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AP English Stylistic Devices

Allegory
A narrative technique in which characters representing things or abstract ideas are used to convey a lesson.

Alliteration
Repetition of a similar sound in a group of words. (sweet smell of success, a dime a dozen, bigger and better, jump for joy)

Allusion
A brief reference of an event outside of the book.

Anaphora
Repetition of the same words or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses.

Climax
Word phrases and clauses in increasing importance

Cliché
An overused saying or idea

Diction
An authors word choice for the quality of the sound of a character.

Euphemism
A word or phrase used in place of a term that might be considered harsh.

Hyperbole
Deliberate and obvious exaggeration.

Imagery
The formation of mental images through senses, similes, personifications, etc.

Irony
Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs

Juxtaposition
Two opposite situations or characters that exemplifies the contrast between them.

Litotes
An understatement with a negation. (ex. You know, Einstein is not a bad mathematician)

Malapropism
Not using the right words in a sentence.

Metaphor
A comparison of two unlike objects without using like or as.

Metonymy
One thing is used as a substitute for another with which it is closely identified (the White House)

Negation
A negative statement

Onomatopoeia
The formation of a word by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its reference. (ex. “ding dong”)

Oxymoron
A seemingly contradictory statement (ex. microsoft works)

Paradox
A statement that’s a contradiction, a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth (ex. Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage.)

Personification
Giving an object human like characteristics

Pun
A humorous play on words to suggest a different meaning or application.

Simile
A comparison of two unlike objects or ideas using like or as.

Symbol
Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention.

Syntax
The orderly arrangement or words into sentences to express ideas.

Theme
The message of the book.

Tone
The means of creating a relationship or conveying an attitude or mood.

Understatement
A word that is used that is not as strong as it could.

Ambiguity
an expression whose meaning cannot be determined from its context

Anecdote
a brief narrative that focuses on a particular incident or event

Colloquialism
a word or phrase (including slang) used in everyday conversation and informal writing but that is often inappropriate in formal writing (y’all, ain’t)

Conceit
An elaborate or unusual comparison

Connotation
The implied meaning of a word

Denotation
The literal meaning of a word

Ellipsis
the omission of a word or phrase which is grammatically necessary but can be deduced for the context (use of “…”)

Epiphany
The sudden flare into revelation of an ordinary object or scene

Loose sentence
a complex sentence in which the main clause comes first and the subordinate clause follows

Mood
the feeling created in the reader by a literary work or passage

Motif
A recurrent thematic element in an artistic or literary work.

Overstatement
a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used in the service of truth

Parenthesis
insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts the normal syntactical flow of the sentence

Periodic Sentence
A sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end. The independent clause is preceded by a phrase or clause that cannot stand alone. The effect is to add emphasis and structural variety. (ex. For the queen, the lover, pleading always at the heart’s door, patiently waits)

Persona
the speaker, voice, or character assumed by the author of a piece of writing

Synecdoche
a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part (ex. lend me your ears)

Zeugma
use of two different words in a grammatically similar way but producing different, often incongruous, meanings (ex. Kill the boys and the luggage)

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