Basic Types of Literary Devices (2023)

Basic Types of Literary Devices (1)

    types of literary devices


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Saying “The bag is brown.” is boring. However, adding literary elements like, “The oversized bag was a rich chocolate brown with gold trim.” provides a lot more flavor to your writing. Explore more than 40 types of literary devices used in writing to add unique details.

What Are Literary Devices?

Literary devices are techniques a writer uses to convey meaning to readers. An author's skillful use of literary devices allows readers to glean meaning beyond just what is denoted by the words on each page. Writers could convey meaning just by relying on minimal literary elements like plot, theme and setting, but that would not lead to the most interesting stories or poems.

That's where literary devices come in. They are like the dressing, cheese and croutons that make a salad so delectable. They add flavor to writing like poetry and drama, which helps readers connect with the work on a deeper, more intimate level.

(Video) LITERARY DEVICES | Learn about literary devices in English | Learn with examples | Figure of speech

20 Key Types of Literary Devices in Writing

A single book or other literary work will include multiple literary devices, as it generally takes several literary techniques to effectively communicate the overall meaning of a piece of literature. Layering in literary devices leads to a richer experience for readers and writers alike.


In literature, an archetype represents universal truths about human nature or patterns that regularly occur. There are many examples of archetypes, including things like battles of good vs. evil, or never-before, first of their kind achievements. An archetype could be a character, setting, situation, or symbol.

  • The hero’s journey, such as the situation in the Lord of the Rings series.
  • An innocent character such as Pippin in Lord of the Rings.


Do you like hidden meanings in stories? If so, then an allegory is your type of literary device because it uses symbols to reveal a hidden meaning that conveys the overall moral of the story. Many literary works contain allegories.

  • The Hunger Games is an allegory for reality TV and how it numbs us to horrors and suffering.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has a basic religious allegory of good vs. evil or God vs. Satan.


A type of repetition, alliteration is when a letter is used repeatedly to add emphasis and interest to a literary work. Sentences or phrases that have several words that begin with the same letter are examples of alliteration.

  • Sleepy sheep were shorn on Sunday.
  • The big black bear banged blandly on the bark.


An allusion is a passing reference in literature. It simply involves making a passing reference to a person or another event in a story or other work. It’s a fun type of literary device that keeps writing from getting bland or boring.

  • He was her Romeo. (a reference to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)
  • It was like I walked into the Garden of Eden. (biblical allusion)


You have flashbacks in life. For example, the smell of baking cookies takes you back to a time you spent with your grandmother. Flashbacks in literature are the same. These are story elements giving you insight into a previous moment or experience.

  • Standing on the edge of the cliff, she was suddenly transported back to the time when she was two. She remembered the feeling of her heart pounding as she looked down at the ground, seconds before falling.
  • The loud clang of the thunder sent him spiraling back into the war. He could remember every moment as the bombs raged around him. His captain screamed in his ear trying to get his attention.


Authors are sneaky. Sometimes, they give you just a hint that something exciting or foreboding is going to happen. This foreshadowing of the events to come has us tapping our feet in anticipation. Almost every scary story or crime novel includes examples of foreshadowing.

  • The still evening sent a chill down her back. The air was just too calm.
  • Looking away from her sick child, she tried to tell herself everything would be okay, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that danced in her stomach.


Hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used by writers to add emphasis to a phrase. While it is a fun literary device in literature, it’s used in real life too. Discover examples of hyperbole and how to use it.

  • I told you to do the dishes a million times.
  • My teacher is older than dirt.
(Video) ESL - Literary Devices (Onomatopoeia, Personification, Simile, and Metaphor)


Irony is about how your perception is different from how something really is. Irony has disappointed many readers when they thought something would happen, but it didn’t. There are several types of irony. It comes in different forms like dramatic, verbal or situational irony.

  • My old English mastiff dog is named “Tiny”. (situational irony)
  • My son is as innocent as the devil. (verbal irony)


Imagery is the reason people enjoy reading fiction. Within the pages of the book, you get transported to a new land or dystopian society. The sensory words the author uses to create that image in your mind are examples of imagery.

  • The rich, warm smell of baking chocolate chip cookies reminded him of the soft smiling face of his grandmother.
  • The blanket felt like the fur of a thousand kittens.


