Literary techniques

Literary techniques

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Literary techniques

​​In a nutshell

By describing a scene or event in descriptive language, the reader feels as if they are participating in the text. Detailed descriptions engage readers by creating emotional connections with the story's world. As such, there are several literary techniques that can enhance the vividness and creativity of descriptions in your writing.

Simile vs. metaphor


​A simile is a device that draws a comparison between two objects using words such as "like" and "as" to draw an explicit comparison. Using similes, two dissimilar ideas or entities can be connected and illuminated as well as enriched by each other.


​"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." 

'Forrest Gump' dir. Robert Zemeckis 1994


​In metaphors, things are referred to in a way that isn't literal and helps explain ideas or make comparisons. This is different from a simile as rather than making an explicit comparison, it uses implicit or hidden comparisons. The metaphor allows the reader's imagination to engage with the writing and digest the material more effectively.


"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." 

'As You Like It' by William Shakespeare

Personification vs. anthropomorphism 


Personification is the act of ascribing human characteristics and emotions to inanimate objects, such as a mug. This device enhances the audience's perception of inanimate objects, providing readers with a better understanding of the characters.


"As I walked, I couldn't help but think the rain felt cruel and aggressive; almost as if it had a personal vendetta against me."


​Anthropomorphism occurs when something non-human is described as behaving like a human, such as an animal, place or inanimate object. This gives new dimensions to things and allows characters like a fox to be given a personality and character traits.


​“Oh, you can't help that,' said the cat. 'We're all mad here.” 

'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll

Allegory and allusion


​The allegory comprises a story that aims to convey a more general message about real-life issues, through the guise of a different story. An allegory is a useful device to create meaning and subliminal messages in your text.


​"All men are enemies. All animals are comrades." 

'Animal Farm' by George Orwell. 

This novel is a direct allegory of the Russian Revolution.


An allusion is when an author makes an indirect reference to figures, locations, events or ideas from outside the text through allusion. The allusion draws in the reader with familiarity and aids in imagining the world of the text. 


"Ali was always envious of his brother's Spartan work ethic."​

Aural devices

Aural devices are to do with the sounds words make and the effect this can have. 


Assonance is when the writer has vowel sounds repeated throughout a sentence. Just by repetition of vowel sounds in a poem or work of prose, a writer can successfully create or change a mood in the text.


"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" 

'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare


Alliteration is the repetition of an initial sound. When used correctly, alliteration creates and builds mood and tension in a text.


"His appearance: something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere."  

'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' by Robert Louis Stevenson

Semantic devices

Semantic devices are to do with the structure of sentences and the meaning of words. 


An oxymoron is the use of two words or phrases with contradictory meanings combined in a sentence. These juxtaposing words help bring out new meaning to a word and add emphasis to a sentence.


"When Benny began to prepare himself after his fall, he noticed just how deafeningly silent the exam hall was."​


​Antithesis consists of juxtaposing two opposing ideas within parallel grammatical structures, usually in the form of contrasts or oppositions. It allows the writer to highlight the important ideas of the text through a drawn-out comparison.​


​"Ryan had no problem talking to his friends; in fact, he viewed himself as extremely outgoing. But the moment he had to go on stage, he was cripplingly quiet."


A parenthesis is used to add detail and description to a sentence, without breaking the flow of the sentence.


"Safia, who was already hours late, began to hurry on her way down the busy high street."

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