List of Literary Devices and Writing Techniques

Using different literary devices and writing techniques can make your writing more interesting. Many writers use literary devices, a term that refers to the methods and techniques that can be used to enhance your writing. If you are a writer or just want to become one, it is important to know what these devices mean and how they can help you in your work. In this article, we will discuss some of the most commonly used literary devices and their meanings.

Literary devices are tools writers use to achieve specific effects in their work, such as making a character seem intelligent or setting a mood. Writing techniques are the ways writers put together their sentences and paragraphs, like using transitions between ideas or using concrete language to make descriptions vivid. These elements help create a story that is cohesive and engaging for the reader by guiding them through the story’s world and themes in an understandable way.


An allegory is a story that has one or more meanings besides its literal meaning. The second or additional meaning is often a moral or religious lesson, but it can be anything else as well. The setting of the story may be in a different time and place, and the characters may have names that are symbolic of things other than their literal meanings.

In addition to being taught as literary devices in literature classes, allegories also appear frequently enough in pop culture to be recognizable by most readers. The story of George Orwell’s Animal Farm takes on new meaning when viewed as an allegory for communism—the pigs represent Russian leaders who take over the farm after a revolution overthrows its owners (humans), then become corrupted by power just like those whom they overthrew; meanwhile, the animals on the farm revolt against their oppressors because they’ve been mistreated for so long under human rule (an example of how history repeats itself). However, this isn’t necessarily why Orwell wrote his novel—he likely did so simply because he thought it would make an interesting story with interesting characters


Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. Alliteration can be used in poetry, but it’s also a powerful tool for prose writers who want to emphasize certain words and make their writing more memorable. Alliteration is a form of onomatopoeia that helps readers imagine the sound associated with your words even if they’ve never heard them before.

Alliteration is best when used sparingly; too many alliterations in a row can be distracting and unoriginal, so don’t overdo it!


An allusion is a brief reference to a person, place, or event. In literature and other creative works, it is an indirect reference made to an identifiable literary work or historical event. It can be implied rather than explicitly stated.

An allusion has its origins in classical rhetoric where it was described as “a trope that uses le mot de l’homme” (the man’s word). In this sense of the term, it was used by Roman rhetoricians such as Quintilian who wrote: “The tropes are four: metaphor, metonymy … allegory and irony … ; [and] the fourth is called allusion”. The word “allusion” comes from the Latin adludere means “to play upon words.” An example would be the following sentence: “Life is like a box of chocolates.” This sentence makes an allusion to the book and film Forrest Gump; however, no specific characters or events are mentioned in either text so they cannot be considered direct references.


Anaphora is a literary device in which the first word of a sentence or phrase is repeated at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or sentences.

Some examples include:

  • In “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, Tennyson uses anaphora to emphasize his feelings about war: “Cannon to right of them/Cannon to left of them/Cannon in front of them/Volleyed and thundered.” The words ‘cannon’ and ‘them’ are emphasized by being repeated multiple times.
  • The Bible often employs anaphoric repetition throughout both Old Testament and New Testament verses.
  • “My life is my purpose. My life is my goal. My life is my inspiration.”


An antithesis is the use of two contrasting ideas or parts. Sometimes, a writer will use an antithesis to emphasize something in his or her writing.

For example: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

In this example, the author uses opposites to emphasize that there is a class system in society, where some people have more money than others. He also implies that he thinks it’s wrong for people to be separated by wealth and that everyone should have equal opportunities regardless of their income level.

One thing you should know about using antithesis correctly: Don’t overdo it! If you put too many opposing words together in one sentence, your meaning may become unclear or confusing (you could end up with something like “To laugh is human; but happiness is divine”). When you’re choosing which words go together in your sentences, make sure they balance each other out nicely so they create an overall effective message without being too cluttered or hard-to-understand!


Assonance is a literary device and writing technique in which the vowels of words are repeated. In this case, “teeter-totter” contains assonance on the ‘e’ sound.

Assonance is often used in poetry; however, it can also be used in prose. It can help to create a sense of rhythm and rhyme to your writing, which can add emphasis or highlight important ideas that you want to emphasize.


Colloquialism is a word or phrase that is used in everyday speech and writing.

Colloquialisms are often informal, but not always. They can also be formal and even academic in nature. Colloquialisms are very helpful to writers because they make the writing seem more natural and conversational rather than formal and stuffy. A good rule of thumb for writers is this: if using the word or phrase would sound natural coming out of your mouth, then it’s probably okay to use it in your writing (with a few exceptions).

A simple example of a colloquialism would be “I can’t believe my luck!” This expression has been around forever—since at least the Middle Ages—but we still say it today!


Consonance is a type of alliteration in which the consonants of two or more words are repeated. The words usually rhyme, but not always. Consonance can be used to stress certain ideas or make certain lines stand out. It’s often found in poetry and song lyrics, but it can be used in prose as well. For example:

  • “The wolf did have three legs.”
  • “They made their way through the forest.”
  • “She smoked a cigarette on her balcony.”