Juxtaposition adds a unique twist to literature because it places two opposites next to each other. Examples of juxtaposition could be positive and negative, like light or dark or yin and yang

  • Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. (big vs. little)
  • The young child looked up into the wrinkled face of her grandmother smiling. (young vs. old)


A metaphor is a figure of speech that creates a direct comparison. For example, saying, "the toddler was a devil" is an example of a metaphor. The toddler is not literally a devil; the metaphor is used to say that the child was behaving badly in a figurative way.

  • The kindergarten classroom was a zoo.
  • The computers are dinosaurs.


Every literary work incorporates examples of mood to some degree. Mood sets the overall tone for a literary work. The words the writer uses to create the mood can make the book happy or the song melancholy.

  • In the Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, the poem sets a gloomy mood.
  • The song Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys has a happy mood.


Motifs are central elements writers repeat throughout a story. They are woven throughout a story and usually relate to one or more of a literary work's major themes. Motifs come in the form of symbols, objects, sounds, or even settings.

  • Lord of the Rings repeats the use of light and dark to signal good vs. evil.
  • Harry Potter repeats the use of muggle vs. wizard born to illustrate racism and tolerance.


While this one might look unfamiliar, you know what it is. Everyone is familiar with at least a few examples of onomatopoeia. It occurs when the name of a word describes a sound, with the word itself sounding similar to the actual sound.

  • The way the word splat is pronounced sounds very similar to the sound something makes when it splats.
  • When you say the word woosh, it sounds very much like the sound something makes when it wooshes by.
(Video) Literary Devices: How to Use Literary Elements to Improve Writing


Most people are familiar with various character and personality traits that people have. Writers capitalize on readers' prior knowledge by using examples of personification in their work. Personification involves giving the traits of a person to an inanimate object. It can be a fun literary device to use.

  • The car woke up with a grumble.
  • The stars danced happily in the night sky.

Point of View

Writing can be told from different points of view or perspectives. Writers use three different points of view: first, second and third person. The point of view used in a story greatly impacts how the story is conveyed.

  • I scored the goal. (first person)
  • You scored the goal. (second person)
  • He scored the goal. (third person)


As a literary device, repetition is simply repeated words, letters, phrases, or sounds. Used correctly, examples of repetition in writing and poetry can push the message or point of the writing.

  • Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells poem repeats “ Keeping time, time, time.”
  • The “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” lyric in Dean Martin’s Let It Snow is repetitive.


Symbolism is a fun literary technique. Writers use this to add meaning to an object or person within a story. Depending on the writer's creativity, the level of symbolism can be basic or unique.

  • Red roses symbolize love.
  • In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the scar on Harry's forehead symbolizes not only his past but his future.


Looking to spark a little reader interest? Similes work great for this because they make an interesting comparison between two things using the word like or as.

  • The toddler is as devious as a devil.
  • The dog was sneaky like a fox.
Basic Types of Literary Devices (2)

    literary device example


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(Video) 25 Language Devices: Defined & Explained!


Has anyone ever reprimanded you for your tone? Tone tells us a lot about what a character is thinking or the feeling the poem is trying to portray. There are many examples of tone, including a happy, energetic or even melancholy tone.

  • Not even the brightness of the sun was enough to block out the dark cloud she could feel hovering over her head. (melancholy tone)
  • The exhilarated girl danced along the sidewalk making her way to her friend’s house. (upbeat, happy tone)

22 Additional Kinds of Literary Devices

Literary devices are everywhere. The examples above are used quite a bit, but they are certainly not the only ones. Discover less common, but still fairly basic, literary devices found in writing.

  • amplification - making something more important or larger
  • anachronism - person or place in the wrong time period
  • analogy - connections between familiar and unfamiliar things
  • anaphora - repetition of a word at the beginning of a passage or lyric to add emphasis
  • anthropomorphism - when something nonhuman acts human
  • asyndeton - removing conjunctions purposefully for effect
  • colloquialism - adding informal or literal elements or words
  • conceit - creating drastic comparisons
  • epigraph - adding a quote at the beginning of a work
  • epistrophe - repetition of words or phrases at the end of the sentence or passage
  • euphemism - polite words used in place of harsh-sounding words (i.e. passing rather than death)
  • malapropism - adding an incorrect word with similar pronunciation
  • metonym - using a linked term for a concept (i.e. pen for writing)
  • oxymoron - using contradicting words
  • paradox - contradictory statement that is true
  • satire - works showing foolishness
  • soliloquy - dramatic speech where a character tells feelings
  • synecdoche - using a part of an object to describe the whole object (i.e. wheels for a car)
  • synesthesia - Mixing sensations
  • tragicomedy - a piece of drama that mixes tragedy and comedy
  • zeugma - using one word to mean multiple things
  • zoomorphism - animal characteristics given to objects or humans

