Introduction to Poetic Devices

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Last updated: December 16, 2019
Imagery
The use of descriptive language to create clear mental pictures. Example: The moon was clear and bright, its light radiant and blinding in the darkness.

Simile
Compares two unlike things directly using “like” or “as.”Example: When the gates finally broke, the crowd surged forward like a burst dam.

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Metaphor
An indirect comparison without using “like” or “as.” Example: The creature’s eyes were like jewels.

Analogy
A comparison of two objects that are essentially different but have a common quality.Example: This school is like a prison and each class is a cell.

Hyperbole
A deliberately exaggerated statement used for effect.Example: I’m starving! I could eat every fish in the sea, then come back for more.

Understatement
A form of irony in which something is intentionally represented as less than it is in fact.Example: When all the pipes in the house ruptured, we got a little damp.

Personification
To attribute human qualities to an idea, thing, or animal.Example: The house on the hill waited patiently for its master to return.

Motif
The predominant idea or theme in a work of art.

Allusion
A brief reference to a well-known character, place, event, work of art, or religious symbol.

Example: The girl’s love of sweets was her Achilles heel.

Pathos
The quality in literature that arouses feelings of pity, sorrow, and sympathy.

Diction
How words in a sentence sound together, or the choice of words.Example: Ah like mah eggs scrambled, pleez.

Tone
How something is said.

Specific description words are used to convey an emotion.

Mood
The feeling or attitude that a story expresses.

Refrain
Lines of poetry that are repeated at regular intervals to add emphasis.

Pun
A play on words or the humorous use of a word emphasizing a different meaning or application.Example: I’ve always thought of target practice as a rather aimless activity.

Verbal
Statements that imply a meaning in opposition to their literal meaning.

Example: The dog ate my homework and I missed my bus to school. This day just can’t get any better!

Onomatopoeia
Words that imitate actual sounds.Example: The hissing of the madly burning bomb fuse was suddenly drowned out by the boom of one loud explosion.

Oxymoron
A combination of contradictory words that are used to create a striking effect.Example: When she said ‘No!’, there was a deafening silence.

Paradox
Seems to contradict common sense or seems untrue, but really makes sense or is actually true.Example: Our relationship was doomed from the start as she killed me with love almost daily.

Alliteration
Repetition of the same consonant sounds.Example: She sells seashells by the seashore.

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