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Terms Definitions
Diction the word choices made by a writer (diction can be described as:
formal, semi-formal, ornate, informal, technical, etc.)
Figurative language language employing one or more figures of speech
(simile, metaphor, imagery, etc.)
Rhetoric the art of presenting ideas in a clear, effective, and persuasive
Rhetorical devices literary techniques used to heighten the effectiveness of
Rhetorical pattern format or structure followed by a writer such as
comparison/contrast or process analysis.
Structure the arrangement or framework of a sentence, paragraph, or entire
Style the choices a writer makes; the combination of distinctive features of a
literary work (when analyzing style, one may consider diction, figurative
language, sentence structure, etc.)
Syntax the manner in which words are arranged into sentences
Theme a central idea of a work
Thesis the primary position taken by a writer or speaker
Tone the attitude of a writer, usually implied, toward the subject or audience
Section 2 ...
Absolute a word free from limitations or qualifications ("best," "all", "unique,"
Ad hominem argument an argument attacking an individual's character
rather than his or her position on an issue
Allegory a literary work in which characters, objects, or actions represent
Allusion a reference to something literary, mythological, or historical that the
author assumes the reader will recognize
Analogy a comparison of two different things that are similar in some way
Anaphora repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of
successive clauses (Richard D. Bury: "In books I find the dead as if they
were alive; in books I foresee things to come; in books warlike affairs are
set forth; from books come forth the laws of peace.")
Anecdote a brief narrative that focuses on a particular incident or event
Anthypophora A figure of reasoning in which one asks and then immediately
answers one's own rhetorical questions (or raises and then settles
imaginary objections). Reasoning aloud.
Antithesis a statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced
Aphorism a concise, statement that expresses succinctly a general truth or
idea, often using rhyme or balance
Argumentation a pattern of writing or speaking which is characterized by
reason and logic, and asserts a position, belief or conclusion
Assonance Repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by
different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words. Ex: The
sergeant asked him to bomb the lawn with hotpots.
Asyndeton a construction in which elements are presented in a series without
conjunctions ("They spent the day wondering, searching, thinking,
Balanced sentence a sentence in which words, phrases, or clauses are set off against each other to emphasize a contrast (George Orwell: "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.")
Cause/Effect a pattern of writing or speaking which is characterized by its
analysis of why something happens, in contrast to Process, which
describes how something happens. Often links situations and events in
time, with causes preceding events. Ex: the cause of a war and its effects
on a national economy
Chiasmus a statement consisting of two parallel parts in which the second part is structurally reversed ("Susan walked in, and out rushed Mary.")
Classification/Division a pattern of writing or speaking which is characterized by division, which is the process of breaking a whole into parts, and classification, which is the often subsequent process of sorting individual items into categories
Climax generally, the arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order
of increasing importance, often in parallel structure ("The concerto was
applauded at the house of Baron von Schnooty, it was praised highly at
court, it was voted best concerto of the year by the Academy, it was
considered by Mozart the highlight of his career, and it has become
known today as the best concerto in the world.")
Colloquialism informal words or expressions not usually acceptable in formal
Comparison/Contrast a pattern of writing or speaking which is characterized
by, in its narrowest sense, how two or more things are similar (compare)
and/or how two or more things are different (contrast).
Complex sentence sentence with one independent clause and at least one
dependent clause
Compound sentence a sentence with two or more coordinate independent
clauses, often joined by one or more conjunctions
Compound-complex sentence a sentence with two or more principal clauses
and one or more subordinate clauses
Conceit a fanciful, particularly clever extended metaphor (Shakespeare's
Sonnet 130 and John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" are
Concrete details details that relate to or describe actual, specific things or
Connotation the implied or associative meaning of a word (slender vs. skinny;
cheap vs. thrifty)
Cumulative sentence (loose sentence) a sentence in which the main
independent clause is elaborated by the successive addition of modifying
clauses or phrases (Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal: "I have been
assured by a very knowing American friend of my acquaintance in
London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most
delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted,
baked or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a
fricassee or a ragout.")
Declarative sentence a sentence that makes a statement or declaration
Deductive reasoning reasoning in which a conclusion is reached by stating a
general principle and then applying that principle to a specific case (The
sun rises every morning; therefore, the sun will rise on Tuesday
Definition a pattern of writing or speaking which strives to inform the
audience on what a term means and how it is different from other terms
in its class.
Denotation the literal meaning of a word
Description a pattern of writing or speaking which is characterized by
physical descriptions of a person, place or thing. It is a pattern that relies
on the five senses to inform it.
Dialect a variety of speech characterized by its own particular grammar or
pronunciation, often associated with a particular geographical region
("Y'all" = Southern dialect)
Didactic statement having the primary purpose of teaching or instructing
Dissonance harsh, inharmonious, or discordant sounds
Ellipsis the omission of a word or phrase which is grammatically necessary
but can be deduced from the context ("Some people prefer cats; others,
Epigram a brief, pithy, and often paradoxical saying
Epigraph a saying or statement on the title page of a work, or used as a
heading of a chapter or other section of a work
Ethos the persuasive appeal of one's character, or credibility
Euphemism an indirect, less offensive way of saying something that is
considered unpleasant
Exclamatory sentence a sentence expressing strong feeling, usually
punctuated with an exclamation mark
Exemplification a pattern of writing or speaking which is characterized by
using one or more particular cases, or examples, to illustrate or explain a
general point or an abstract concept.