Literary Devices vs. Rhetorical Devices vs. Figurative Language

Are there differences between literary devices, rhetorical devices and figurative language? Now that is the question. Why? Because the answer can get murky since these terms overlap. The easiest way to understand the difference between literary devices, rhetorical devices and figurative language is to break each one down.

  • Literary devices are an artistic technique used in literature to add interest and depth.
  • Rhetorical devices are formative techniques used to evoke emotion or persuade. Rhetorical devices can be used as literary devices, but they are not limited to literature.
  • Figurative language is a type of literary device that adds color to our writing. It includes but isn’t limited to similes, metaphors, symbolism, hyperbole, and personification.

While these terms are different, the concepts of each intertwine and connect in writing.

Knowing Your Literary Devices

Literary devices might not seem important, but could you imagine writing without them. How boring would that be? Now that you’ve mastered literary devices, explore examples of parallelism.

(Video) Literary Devices Every Reader Should Know: Part 1


What is the 10 literary device? ›

#10 – Personification

Personification is a literary device where you give human-like qualities to non-human elements. This is one of the most well-known literary devices and it's useful for a number of reasons: Creates a stronger visual.

How many types of literary devices are there? ›

22 Different Types of Literary Devices and How to Use Them. Writers use a wide variety of literary devices across different genres. Each literary device serves a specific purpose. Understanding how to correctly wield these devices can significantly improve your own writing.

What are the 7 literary device used in the poem? ›

Poetic Devices for Class 9 and 10| Literary Devices in Poems Examples and Explanation with Video
6 more rows

What is literary devices and examples? ›

A literary device is a writing technique that writers use to express ideas, convey meaning, and highlight important themes in a piece of text. A metaphor, for instance, is a famous example of a literary device. These devices serve a wide range of purposes in literature.

What is literary devices in English? ›

Literary Devices are the peculiar structures used by writers in their works in order to convey their messages in a simple manner to the readers.

What are the 5 literary forms? ›

Today, Vista Higher Learning is breaking down the differences to give you a crash course on the five main genres of literature.
  • #1 Fiction. One of the most popular genres of literature, fiction, features imaginary characters and events. ...
  • #2 Nonfiction. ...
  • #3 Drama. ...
  • #4 Poetry. ...
  • #5 Folktale.
13 Jun 2019

What are the 13 elements of literature? ›

Recognized by evaluating different elements of the book, including style and language, character, plot, illustrations, pacing, setting, tension, design and layout, mood, accuracy, tone, point of view, and theme.

What are the 6 types of literary? ›

Literary Genres
  • Drama. Stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action.
  • Fable. ...
  • Fairy Tale. ...
  • Fantasy. ...
  • Fiction. ...
  • Fiction in Verse. ...
  • Folklore. ...
  • Historical Fiction.

Why are literary devices used? ›

Literary devices are powerful tools that must not be overlooked in storytelling. They can add emphasis to phrases, evoke moods and emotions, and provide insight into an author's words by making the storytelling clear and vivid. By using these literary devices you will definitely make the most of your storytelling!

How many literary devices are in English? ›

Whether you're improving your writing skills or studying for a big English exam, literary devices are important to know. But there are dozens of them, in addition to literary elements and techniques, and things can get more confusing than a simile embedded within a metaphor!

What are the 4 main types of literature? ›

In the landscape of literature, there are four major genres: poetry, drama, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

What are the 12 elements of poetry with definition? ›

What are the 12 elements of poetry? The 12 elements of poetry include structure, form, speaker, sound devices, figurative language, rhyme, meter, theme, tone, mood, syntax, and diction. What is the significance of diction as an element of poetry? Diction is the poet's use of language, word choice, and syntax.

