AP Language Literary Devices

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Last updated: May 11, 2019
Authority
Citations from people recognized for their knowledge of a certain subject for the purpose of strengthening a speaker or writers arguments. Example: When an author is writing about children with autism and cites a quote from a leading doctor in that area.

Audience
The readers. Example: I watched a play therefore I was part of the audience.

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Backing
Supporting of an argument’s quality or excellence.

Example: The author’s notes on the argument for whether it is valid or not/commenting on its quality.

Assertion
A statement that is debatable (not a fact). Example: That shirt is cute.

Means VS ends
How you end up achieving the goal, or getting the goal. Example: I want to go to college out of state, but it would put my parents in major debt. Do I still go for it?

Generalization
A statement that is broad enough to cover or describe characteristics common to a variety of particular objects, events, or experiences.

Example: We generalize that a person is wealthy if they dress in nicely under a variety of specific circumstances.

Begging the question
When something that requires proof is automatically assumed true without evidence. Example: ‘C is true because C is true.

Either-or reasoning
Presenting only two options when there could be an infinite amount. Example: New dog because either you bought it from the pet store or you rescued it. However, you could have found a stray dog or a friend could have given to you.

Non-sequitur
An argument that is problematic because there is a disconnection between the thesis and the conclusion. Example: “Terrorists attacked America.

There are terrorists in Palestine. Therefore we should attack Palestine.”

Red herring
A statement worded to divert attention from the original issue. Example: “My mom forgot to pick me up.

” “Well by not picking you up she saved gas, gas prices are really high right now.”

Post hoc (ergo prompter hoc)
Post hoc (ergo prompter hoc): A faulty conclusion based on poor reasoning where cause/effect is confused with chronology. Example: The car was stolen at eleven and Sally went to bed at twelve, therefore Sally stole the car.

False Dilemma
When only two options are presented clearly. Example: Are you going to do your project, or fail the class?

Diction
The act of dictating material to be recorded or taken down in writing.

Denotation
Refers to the literal meaning of a word, the “dictionary definition.” Example: If you look up the word vampire in a dictionary, it is defined as a corpse supposed, in European folklore, to leave its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth.

Connotation
Refers to the associations that are to a certain word, or the emotional suggestions related to that word.

Example:Example: The connotations for the word vampire are a dark, blood-sucking creature.

Colloquial
Words or phrases used in everyday speech, but avoided in formal writing. Example: “That ain’t right.”

Formal
3rd person Example: He is going to school tomorrow.

Informal
1st person Example: I am going to school tomorrow.

Monosyllabic
A word that has one syllable.

Example: Dog

Polysyllabic
Polysyllabic: Words with more than three syllables. Example: Vacation

Contrastive
Forming a contrast Example: They are happily wed, however they disagree a lot.

Concrete
Refers to objects or events that are available to the senses. Example: Spoon, nose ring, table, green, hot, walking

Abstract
Refer to ideas or concepts that are NOT available to the senses.

Example: Love, success, freedom, moral, democracy, Communism, Sexism, feminism, racism (any word ending with -ism) “I want freedom.”

Didactic
Refers to literature that is instructional or informative. Written specifically to instruct or teach the reader. Example: “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

Nostalgic
a longing for the past Example: “Remember back in the day when…”

Contemptuous
Showing or feeling contempt (that something is worthless or deserving scorn.

) Example: Contemptuous of people less fortunate than us.

Sardonic
Characterized by bitter or scornful derision; mocking. Example: He let out a sardonic yelp.

Mood
A certain emotional perspective that the author creates for the subject of the literary piece.

Example: excited, happy, sad, angry

DETAIL
A feature, fact or item.

Imagery
The use of applying one or more senses to writing so the reader can visually picture the writing. Example: The plate was warm and baked cinnamon apple was oozing out of the piecrust.

Figurative Language
Language that uses non-literal figures of speech (such as a metaphor or simile) to convey an idea in an imaginative way. Example: “My heart is beating like a drum.”

Allusion
A direct or indirect reference to something. Example: “His nose was growing like Pinocchio’s.

Simile
A figure of speech involving a comparison using like or as. Example: Our love is like a red rose.

Metaphor
Comparing two things without using like or as. Example: “Life is a struggle.”

Personification
When something nonhuman is given human characteristics. Example: “The Hills Have Eyes.

Hyberbole
An exaggeration of fact used either for serious or comic effect. Example: “I am starving.”

Understatement
Making something less than it is. Example: “9/11 was bad.”

Paradox
A statement that is counter-intuitive.

Example: “Nobody goes to that restaurant, it’s too crowded.”

