74 Useful Literary Devices and Terms to Help Improve Your Writing and Understanding

A machine that creates literary devices
A machine that creates literary devices

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping…” — Edgar Allen Poe

Do you consider yourself a wordsmith? Are you a bit of a cunning linguist? Are you looking to add some extra pizzazz to your writing? If the answer to any of these was a “Yes!” or “No! Not yet.” or “What?”, then you’re in the right place!

Today we’re discussing 70 literary devices and terms every writer should know.

When you’re writing, you want to make sure you’re providing the best content you can. That’s why it’s important to understand every aspect of the craft of writing. One of the best ways to improve your writing is to become familiar with the most common literary devices and terms.

It’s like having a secret weapon to make your writing shine!

So, along my personal journey to improve as a writer — and hopefully, I have — I’ve been collecting as much information about the mechanics of the craft itself. It’s part of my ongoing belief in the protégé effect.

To that end, here’s a giant list of 70 literary devices found in literature throughout time, crafting the intriguing stories, books, and essays we all love to read.

But first, it might help to understand just what a literary device actually is.

What is a literary device?

A literary device is a tool used by writers to create and enhance their stories. It’s like a toolbox that has countless tools and gadgets, each one helping to make the writing more interesting and meaningful.

Literary devices are used to build a story and make it more vivid and interesting. They can be used to create a certain mood, evoke an emotion, create suspense or surprise, or explain a concept or idea.

Some of the most common literary devices include metaphors, similes, alliteration, personification, and irony.

In a nutshell, literary devices are all the tricks and tools writers use to make their stories more exciting and enjoyable. Without them, stories would be dull and boring.

So be sure to thank your favorite authors for their use of these amazing tools — and for providing you with hours of entertainment! Oh, and if that’s not enough, a good pun never hurt anyone either.

Now let’s go find out the 74 most common literary devices used by writers all over the world!

74 Literary Devices to Use to Become a Better Writer

#1. Metaphor

What is a metaphor?

“A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.” — Grammarly

#2. Simile

What is a simile?

“A simile is a figure of speech comparing two things, usually to emphasize or add imagination to a statement.” — Threw the Looking Glass

#3. Imagery

What is imagery?

“Imagery is a literary device used in poetry, novels, and other writing that uses vivid description that appeals to a readers’ senses to create an image or idea in their head.” — Studiobinder

#4. Symbolism

What is symbolism?

“Symbolism is the idea that things represent other things. What we mean by that is that we can look at something — let’s say, the color red — and conclude that it represents not the color red itself but something beyond it: for example, passion, or love, or devotion.” — Oregon State

#5. Personification

What is personification?

“Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human.” — Literarydevices

#6. Hyperbole

What is hyperbole?

“Hyperbole is a rhetorical and literary technique where an author or speaker intentionally uses exaggeration and overstatement for emphasis and effect.” — Masterclass

#7. Irony

What is irony?

“Irony is when the opposite of what is expected happens. In writing, there are three types of irony — verbal, situational, and dramatic.” — Reedsy

#8. Juxtaposition

“In other words, to notice when things are in juxtaposition is to notice things side by side, with the outcome being that specific qualities are contrasted.” — Oregon State

#9. Paradox

What is a paradox in writing?

“A paradox is a statement that appears at first to be contradictory, but upon reflection then makes sense.” — Literarydevices

#10. Allusion

What is allusion?

“Allusion is a reference to a well-known person, character, place, or event that a writer makes to deepen the reader’s understanding of their work.” — Grammarly

#11. Allegory

“As a literary device or artistic form, an allegory is a narrative or visual representation in which a character, place, or event can be interpreted to represent a hidden meaning with moral or political significance.” — Wikipedia

#12. Ekphrasis

What is ekphrasis?

“Ekphrasis, or ecphrasis, is the description of a work of art, such as a painting or sculpture, in a literary passage.” — LanguageHumanities

#13. Onomatopeia

What is onomatopoeia?