What are 4 literary devices used in good poetry? ›

5 Common Types of Poetic Device and their Uses
  • Alliteration.
  • Caesura and enjambment.
  • Imagery.
  • Juxtaposition and oxymoron.
  • Personification and Pathetic fallacy.

What is a literary device for students? ›

Literary devices are tools used by writers to better express their ideas and enhance their creative writing. These devices help highlight special concepts and ideas using text. As a result, it enhances the readers understanding of the text.

What literary device is imagery? ›

Imagery is a literary device used in poetry, novels, and other writing that uses vivid description that appeals to a readers' senses to create an image or idea in their head. Through language, imagery does not only paint a picture, but aims to portray the sensational and emotional experience within text.

Is a simile a literary device? ›

Simile is common poetic device. The subject of the poem is described by comparing it to another object or subject, using 'as' or 'like'. For example, the subject may be 'creeping as quietly as a mouse' or be 'sly, like a fox. '

What is literary short answer? ›

Literary means concerned with or connected with the writing, study, or appreciation of literature.

What are literary elements? ›

A literary element refers to components of a literary work (character, setting, plot, theme, frame, exposition, ending/denouement, motif, titling, narrative point-‐of-‐view). These are technical terms for the “what” of a work.

Is conflict a literary device? ›

In literature, a conflict is a literary device characterized by a struggle between two opposing forces. Conflict provides crucial tension in any story and is used to drive the narrative forward.

What are the 11 literary theories? ›

  • What Is Literary Theory? ...
  • Traditional Literary Criticism. ...
  • Formalism and New Criticism. ...
  • Marxism and Critical Theory. ...
  • Structuralism and Poststructuralism. ...
  • New Historicism and Cultural Materialism. ...
  • Ethnic Studies and Postcolonial Criticism. ...
  • Gender Studies and Queer Theory.

What are types of literature PDF? ›

The main literary forms are Fiction, Drama & Poetry. Although each of the three major literary genres, fiction, drama, and poetry are different, they have many elements in common.

What are the 10 famous literary works? ›

Here is a list of 12 novels that, for various reasons, have been considered some of the greatest works of literature ever written.
  • Anna Karenina. Greta Garbo in Anna Karenina Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. ...
  • To Kill a Mockingbird. ...
  • The Great Gatsby. ...
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude. ...
  • A Passage to India. ...
  • Invisible Man. ...
  • Don Quixote. ...
  • Beloved.

What are the 8 types of literary criticism? ›

Examples of some types of literary criticism are:
  • Biographical.
  • Comparative.
  • Ethical.
  • Expressive.
  • Feminist.
  • Historical.
  • Mimetic.
  • Pragmatic.
9 Nov 2022

What are the 10 types of literary forms in the Bible? ›

2. There are various types of literary forms in scripture.
  • Explain and demonstrate that the scriptures contain many different kinds of literary forms and language usage, some of which are described below.
  • Prose. Most of the standard works are written in prose. ...
  • Poetry. ...
  • Simile. ...
  • Metaphor. ...
  • Hyperbole. ...
  • Idiom. ...
  • Personification.

How do you introduce a literary device? ›

Instead, try introducing just a few devices – no more than five – at a time. Choose related devices. For instance, I begin with introducing imagery devices – simile, metaphor, and personification. Then I do sound devices – assonance, consonance, alliteration, sibilance, and onomatopoeia.

How do you analyze a literary device? ›

Discuss what happens in the passage and why it is significant to the work as a whole. Consider what is said, particularly subtleties of the imagery and the ideas expressed. Assess how it is said, considering how the word choice, the ordering of ideas, sentence structure, etc., contribute to the meaning of the passage.

What is a language device? ›

Essentially, language devices are techniques in the English language that writers use to communicate meaning more effectively to their readers. This could be a mood, feeling or theme. There are many different techniques in the English language, including simile, metaphor, allusion and hyperbole.

What are the 3 types of poetry? ›

There are three main kinds of poetry: narrative, dramatic and lyrical. It is not always possible to make distinction between them. For example, an epic poem can contain lyrical passages, or lyrical poem can contain narrative parts.

What are the 3 forms of literature? ›

The three major genres are Prose, Drama, and Poetry.

Now, like I said within each of these genres there are several subgenres, but before we get to those let's go ahead and define the main genres.

