Literary Terms List: Great Tips to Write A+ Essay Easily

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Literary terms
Table of Contents
  1. Literary Terms List: Great Tips to Write A+ Essay Easily
  2. Literary Terms: the Best Devices to Enrich Your Writing!
  3. Importance of Using Literary Devices
  4. When Should I Use Literary Devices
  5. Literary Term List Every Student Should Know
  6. Allegory
  7. Alliteration
  8. Allusion
  9. Analogy
  10. Anthropomorphism
  11. Apostrophe
  12. Assonance
  13. Denouement
  14. Dialogue
  15. Epigraph
  16. Exposition
  17. Imagery
  18. Irony
  19. Foil
  20. Foreshadowing
  21. Hyperbole
  22. Metaphor
  23. Onomatopoeia
  24. Oxymoron
  25. Parallelism
  26. Parody
  27. Pathetic Fallacy
  28. Personification
  29. Pun
  30. Repetition
  31. Satire
  32. Simile
  33. Stanza

Writing an essay is always about choosing the correct words. Rhetoric is an art of impressive speaking you should learn if you want to persuade the reader. How many times have you heard advice to read more if you want to write good texts? Reading really helps! When reading a book, you learn a number of common literary terms and devices. 

Want to improve your writing skills?  This article will teach you the most common literary terms and how to use them in paper effectively. This article is a guide, which is aimed at teaching you how to use common figures of rhetoric. It contains an impressive literary terms list, which makes it possible to turn a regular, boring writing process in a lot of fun for both writers and readers.

Literary Terms: the Best Devices to Enrich Your Writing!

The language of rhetoric literary analysis is a difficult task to master. It is hard to understand the way they work without having several good examples. The article contains brief literary terms glossary to help yous make your essays more poetic, interesting, and really breathtaking!

First thing first, let us distinguish between various literary terms you need to understand clearly:

  • Literary devices are characterized as elements or techniques creating additional meaning, specific perception of the writing and transforming the story into a compelling one.
  • Literary techniques are very  specific, carefully selected constructions of language used to convey meaning.
  • Literary elements are an integral part of literature works, such as plot, theme, and characters of a narrative.
  • Figurative language is used to construct a certain association in the reader’s mind that is not connected with the literal meaning.

Check out how these terms are related.

Importance of Using Literary Devices

Using literary devices is essential to connect with the readers and enhance their general reading experience. As a writer you can influence the imagination of readers by using a balanced approach to literary devices. They will be more empathetic to your characters, feel a higher level of engagement with the plot, and won’t leave your writing unfinished.

When Should I Use Literary Devices 

Undoubtedly, you should understand the literary terms and their peculiarities. Using such devices may greatly enrich your paper. However, it is also crucial to use them appropriately and avoid flooding your text with them. Great examples of proper cases are:

  • in creative writing;
  • when writing a hook; 
  • to demonstrate your sophisticated vocabulary;
  •  to describe/explain things more brightly, etc.

Literary Term List Every Student Should Know

Check the literary terms list. Here you will find the terms that are most frequently used in writing.


If the author wants to reflect some abstract ideas, an allegory is the best way to do this. The main purpose of adding this common rhetorical device to the story is to teach a certain lesson. Have a look at the abstract below:

  • To make a good example, it is important to recall George Orwell’s writing in the shape of a famous novel Animal Farm, which is full of political literary devices, allegories. The main plot describes a typical barnyard as the location. These settings reflect the Communist party in Russia (1917-1943); to understand Orwell, it is critical to know the Russian political history.


It is a figure of speech where the author uses a repeated sound of the first/second letter in a phrase, or the repetition of the same letter sounds in stressed syllables of a sentence. Check the example below:

  • Do you want to find a good example? Read Shakespeare's novels carefully: "With bloody blameful blade he bravely broached his bloody boiling breast." As you can see, alliteration is a rhetorical device, which is used with the aim to add certain poetic expressiveness with the help of repeated sounds.
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Those writers who prefer creating poems should be aware of the allusion – poetry makes allusion more powerful, and vice versa. It is a word/phrase created to recall something in the reader’s mind. The author cannot name the object; he/she just gives a hint. Such a method of calling particular things to mind can be noticed in many pieces of poetry. Examples of this common rhetorical device can be found even in the Holy Bible. The technique is effective if you want to add context/depth to the theme.

