Omniscient

A point of view in which a third person narrator who reports the thoughts of only one character and generally only what that one character sees


A point of view in which a third person narrator who only reports what would be visible to a camera; thoughts and feelings are only revealed if a character speaks of them


Sentence which uses and or another conjunction (with no commas) to separate the items in a series. Appears in the form of X and Y and Z, stressing each equally. It makes the sentence slower and the items more emphatic than in the asyndeton.

Red Herring

When a writer raises an irrelevant issue to draw attention away from the real issue


an element in literature that conveys a realistic portrayal of a specific geographical locale, using the locale and its influences as a major part of the plot


Word or phrase used two or more times in close proximity


The art of effective communication, especially persuasive discourse; Rhetoric focuses on the interrelationship of invention, arrangement, and style in order to create felicitous and appropriate discourse.

Rhetorical modes

exposition, description, narration, argumentation


an author's characteristic manner of expression - his or her diction, syntax, imagery, structure, and content all contribute to style


a personal presentation of evens and characters, influenced by the author's feelings and opinions


A form of reasoning in which two statements are made and a conclusion is drawn from them; consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. Ex: Major: All tragedies end unhappily. Minor: Hamlet is a tragedy. Conclusion: Hamlet ends unhappily.


the use of symbols or anything that is meant to be taken both literally and as representative of a higher and more complex significance


the characteristic emotion or attitude of an author toward the characters, subject, and audience (anger, sarcastic, loving, didactic, emotional, etc.)


the opposite of exaggeration. It is a technique for developing irony and/or humor where one writes or says less than intended.


refers to two different areas of writing. One refers to the relationship between a sentence's subject and verb (active and passive voice). The second refers to the total "sound" of a writer's style.


a rhetorical device that is used to express an understatement.


using a part to signify the whole


substituting an attribute of a thing for the thing itself


related to symbolism, it is a form of a narrative in which people, places, and happenings have hidden or symbolic meaning. It is different than symbolism because it establishes a strict system of correspondence between details of action and a pattern of meaning.

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions above and try again


Reload the page to try again!


Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

NEW! Voice Recording