“Onomatopoeia words describe sounds by copying the sound itself.” — Writers

#14. Pun

What is a pun?

“A pun is a figure of speech that exploits a word’s meaning. For example: ‘Make like a tree and leave.’ Puns are often used in writing to create humor.” — Masterclass

#15. Anaphora

What is anaphora?

“Anaphora is a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences.” — LitCharts

#16. Conceit

What is conceit in writing?

“A conceit in literature is a type of figurative language in which the writer establishes a comparison between two very different concepts or objects. Conceit is a specific use of extended metaphor. Conceits in literature often use multiple metaphors, juxtapositions, or similes to create and enhance the comparison.” — Study

#17. Epistrophe

What is epistrophe in writing?

“Epistrophe is the repetition of one or more words at the end of a phrase, clause, verse, or sentence.” — Your Dictionary

#18. Synecdoche

What is synecdoche?

“Synecdoche refers to a figure of speech in which the word for a part of something is used to refer to the thing itself, or less commonly, when the word for a thing itself is used to refer to part of that thing.” — Websters

#19. Metonymy

What is metonymy?

“Metonymy refers to a figure of speech in which the word for one thing is used to refer to something related to that thing, such as crown for ‘king’ or ‘queen,’ or White House or Oval Office for ‘President.’”— Websters

#20. Enjambment

What is enjambment?

“Enjambment is the continuation of a sentence or clause across a line break.” — LitCharts

#21. Zeugma

What is zeugma?

“A zeugma is a literary term for using one word to modify two other words, in two different ways. An example of a zeugma is, ‘She broke his car and his heart.’” — Vocabulary

#22. Repetition

What is repetition in writing?

“Repetition is a literary device in which a word or phrase is used multiple times.” — StudioBinder

#23. Rhyme

What is rhyme in writing?

“A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more words.” — LitCharts

#24. Alliteration

What is alliteration?

“Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the start of a series of words in succession whose purpose is to provide an audible pulse that gives a piece of writing a lulling, lyrical, and/or emotive effect.” — Oregon State

#25. Consonance

What is consonance?

“Consonance is the repetition of similar sounds — or consonants (non-vowels) — in language.” — StudioBinder

#26. Assonance

What is assonance?

“Assonance is the repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds within words, phrases, or sentences.” — LiteraryTerms

#27. Euphony

What is euphony?

“The literary device euphony is derived from the Greek word euphonos, which means “sweet-voiced.” It can be defined as the use of words and phrases that are distinguished as having a wide range of noteworthy melody or loveliness in the sounds they create.” —LiteraryDevices

#28. Cacophony

What is cacophony?

“Cacophony is the use of a combination of words with loud, harsh sounds — in reality as well as literature.” — LiteraryTerms

#29. Meter

What is meter in writing?

“Meter is the basic rhythmic structure of a line within a work of poetry.” — MasterClass

#30. Parallel

What is parallel in writing?

“Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance.” — Perdue

#31. Plot

What is plot in writing?

“In a literary work, film, or other narrative, the plot is the sequence of events in which each event affects the next one through the principle of cause-and-effect. The causal events of a plot can be thought of as a series of events linked by the connector ‘and so’.” — Wikipedia

#32. Foil

What is foil in writing?

A “foil, in literature, [is] a character who is presented as a contrast to a second character so as to point to or show to advantage some aspect of the second character.” — Britannica

#33. Diction

What is diction in writing?

“In writing, diction is the strategic choice of words based on the audience, context, or situation. It can also express additional meanings or particular styles.” — Grammarly

#34. Mood

What is mood in writing?

“Mood in literature is another word for the atmosphere or ambience of a piece of writing, be it a short story, novel, poem, or essay. The mood is the feeling that the writer is trying to evoke in their readers — feelings like calm, anxiety, joy, or anger.” — MasterClass

#35. Foreshadowing

What is foreshadowing?

“Foreshadowing is a narrative device in which suggestions or warnings about events to come are dropped or planted.” — Oregon State

#36. In Media Res

What is in media res in writing?