  • An example is from the New Testament where the writer refers to Lazarus who used to resurrect thanks to his faith:

“Night after night our hero lay in bed with the flu, hacking mucus and blood and seeing behind his eyelids the angels or devils come to take him; but one morning, like Lazarus, he was whole again…”


This is a comparison of two or more objects. It is one more language device you should know how to use in your essays. The analogy helps to create a relationship based on connections between the ideas to give readers a better sense of an object to have a clear understanding of the motif. Sometimes, the analogy may be used for a flashback to emphasize a thesis.

For example:

  • “Becoming laid-off was similar to losing the ground under the feet”.


The device represents lending a non-human entity a quality of a human being.

  • One of the most famous examples of this literary term belongs to A.A. Milne, who gave anthropomorphic qualities to toy animals in the stories about Winnie-the-Pooh. 


Do you think that an apostrophe is a punctuation mark? An apostrophe is a literary term that is often confused with the punctuation mark because not all students know that another meaning of this word is the literacy tool. It is used if the author refers to the individual who isn’t there or the object that does not exist. Fiction, poetry, and music are the three most popular areas of an apostrophe.

  • To explain this element from the literary terms list, Shakespeare steps in with his famous story about tragic love, Romeo & Juliet. In Act II Scene II, Juliet says, ''O, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?'',  and the reader knows Romeo is hiding in Juliet’s yard; he is listening to her words silently but the girl has no idea that her beloved is there, thinking she is alone at night.


This is a form of a resemblance of sound between a line of syllables in the words, getting from the vowel rhyming. In fact, rhyme is a special case of assonance.

  • For example :

    “Life is a long song.”


This term means the final part of a play on stage or a film where the strands of the plot are drawn together and conflict goes to the resolution. For example:

  • “After the detective had revealed that the gardener was to blame for three deaths in the mansion, the search party for him began. The uncanny surprise awaited everyone when a dog found his body with the note pinned to his chest. It says  “Come and get me in my room. Mrs. Green.”


Dialogue is one of the most frequently used techniques. What is the purpose of its usage? It is a conversation between two or more characters, which is aimed at showing the action between the protagonist/antagonist in the story. It can be direct contact between a good person/bad person, etc.

For instance:

- "I found the pictures of my dog, the one I had when I was a little girl."

- "We should help you adopt a puppy, Nana. You won’t be lonely and sad ever again.”

- "Why are you crying again, Nana?"

Wonder how to write dialogue in an essay? We prepared one blog that will help you answer this question.


Epigraph is the specific quotation from the work of another author under the essay title (remember that quotations appear in italics).

  • For example:

    "If I but thought that my response was made

    to one perhaps returning to the world,

    this tongue of flame would cease to flicker."

Most of the examples are the works of poetry and some famous essays. People who have read Eliot's well-known poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” may have noticed a reference to the world-known Dante's Inferno in the following line:

When taking information from the sources, make sure cite it correctly. The most common formatting styles are:

  • MLA
  • APA
  • Chicago
  • Harvard

You may need ASA paper format. If you are not sure how to do it right, refer to our blog.


When you introduce the reader to some background information about a story element, you use exposition. 

  • You can easily trace exposition in any tale you have ever read. The phrase “Once upon a time..” signifies its beginning.


This device serves as a figurative language that helps to draw a picture in the readers' minds. Use imagery if you want your reader to understand emotions and the mood of the character. Sometimes, a line containing imagery can sound much more powerful than the whole paragraph without expressive language devices. Example:

  • “It was another misty morning in the city with only 10 sunny days a year. The fog was thick and unwelcoming. It is difficult to breathe and keep the eyes open, the only reasonable decision is to leap back into the warmth of white sheets and a fluffy blanket.”


If a character uses irony, they actually mean the opposite of what they are saying, and without the context, it is impossible to figure out the true meaning.

  • Have a look at this line: “ Come to my castle!” - He said showing his small poor room. In most cases, irony has a negative meaning.