Hyperbole intentional exaggeration to create an effect
Idiom an expression in a given language that cannot be understood from the
literal meaning of the words in the expression; or, a regional speech or
dialect ("fly on the wall", "cut to the chase", etc.)
Imagery the use of figures of speech to create vivid images that appeal to one
of the senses
Imperative sentence a sentence that gives a command
Implication a suggestion an author or speaker makes (implies) without
stating it directly. NOTE: the author/speaker implies; the
reader/audience infers.
Inductive reasoning deriving general principles from particular facts or
instances ("Every cat I have ever seen has four legs; cats are four-legged
Inference a conclusion on draws (infers) based on premises or evidence
Interrogative sentence a sentence that asks a question
Invective an intensely vehement, highly emotional verbal attack
Inverted syntax a sentence constructed so that the predicate comes before
the subject (ex: In the woods I am walking.)
Irony the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning; or,
incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs
(situational, verbal, dramatic)
Jargon the specialized language or vocabulary of a particular group or
Juxtaposition placing two elements side by side to present a comparison or
Litotes a type of understatement in which an idea is expressed by negating its
opposite (describing a particularly horrific scene by saying, "It was not a
pretty picture.")
Logos appeal to reason or logic
Malapropism the mistaken substitution of one word for another word that
sounds similar ("The doctor wrote a subscription.")
Maxim a concise statement, often offering advice; an adage
Metaphor a direct comparison of two different things
Metonymy substituting the name of one object for another object closely
associated with it ("The pen [writing] is mightier than the sword
Mood the emotional atmosphere of a work
Motif a standard theme, element, or dramatic situation that recurs in various
Narration is a dominant pattern of writing or speaking which strives to tell a
story by presenting events in an orderly, logical sequence. Conventionally
utilizes the first or third person perspective.
Non sequitur an inference that does not follow logically from the premises
(literally, "does not follow")
Paradox an apparently contradictory statement that actually contains some
truth ("Whoever loses his life, shall find it.")
Parallelism the use of corresponding grammatical or syntactical forms
Parody a humorous imitation of a serious work (Weird Al Yankovich's songs,
and the Scary Movie series are examples)
Parenthetical Comment a comment that interrupts the immediate subject,
often to quality or explain
Pathos the quality in a work that prompts the reader to feel pity
Pedantic often used to describe a writing style, characterized by an excessive
display of learning or scholarship, characterized by being narrowly,
stodgily, and often ostentatiously learned
Personification endowing non-human objects or creatures with human
qualities or characteristics
Philippic a strong verbal denunciation. The term comes from the orations of
Demosthenes against Philip of Macedonia in the fourth century.
Polysyndeton the use, for rhetorical effect, of more conjunctions than is
necessary or natural (John Henry Newman: "And to set forth the right
standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students
towards it according to their various capacities, this I conceive to be the
business of a University.")
Process (a.k.a., Process Analysis) a pattern of writing or speaking which is
characterized by it's explanation of how to do something or how
something occurs. It presents a sequence of steps and shows how those
steps lead to a particular result. (Can be seen often in recipes or
directional manuals, a discussion of steps)
Rhetorical question a question asked merely for rhetorical effect and not
requiring an answer
Sarcasm harsh, cutting language or tone intended to ridicule
Satire the use of humor to emphasize human weaknesses or imperfections in
social institutions (Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, The Simpsons,
Scheme an artful deviation from the ordinary arrangement of words
(anaphora, anastrophe, antithesis are some examples of schemes)
Sibilance having, containing, or producing the sound of or a sound resembling
that of the s or the sh in sash. "And the silken sad uncertain rustling of
each purple curtain."
Simile a comparison of two things using "like," "as," or other specifically
comparative words
Simple sentence a sentence consisting of one independent clause and no
dependent clause
Solecism non standard grammatical usage; a violation of grammatical rules
(ex: unflammable; they was)
Stream of Consciousness a technique characterized by the continuous
unedited flow of conscious experience through the mind recorded on
paper. Often used in "interior monologue," when the reader is privy to a
character or narrator's thoughts.
Syllepsis a construction in which one word is used in two different senses
("After he threw the ball, he threw a fit.")
Syllogism a three-part deductive argument in which a conclusion is based on
a major premise and a minor premise ("All men are mortal; Socrates is a
man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.")
Synecdoche using one part of an object to represent the entire object (for
example, referring to a car simply as "wheels")
Synesthesia (or synaesthesia)—describing one kind of sensation in terms of
another ("a loud color," "a sweet sound")
Tautology needless repetition which adds no meaning or understanding
("Widow woman", "free gift")
Trope an artful deviation from the ordinary or principal signification of a word
(hyberbole, metaphor, and personification are some examples of tropes)
Understatement the deliberate representation of something as lesser in
magnitude than it
Vernacular the everyday speech of a particular country or region, often
involving nonstandard usage
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