“In medias res is a Latin phrase meaning ‘in the middle of things’. In the context of writing and literature, it refers to a story that begins partway through its plot, with the missing events filled in later through dialogue, flashbacks, or other techniques.” — jerichowriters

#37. Dramatic

What is dramatic in writing?

“A prose or verse composition, especially one telling a serious story, that is intended for representation by actors impersonating the characters and performing the dialogue and action.” — FreeDictionary

#38. Irony

What is irony in writing?

“Irony is when something happens that’s not expected, often to a funny or dramatic effect. If we’re expecting one thing because of the context or circumstance, but something else happens, that’s ironic.” — Self-publishing-school

#39. Vignette

What is a vignette in writing?

“A vignette is a short scene in literature that is used to describe a moment in time. It is descriptive and creates an atmosphere around a character, an incident, an emotion, or a place.” — WritersWrite

#40. Flashback

What is a flashback in writing?

“A flashback is a scene that takes place before a story begins. Flashbacks interrupt the chronological order of the main narrative to take a reader back in time to the past events in a character’s life.” — MasterClass

#41. Soliloquy

What is a soliloquy?

“A soliloquy is a monologue addressed to oneself, thoughts spoken out loud without addressing another.” — Wikipedia

#42. Anadiplosis

What is anadiplosis?

“Anadiplosis is a figure of speech in which a word or group of words located at the end of one clause or sentence is repeated at or near the beginning of the following clause or sentence.” — LitCharts

#43. Anaphora

What is anaphora in prose?

“Anaphora is the repetition of words or phrases in a group of sentences, clauses, or poetic lines.” — Oregon

#44. Antanaclasis

What is antanaclasis?

“Antanaclasis is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated within a sentence, but the word or phrase means something different each time it appears.” — LitCharts

#45. Antimetabole

What is antimetabole?

“Antimetabole is derived from a Greek word which means “turning about.” It is a literary term or device that involves repeating a phrase in reverse order.” — LiteraryDevices

#46. Antistrophe

What is antistrophe?

“Antistrophe is a derivative of a Greek word that means “turning back.” It is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of the same words at the end of consecutive phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs.” — LiteraryDevices

#47. Chiasmus

What is chiasmus?

“A chiasmus is a rhetorical device used to create a stylized writing effect, in which the second part of a sentence is a mirror image of the first.” — MasterClass

#48. Epimone

What is epimone?

“Epimone is a rhetorical term for the frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point.” — ThoughtCo

#49. Epizeuxis

What is epizeuxis?

“Epizeuxis is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated in immediate succession, with no intervening words.” — LitCharts

#50. Polyptoton

What is polyptoton?

“Polyptoton is a stylistic device that consists of the repetition of a root word in different inflections or different cases for rhetorical effect. Placing different forms of the same word in close proximity can create irony, emphasize an argument, or build a rhythm.” — MasterClass

#51. Symploce

What is symploce?

“Symploce is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is used successively at the beginning of two or more clauses or sentences and another word or phrase with a similar wording is used successively at the end of them. It is the combination of anaphora and epistrophe.” — Wikipedia

#52. Colloquialism

What is colloquialism?

“Colloquialism is informal, everyday language that is used by a specific geographical region.” — Grammarly

#53. Vernacular

What is vernacular?

“Vernacular is a manner of speaking, specifically our own everyday language, and can include slang and curse words as well as regional terminology.” — Study

#54. Dialect

What is dialect?

“A dialect is a form of a language that is specific to a particular region or group.” — WritingExplained

#55. Slang

What is slang?

“Slang is vocabulary (words, phrases, and linguistic usages) of an informal register, common in spoken conversation but avoided in formal writing.” — Wikipedia

#56. Jargon

What is jargon?

“Jargon refers to the specialized language of a professional or occupational group. While this language is often useful or necessary for those within the group, it is usually meaningless to outsiders.” — ThoughtCo

#57. Idiom

What is an idiom?

