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Literary Device Definitions

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A literary device is a technique that produces a specific effect in writing. You see and hear them in ordinary speech, but you may not take notice of it.

Understanding these concepts can help you when you want to communicate better -- whether you're writing a story or trying to explain something to a teacher or your future bosses.

The following are a few literary devices, their definitions and examples.

Onomatopoeia (on-uh-mah-tuh-pee-ya): The way a word sounds suggests its meaning. For example, "Crash!", "Buzz" and "Murmur...."

Symbol (sim-bull): Something that represents something else. For example, a heart can symbolize love.

Metaphor (meh-tah-for): A comparison without using like or as. For example, "Rebok is a beast." This is different from a simile, which is next.

Simile (sim-uh-lee): A comparison using like or as. For example, "As black as night." This is different from metaphor, above.

Alliteration (uh-lit-er-ay-shun): Words grouped together with the same first consonant. For example, "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." (Actually, it doesn't have to be the first consonant, or even the same consonant, as long as it's repeating the same sounds.)

Hyperbole (hai-per-buh-lee): A gross exaggeration. For example, "I tried to log in 1,000,000 times!" Unless you actually tried a million times.

Personification (per-sawn-if-ih-kay-shun): Giving an object or an idea human traits. For example, "Opportunity knocks."

Satire (sa-ti-ur): Making fun of something or someone. Not all humor is satire, though. Satire may be funny, but it makes us stop and think about a serious object, highlighting the silliness or stupidity of certain behavior. For example:

"The average age of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and I am trying to die, but I simply cannot do it. A single beef steak would finish me, but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism." -- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Many of these literary devices can be fun and can be used to spice up your everyday writing.


Editor's Note: I tried to add pronunciation guides, but I'm sure they're not 100% accurate. If you want to know for sure, ask an English teacher.


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