Epistrophe is a rhetorical device in which the same word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses or sentences. It is a form of chiasmus and a form of parallelism.

The writer may repeat a single word, several words, or even an entire phrase. The repetition can be exact (as in “a pig’s ear”, where the second clause begins with “a pig’s ear”) or varied (“a peach’s pit”, where the second clause ends with “pit”).

Epistrophe has been used by many notable writers to make their works more memorable; for example:

“government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln in the “Gettysburg Address”


Euphemism is a figure of speech that replaces words or phrases with milder ones. The goal of euphemisms is to avoid offending people by substituting an offensive word or phrase with something less offensive.

Euphemisms often appear in advertising and politics, where they are used to make something sound better than it actually is. Euphemisms can also be used intentionally or unintentionally on purpose, as a way to express yourself without offending others.


Flashbacks are a narrative device that allows the author to reveal information about past events in a story, often to set up or explain later events. They can be used to show an event that happened before the current time of the narrative, or they may flash back to an earlier point in time within the main character’s life and follow it through until reaching the present.

A flashback is like looking at an old photo of yourself and remembering what you were doing at that time and how you felt as you experienced it. In literature, flashbacks are often used as devices for exploring a character’s past history or explaining their motivations for actions in present-day scenes.


Foreshadowing is a literary device that hints at events that will happen later in the story. Foreshadowing can be used to build suspense or to create a sense of irony.

Here are some examples of foreshadowing in literature:

  • In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe uses foreshadowing when he describes how the narrator’s heart beats faster as he commits his crime, hinting at both his guilt and fear.
  • In “Julius Caesar,” Shakespeare uses foreshadowing when Brutus foreshadows his own death by saying “Caesar must bleed for Rome.”
  • In “Treasure Island,” Stevenson uses foreshadowing when Long John Silver warns Jim Hawkins not to let pirates kill him because he will get revenge on them if they do so.


Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration for effect. It’s a literary device that can help you make your writing more vivid, memorable, and persuasive.

Examples of hyperbole include: “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

“New York is the city that never sleeps.”

You probably use hyperbole all the time without realizing it; for example, when you say that someone has “the biggest heart in the world,” or when you call something “so delicious” that it could kill someone. In fact, we often use hyperbole to emphasize our emotions—when we’re angry or excited or upset—or to imply something about our feelings toward a person or thing (for example: “It took forever to find you”).


Imagery is the use of sensory description to create a mental picture in the reader’s mind. Imagery can be used to set the scene, give more depth to characters and events, or create contrasting moods.

The best way to describe imagery is through examples:

  • “The leaves of the oak trees turned yellow and red and fell.” The sentence above uses sensory details about leaves (the sense of sight), as well as specific verbs (turned, fell) to create an image in your mind that isn’t easily forgotten.
  • “His face was a pale moon, with two deep hollows like empty eye sockets where his eyes should have been.” This example uses figurative language—imagery that compares something with another thing—to make you imagine this character’s face as having two empty holes on it where eyes should be.

Imagery creates mental pictures for readers so that they can better envision what is happening in their minds when reading a piece of writing or listening to an oral presentation.


The literary device of irony is a very common technique used in writing, especially for humor.

Irony is a type of discrepancy between what we expect to happen or what someone says or does and the actual result. You can see this in everyday life as well—for example: when your friend asks if you want to go shopping with her but then announces that she has something else planned for the day; when you’re waiting for your food at a restaurant that takes forever and then suddenly receives it right away; when your roommate complains about how messy their room is while they’re watching TV on their bed surrounded by papers they haven’t yet put away. These are all examples of irony because they involve situations where something happens that’s unexpected compared to our expectations based on what we know so far (or even just one small thing).

In addition to being funny, using ironic statements can make people think more deeply about what’s going on around them due to its ability to reveal hidden truths within situations because there seems more than meets the eye! It also helps readers connect better with characters since some writers use irony as subtle humor instead of making jokes directly out loud like most comedians do today.


Metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things that helps to convey a message.

For example: “His eyes were like chocolate diamonds,” is a metaphor. This comparison helps you understand the intensity of his gaze and how it makes you feel when he looks at you. Metaphors are used to help the reader understand a concept more easily.


Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word is substituted for another word that it is closely associated with. For example, we often use metonymy to refer to something by referring to a part of it instead of its name. This can be done when there are multiple ways to refer to the same thing (like “the crown” or “crown jewels”), or when we’re talking about ourselves being part of something else (such as “our team”). Metaphors and similes are also types of metonymy; they describe things in terms that are similar but not exactly the same.

Metonymy is often used as an indicator of familiarity: If two people know each other well enough, for instance, they may use metonymies like calling each other by their first names instead of by their last names (assuming those last names aren’t particularly common). Metaphors such as these help create intimacy between speakers and listeners—they allow us all feel like we’re on the same level with one another. The word itself comes from Greek: There were two words related to changing names—metathesis, meaning “to change position,” and meta + onyma meaning “change one name.” When combined into *metonymy*, they became inseparable!


Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like what it means. Examples of onomatopoeia include “hiss” and “click.” How can you use onomatopoeia in your writing? Here are some ideas:

  • If you want to give your reader a sense of how something sounds, use onomatopoeia.
  • Use it for emphasis. If a character is startled by something unexpected, try describing the sound as an onomatopoeic word (for example, “Eek!”). Try saying this aloud to give yourself an idea about how to write it.
  • You could also use it as part of a metaphor. For example: “My heart beat like thunder” might be better written as “My heart pounded like thunder”.


An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms.

Examples of oxymorons include: “jumbo shrimp,” “friendly fire,” and “freezer burn.”

Oxymorons are useful in writing when you want to emphasize the paradoxical nature of something. Take for example, the phrase “short shrift”—the idea that something was given little attention or consideration is emphasized by pairing it with a word that has connotations of lengthiness (in this case, “shrift”). Other examples include Shakespeare’s Hamlet saying, “Frailty thy name is woman!” He pairs two words together which he knows have opposite meanings in order to create a sense of irony about his mother’s character; she appears strong but actually has many weaknesses.


A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself. Paradoxes can be found in literature, philosophy, and life itself. They are used to make a point or to create tension and interest in a work of art.

Here is an example of a paradox: “I don’t know anything about the book I just wrote” (Faulkner). This quote means that the writer doesn’t understand his own work because he knows it so well; i.e., he understands it too much or too little—it’s impossible to comprehend something you’re so familiar with! When creating your own writing, try using this technique for comic effect or for drama; there are many ways you can use this literary device effectively.


Parallelism is a structural device that repeats words, phrases, or clauses structure. It is used in poetry and rhetoric, and often used to create balance in a sentence. Parallelism can be used to emphasize a point, or to create rhythm and beauty in a sentence.

Here are some examples of parallelism:

“I don’t want to live on in my work. I want to live on in my apartment.” – Woody Allen

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong


Personification is the use of animal, plant or object to represent a human. Personification can be used to describe a human’s emotions, actions and even thoughts.

Personification can also be used to create empathy for an inanimate object or person by giving them human characteristics. This helps the reader relate to the character better and also makes it easier for you as the writer because you don’t have to explain why they do things—you just say they “did.” For example:

“The wind holds her hair out of her face as she runs toward him.” In this sentence, “the wind” represents nature itself doing something nice for this girl and helping her out in her time of need.

Rhetorical Question

Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked but not expected to be answered. They’re often used to make a point, or as a way of making statements. For example:

“Do you want to be a failure for the rest of your life?”

“How should I know?”


Satire is a literary device that uses humor to make fun of people, things, or ideas. It’s often used to criticize or point out the problems in society. Satirical writing can be found in all genres, from film and television to poetry and nonfiction essays. Some common examples of satire include:

  • The Onion — a newspaper that publishes satirical articles every day
  • The Simpsons — an animated TV show featuring exaggerated versions of real-life people with exaggerated flaws
  • David Sedaris — author who writes about his own life experiences through funny anecdotes

In order for your piece of writing to qualify as satire, you need two things: 1) the element being ridiculed must be clearly identifiable (either by name or description); 2) there must be some kind of social criticism involved—this criticism could simply be pointing out how ridiculous something is or it could involve pointing out some kind of problem related to race/class/gender issues etcetera.


A simile is a comparison between two things using the words “like” or “as.” Similes are very common in literature and poetry, and are used to make the reader think about the comparison.


  • The sky was as blue as a robin’s egg. (This simile compares something you can see with your eyes–the sky–to something you cannot see with your eyes–a robin’s egg.)
  • The baby smiled like sunshine on water. (This simile compares something we can feel with our bodies–the warmth of sunshine on water)


Symbolism is a type of figurative language that uses symbols to represent abstract ideas. Symbolic representation can be found in both literature and everyday life. A symbol can be as simple as an object, such as a feather or rose, or it can take the form of an image, like Jesus on the cross. Symbolism can also be more complicated than this; certain words and phrases may have symbolic value when used together with other words or phrases.

To understand symbolism in writing, you must first look at what the writer is trying to convey by using symbolism in his work (or art). Writers use symbolism to express their ideas clearly and effectively without having to state them directly (as they might do if they were writing non-fiction). Not only does this make their work more interesting for readers who enjoy metaphors and allusions, but it allows them to establish connections between fiction and real life by incorporating familiar objects into their stories—something many people enjoy doing when reading fables or fairy tales.


Synecdoche is a metaphor in which a part of something implies the whole thing or vice versa. For example: “All hands on deck.” This means everyone is needed; nothing less than all your hands will do! It could also mean “the whole ship.” If you were to say “the entire staff was in attendance” it would imply that no one went home at night or took any time off from work because they had so much work to do there wasn’t enough time for breaks and lunch breaks!


I hope this list of literary devices and writing techniques has given you some ideas for how to make your writing more interesting! They’re a great way to spice up your prose, but they don’t have to be used just for that purpose. You can also use them when coming up with titles or headlines, or even when brainstorming new ideas for your stories and characters.

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