Dramatic Irony
When a person makes a harmless remark, and then someone else hears it and knows something they don’t which changes the situation. Example: I am not getting a car for my sixteenth birthday. The other person hears and knows that my parents are surprising me with a car.

Verbal Irony
Sarcastic humor. Example: “Just my luck.

Situational Irony
When the final outcome is the complete opposite of what was expected. Example: The ending of Romeo and Juliet. We didn’t expect them to both die.

Analogy
A similarity or comparison between two different things. Example: The world is like a game of Peek-a-Boo.

Anecdote
A brief summary of an interesting, tragic, or humorous incident.

Example: The news shares a story of a boy who was murder.

Allegory
The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in addition to the literal meaning. Example: The Wizard of Oz is an allegory for the stock market crash in America

ORGANIZATION
Refers to the order in which a writer chooses to present his or her ideas to the reader.

Deductive
General then gives details. Example: I deductively assume that fish live in water so salmon lives in water.

Inductive
Begins with many examples then ends general. Example: I inductively assume that all fish are orange because goldfish are orange.

Exemplification
Showing by example.

Example: I decorated my cupcake with white frosting and pink sprinkles.

Cause/Effect
Examination of the causes and/or effects of a situation or phenomenon. Example: FJA has grown as a community because a lot of parents want their children to have a Jewish education.

Compare/Contrast
Compare ideas within a topic or contrast ideas within a topic.

Example: Both things are black but are not the same shape.

Narration
the person, who tells the story, introduces the literature. Example: Holden Caulfield from The Catcher and the Rye.

Exposition
Introduces the theme, setting, characters, and circumstances at the story’s beginnings. Example: “Once upon a time, there was a boy named Billy. Billy’s family lived in the slums of Los Angels.”

Persuasion
The type of speaking or writing that is intended to make its audience adopt a certain opinion or pursue an action or do both.

Repetition
Repetition is the simple repeating of a word. Example: “I had a really really really good time.”-And We Danced by Macklemore

Syllogism
Deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, minor premise, and a conclusion. Example: All humans are mortal, the major premise, I am a human, the minor premise, therefore, I am mortal, the conclusion.

POINT OF VIEW
The angle or vision from which the story is narrated. Example: first, second or third person

SYNTAX
The grammatical order of words in a sentence or line of verse or dialogue. Example: “Whose woods these are I think I know.”

Anaphora
When a phrase or the same word is repeated at the beginning of a sentence or a paragraph to emphasize an image or a concept.

Example: “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

Antithesis
Contrary ideas that are expressed in a balanced sentence. Example: “When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon it might have been one small step for a man but it was one giant leap for mankind.”

Asyndeton
A practice in literature where the author purposely leaves out conjunctions in the sentence to help shorten up the meaning of the entire phrase, which creates a stronger impact on the reader.

Example: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

Polysyndeton
The process of using conjunctions or connecting words frequently in a sentence. Example: “Marge and Susan and Anne and Daisy and Barry planned to go for a picnic.”

Parallel Sentence
The repetition of the same pattern of words or phrases within a sentence or passage to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance.

Example: “Mary likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling. Mary likes to hike, swim, and to ride a bicycle.”

Periodic Sentence
A sentence in which the main clause is left till the end, creating an effect of suspense. Example: Despite heavy winds and nearly impenetrable ground fog, the plane landed safely.

Rhetorical Sentence
It is a form of a question posed for its persuasive effect. Example: Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?”

Inversion
The reversal of the normal order of the words and phrases in a sentence. Example: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

Alliteration
Alliteration involves creating a repetition of similar sounds in one sentence, alliterations are also created when the words all being with the same letter.

Example: “Alice’s aunt ate apples and acorns around August.”

Assonance
The repetition of vowel sounds within a sentence or a phrase. Example: “It beats…as it sweeps…

as it cleans!”

Consonance
A repetition of only consonant sounds within a sentence or a phrase. Example: “He struck a streak of bad luck.”

THE ARTISOTILIAN APPEALS
Adding a persuasive aspect to writing

Ethos
(Credibility), or out of respect you believe what the character has to says

Pathos
Persuading by relating to the reader’s emotions

Logos
Persuading by the use of logic

PURPOSE
The reason, for which anything is done, created or exists.

Describe
To make the readers understand and feed emotion. Example: a poem

Explain
Teaching the reader to do something. Example: a cookbook

Inform
Giving information, or make aware of something.

Example: an encyclopedia

Persuade
Purpose is to convince the audience to think, act, or feel a certain way. Example: Involves appealing to reason, emotion, and/or sense of ethics.

Entertain
Used for the audience amusement. Example: an adventure story

TONE
The emotional attitude expressed toward the readers, the mood or moral view. Example: Admiring, bitter, or suspenseful.

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