28 Common Literary Devices to Know

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Literary devices are techniques used by authors to convey their message and create an impactful experience for readers. From metaphors to similes to alliteration, understanding these devices can help readers get the most out of the text they’re engaging with. To be a well-rounded reader, it’s important to familiarize yourself with 28 common literary devices to know.

Below is a list of some of the most commonly used literary devices that can add flavor and depth to your reading experience:

The 28 Common Literary Devices to Know

1. Allusion

A reference in literature or other art forms to something outside the work, such as a famous historical event or personage. Examples: “He was like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills in his mind.”

2. Allegory

A story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. Examples: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is an allegory of Stalinism in the Soviet Union.

28 Common Literary Devices to Know

3. Analogy

One of the 28 common literary devices to know is the analogy. It is a comparison used to explain something by showing how it is like something else of a similar nature. Examples: “The human brain is like a computer.”

4. Antithesis

The juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas in balanced phrases or clauses to give emphasis to the contrast. Examples: “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.”

5. Hyperbole

An extreme exaggeration used to emphasize a point and create an emotional response from the reader. Examples: “It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets!”

6. Irony

The use of words to suggest the opposite of what is meant or to convey a different meaning than literal one. Examples: “It’s a nice day for swimming, said no one ever.”

7. Metaphor

A comparison between two unlike things without using like or as, used to make a descriptive point about one thing by referring to another thing that is considered familiar. Examples: “He was a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment.”

8. Oxymoron

A figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms for effect. Examples: “He was a wise fool.”

9. Personification

This one of the 28 common literary devices to know is giving human characteristics to an object or abstraction such as an emotion, quality or concept. Examples: “The wind whispered through the trees.”

10. Simile

A comparison between two unlike things using like or as to make a descriptive point about one thing by referring to another thing that is considered familiar. Examples: “She sang like a bird in the morning light.”

11. Symbolism

Representing an 12. Alliteration

The repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of two or more adjacent words in a phrase or verse line. Examples: “She sells seashells by the seashore.”

13. Apostrophe

A figure of speech in which a speaker directly addresses an absent or imaginary person, an abstract quality, or something non-human as if it were present and capable of understanding him/her. Examples: “O Nature! must I war with thee?”

14. Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds within words that are close to each other in a poem or sentence. Examples: “I raise the breeze as I please.”

15. Chiasmus

A figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point. Examples: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

16. Euphony

The use of pleasant-sounding words and phrases that flow together in an easy way. Examples: “In her garden grew many flowers, under trees contented hours were spent in singing birds’ sweet melodies.”

17. Imagery

Language used to evoke mental images for readers through descriptive words and phrases regarding sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Examples: “The pungent smell of the ocean filled my nose.”

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18. Onomatopoeia

The use of words that imitate sounds to create aural interest in a piece of writing. Examples: “Buzz, buzz! went the bee around the room.”

19. Repetition

The reuse of words or phrases for effect, often to emphasize a point or evoke emotion from the reader. Examples: “And they all lived happily ever after…ever after…ever after…”

20. Rhyme

When two or more words have an identical sound at their end syllables and are close together in a poem or sentence. Examples: “The stars shone bright in the night sky.”

21. Analogy

A comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification. Examples: “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.”

22. Antithesis

The juxtaposition of contrasting words, phrases or ideas for literary effect by using parallel structure. Examples: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

23. Ellipsis

The omission of words from a sentence while still conveying the same meaning and allowing readers to infer certain meanings through context clues. Examples: “He had a lot of friends…or so he thought.”

24. Hyperbole

Exaggeration used for emphasis or effect. Examples: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!”

25. Metaphor

A comparison between two unlike things without using like or as to make a descriptive point about one thing by referring to another thing that is considered familiar. Examples: “She was the flame that lit up my life.”

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26. Paradox

A seemingly self-contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true in reality. Examples: “Less is more.”

27. Parallelism

The use of similar words and phrases side-by-side throughout a sentence or passage to emphasize an idea. Examples: “I like dogs, cats and birds.”

28. Personification

Describing non-living things as if they were alive by giving them human characteristics and qualities. Examples: “The wind whispered through the trees.”

Thoughtful consideration should be given to each device being used in the content, including how and why it is being used. This can help develop a more cohesive piece of writing that effectively communicates its message. In addition, by understanding each literary device, readers will be able to recognize them when encountered in other pieces of literature or media.

By reading examples of these devices in action and gaining an understanding of their use, readers can become better equipped to identify them in the future and apply them to their own writing.

Conclusion

Literary devices are an essential part of the written language, used to convey ideas and evoke certain feelings or responses from readers. With a thorough understanding of the 28 common literary devices to know, writers can create more dynamic stories, poems and other pieces of writing that will engage their audience and communicate a powerful message.

By exploring each device in detail and recognizing how they are applied in different contexts, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for literature as well as learn how to use them effectively in their own work.

FAQs

What is a literary device?

A literary device is a technique used by writers to create meaning, evoke emotion, and enhance their work. It can be used in any genre of writing, from prose and poetry to plays and screenplays. Examples include metaphors, similes, alliteration, hyperbole, irony, puns etc.

What are some examples of literary devices?

Some common examples of literary devices include metaphors, similes, alliteration, hyperbole, irony, puns etc. Metaphors compare two objects or ideas without using the words “like” or “as” while similes compare two objects or ideas using the words “like” or “as.” Alliteration is when two or more adjacent words start with the same sound, while hyperbole is an exaggeration used to emphasize a point. Irony is when what is said has the opposite meaning of what was intended, and puns are plays on words that use homophones for comedic effect.

How can literary devices be used?

Literary devices can be used to create vivid imagery and vivid descriptions in writing, as well as to evoke emotion from readers. They can also help writers communicate their points more effectively by adding emphasis or creating dramatic tension within a piece of work. Finally, literary devices can help to make a piece of writing more enjoyable by adding humor and creativity.

What are some common literary devices?

Some of the most common literary devices include metaphors, similes, alliteration, hyperbole, irony, puns etc. Metaphors compare two objects or ideas without using the words “like” or “as” while similes compare two objects or ideas using the words “like” or “as.” Alliteration is when two or more adjacent words start with the same sound, while hyperbole is an exaggeration used to emphasize a point. Irony is when what is said has the opposite meaning of what was intended, and puns are plays on words that use homophones for comedic effect.

What is the importance of literary devices?

Literary devices are important because they help writers communicate their ideas in a creative and vivid way that resonates with readers. They can also evoke emotions such as amusement, sadness, anger, or surprise from readers, aiding in conveying the author’s intended message more effectively. Additionally, the use of literary devices can help to make a piece of writing more enjoyable by adding humor and creativity. Finally, literary devices can even be used to convey symbolism or foreshadowing within a work of literature.

How can I identify literary devices?

You can identify literary devices by looking at how words and phrases are used in context. If you see a phrase or sentence that is framed differently than the rest of the text, it may be an example of a literary device like metaphor, simile, alliteration, hyperbole etc. It’s also important to note that many literary devices use figurative language, meaning they communicate ideas using non-literal images or concepts. For example, when someone says “the sky was crying” they are using figurative language to describe rain falling from the sky. By identifying these types of statements in your reading material you can start noticing common literary devices. 

To learn more, you can check out our overview of 28 common literary devices, with each device featuring its definition and examples. The section titles will list the device name as a heading, followed by its definition and then examples. This resource is intended to help writers better understand how they can employ various devices in their work to create vivid imagery, evoke emotion, and enhance their writing overall.

We hope this article has been helpful in introducing you to literary devices and giving you an understanding of how they are used in writing! Good luck on your journey to mastering the art of using literary devices!

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