What are the 3 parts of literature? ›

Prose, drama and poetry are the three main types of literature. The table below shows the main differences between them.

What are the figure of speech? ›

figure of speech, any intentional deviation from literal statement or common usage that emphasizes, clarifies, or embellishes both written and spoken language. Forming an integral part of language, figures of speech are found in oral literatures as well as in polished poetry and prose and in everyday speech.

What are the 6 characteristics of poetry? ›

Quality Characterisics
  • Imaginative.
  • Creative.
  • Descriptive and vivid language that often has an economical or condensed use of words chosen for their sound and meaning.
  • Meaning is enhanced by recalling memories of related experiences in the reader or listener.
  • Provokes thought.

What are the 5 structural elements of a poem? ›

These structures are also known as the elements of poetry. The basic elements of poetry include meter, rhyme, scheme, verse, and stanza. In order to dive deeper into poetry, students will first need to understand these structural elements.

What are 5 examples of hyperbole? ›

Hyperbole examples
  • I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse.
  • My feet are killing me.
  • That plane ride took forever.
  • This is the best book ever written.
  • I love you to the moon and back.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • I've told you this 20,000 times.
  • Cry me a river.
30 May 2021

What are 5 examples of simile? ›

Examples of Similes
  • As slow as a sloth.
  • As busy as a bee.
  • As innocent as a lamb.
  • As proud as a peacock.
  • As fast as a cheetah.
  • As blind as a bat.
  • As bold as brass.
  • As cold as ice.

What's an example of a simile? ›

Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know which one you're going to get. Let's use this example to understand what a simile is: A simile is a phrase that uses a comparison to describe. For example, “life” can be described as similar to “a box of chocolates.”

What are the 3 main literary elements? ›

A literary element, or narrative element, or element of literature is an essential characteristic of all works of written and spoken narrative fiction. Literary elements include plot, theme, character and tone.

What are the 4 main literary elements? ›

  • Plot. Simply put, plot is what happens in a story. For a simple example, let's consider Dr. ...
  • Setting. Setting is the when and where of a literary text. ...
  • Characters. Characters are the fictional people - the who - in a story. ...
  • Point of View. Another literary element is point of view.
29 Aug 2022

What are the 8 types of literature? ›

Literary Genres
  • Drama. Stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action.
  • Fable. ...
  • Fairy Tale. ...
  • Fantasy. ...
  • Fiction. ...
  • Fiction in Verse. ...
  • Folklore. ...
  • Historical Fiction.

What are the 7 steps of literary analysis? ›

How to write a literary analysis
  • Examine the literary work. The first step should be to read the piece carefully, ideally more than once. ...
  • Gather arguments for your thesis. ...
  • Create a rough outline. ...
  • Formulate a thesis. ...
  • Write the analysis. ...
  • The introduction. ...
  • The body. ...
  • The conclusion.

What are the 5 key literary elements? ›

The 5 Key Story Elements
  • Character.
  • Conflict.
  • Plot.
  • Setting.
  • Theme.
11 Aug 2022

What are the 5 basic literary elements in literature? ›

These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What are the 6 parts of literature? ›

what are the elements of literature? This article will examine the following elements: plot, setting, character, point-of-view, theme, and tone.

What are the 8 literary periods? ›

World Literature Periods
  • ROMANTIC PERIOD (c. 1790-1830)
  • VICTORIAN PERIOD And The 19th Century (c. 1832-1901)
  • MODERN PERIOD (c. 1914-1945)
  • POSTMODERN PERIOD (c. 1945 onward)
  • ROMANTICISM (1800-1840)
  • REALISM (1865-1915)

What are the 7 elements of a story in order? ›

What are the Elements of a Story?
  • 1 — A Theme. Plot (#5) is what happens in a story, a theme is why it happens—which you need to know while you're writing the plot. ...
  • 2 — Characters. I'm talking believable characters who feel knowable. ...
  • 3 — Setting. ...
  • 4 — Point of View. ...
  • 5 — Plot. ...
  • 6 — Conflict. ...
  • 7 — Resolution.
28 Aug 2020

What are the 9 literary elements? ›

A literary element refers to components of a literary work (character, setting, plot, theme, frame, exposition, ending/denouement, motif, titling, narrative point-‐of-‐view). These are technical terms for the “what” of a work.


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