“An idiom is a widely used saying or expression containing a figurative meaning that differs from the phrase’s literal meaning.” — MasterClass

#58. Euphemism

What is euphemism?

“A euphemism is a polite word or expression that is used to refer to things which people may find upsetting or embarrassing to talk about, for example sex, the human body, or death.” — CollinsDictionairy

#59. Proverb

What is proverb?

“A proverb is a short saying or piece of folk wisdom that emerges from the general culture rather than being written by a single, individual author. Proverbs often use metaphors or creative imagery to express a broader truth.” — LiteraryTerms

#60. Neologism

What is neologism?

“A neologism is a newly coined word or term that has emerged into everyday usage.” — GrammarMonster

#61. Anthimeria

What is anthimeria?

“Anthimeria (also known as antimeria) is the usage of a word in a new grammatical form, most often the usage of a noun as a verb.” — LiteraryTerms

#62. Double Entendre

What is a double entendre?

“A double entendre is a sentence or phrase where there are two possible interpretations: the first is straightforward and obvious, while the second is sexually suggestive or offensive in nature.” — MasterClass

#63. Kenning

What is kenning in writing?

“A kenning is a figure of speech where a two-word phrase replaces a one-word noun. Learn more about the use of kennings in poetry and explore examples.” — twinkl

#64. Malapropism

What is a malapropism?

“A malapropism occurs when you say one word but you mean another, like instead of saying a certain restaurant is prosperous, you say it is preposterous.” — Vocabulary

#65. Metalepsis

What is metalepsis?

“Metalepsis is a figure of speech in which reference is made to something by means of another thing that is remotely related to it, either through a causal relationship, or through another figure of speech.” — MyEnglishPages

#66. Oxymoron

What is an oxymoron?

“An oxymoron is a figure of speech that places contradictory terms next to each other in a word or phrase. As a literary device, it is used to make certain word combinations more thought-provoking to stand out.” — Grammarly

#67. Palindrome

What is a palindrome?

“A palindrome is a word, number, phrase, or other sequence of symbols that reads the same backwards as forwards, such as the words madam or racecar, the date/time stamps 11/11/11 11:11 and 02/02/2020, and the sentence: “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama”.” — Wikipedia

#68. Paraprosdokian

What is a paraprosdokian?

A parprosdokian is when you “take a famous line, commonly used phrase, or even a popular word and say it ‘as is’ for the first part — then put a twist in the latter half of it.” — Medium

#69. Portmanteau

What is a portmanteau?

“A portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe) is a word made by blending at least two words. The new word combines both the sounds and meanings of the originals.” — Grammarly

#70. Spoonerism

What is spoonerism?

“A spoonerism is a speech error in which the speaker switches the initial consonants of two consecutive words. If you say “bunny phone” instead of “funny bone,” you’ve uttered a spoonerism.” — Vocabulary

#71. Grammatical parallelism

What is grammatical parallelism?

“Parallelism in grammar is defined as two or more phrases or clauses in a sentence that have the same grammatical structure.” — Grammarly

#72. Rhetorical parallelism

What is rhetorical parallelism?

“Parallelism is a grammatical technique involving the use of the same or similar grammatical structures and clauses within sentence structures. In rhetoric, parallelism similarly compounds and groups together structures and clauses to provide a flow in the sentence(s).” — StudioBinder

#73. Antithetical parallelism

What is antithetical parallelism?

“Antithetic parallelism is a form of parallelism where the meaning of two or more excerpts of text are observed, although directly linked by providing the same meaning from differing perspectives. This type of parallelism is used in order to create repetition of meaning as a technique for cognitive reinforcement, thus more effectively communicating the meaning of the text.” — Wikipedia

#74. Synonymous parallelism

What is synonymous parallelism?

“Synonymous parallelism involves the repetition in the second part of what has already been expressed in the first, while simply varying the words.” — Britannica

J.J. Pryor

Come check out Pryor Thoughts for way more wacky stuff.

You might also be interested in reading the complete list of 219 cognitive biases, effects, and phenomena.

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