Foil refers to a character of the story that is introduced to highlight a certain characteristic of the protagonist.

  • One of the most vivid examples is the depiction of Harry Potter and Voldemort in the respective series of books.


If the author wants to make a hint about an upcoming development, without revealing the exact situation, they may use foreshadowing in their text.

  • A great example of the use of foreshadowing is the George R.R. Martin’s book series “The Song of Ice and Fire.” The author masterfully uses the device to hint at major events unfolding in the story. 


It is an exaggeration of things not meant to be taken literally. The point of using a line with the hyperbole is to make things more dramatic. It can be used for setting a climax to create an effect of drama to the readers.

  • Search for hyperbole in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird". "A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County."


A list of literary terms cannot be complete without a metaphor – a popular technique used to compare & contrast two or more objects directly.

  • Let’s return to the works of William Shakespeare, where every page is full of various perfect language devices. Here is the line with the metaphor. Romeo tells, “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” Juliet appears as the main source of light on Earth instead of being recalled as a regular woman.


It is a literary term, which helps to imitate a similar sound of a certain thing or an object. It creates an effect that mimics the described object; this device makes the description more interesting and vivid. On a page of almost any story, you can find onomatopoeia. Usually, words imitating sounds of animals and different objects are used.

  • For example: drip-drop, flip-flop.


An oxymoron commonly contains just one or two words that have a conflicting definition. A comical oxymoron can be used for a comedy genre.

  • A typical example of an oxymoron are phrases open secret, act naturally, original copy, sweet sorrow.


Parallelism is a repetition of the same or similar words or phrases. Its purpose is to make the idea behind the repeated parts stand out.

  • One of the most prominent and memorable examples of the use of parallelism comes from real life. Martin Luther King Jr. says in his speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today…”


Parodic humor is a symbol of a funny imitation if the author shows someone to the readers to make other people laugh at them.

  • For instance, Richard Cheese is transforming songs of various genres into light and funny jazz covers, changing some of the lyrics and tone of the musical compositions.

Pathetic Fallacy

This literary device is used when the author describes a non-human object as if it has human emotions.

  • For instance, oppressive heat is an element of the pathetic fallacy used in Lord of the Flies . 


The author may attribute a personal nature or human characteristics to something non-human. He or she may represent an abstract quality in the form of a human.

  • For example:

     “The old tram coughed and yelled but kept on crawling to the next stop.”


A pun is when the author uses a similar-sounding word instead of the one that fits the context. It is a device that intends to make the character using it seem funny and wry.

  • There are multitude of pun examples in literature, one of which employed by Charles Dickens in his Great Expectations. The author masterfully plays abound with the word point to amplify its effect: "They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they failed to point the conversation to me, every now and then, and stick the point into me."


One method to single out important ideas and make them more memorable is the literary device called repetition, which implies that similar words or phrases are repeated more than once to highlight an idea.

  • Orhan Pamuk in  Snow uses it a lot: “Every person had a star, every star had a friend, and for every person carrying a star there was someone else who reflected it, and everyone carried this reflection like a secret confidante in the heart.”


Satire is a literary term that means the satirical humor when the writer uses jokes referred to problems of a human. The author shows the audience people weakness and issues of the society.

  •  One of the best satirical books is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The author shows the world with genetically bred humans and a totalitarian regime that looks an awful lot like real places.


A literary terms dictionary should have a simile on the list. It exists to compare & contrast different objects, characters, traits/features, or events with the help of certain words (e.g., “like” or “as”). It is not a direct comparison. You shouldn’t confuse it with the metaphor.

  • If you need an example of a simile, look at “A Christmas Carol” – a story about the greedy man, written by Charles Dickens. He mentioned, “Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”


This term means a grouped set of lines in poetry that keeps the set off from other text. Most of the stanzas have a regular rhyme.

Read about other famous American writers who applied different literacy tools!

  • For example:

    But if thou live, remember'd not to be,

    Die single, and thing image dies with thee.

    - "Sonnet III," William Shakespeare

 Now you have the list of the essential and the most common literary terms. You can use them to make your essay more impressive. But, if you need assistance, contact expert writers. They will create a customer essay according to your requirements. It will save your time and help you earn high grades.