Guide to Literary Terms

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What are literary terms?

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Literary terms (or literary devices) are found in everything from poems to novels. There are many different literary terms, but a few of the most important ones include:

Theme: the central idea or statement of a story, which an author uses to communicate their ideas, sometimes by stating it outright or using other techniques to get the point across indirectly.

Style: includes diction, syntax, and tone, among other devices. It is the way in which the author uses language to convey their meaning or purpose.

Symbolism: one thing that represents another thing. For instance, a rose can symbolize love, a bird can symbolize freedom, and a skull can symbolize death.

Types of narrative: the genre and perspective from which the story is written. Stories can be written in the first person (the narrator uses words like "I" and "me"), the second person (the narrator addresses the audience by using words like "you"), and third person (the narrator uses words like "he" or "she" or "it" to describe things from the outside).

Imagery: how the author describes things (it can be descriptions of things like landscapes, or it can be vivid descriptions of characters) in a way that appeals to the reader's senses.

Other important literary terms are dialogue, point of view, plot, characterization, genre, tone, irony, alliteration, climax, and metaphor. This is by no means a comprehensive list of literary terms, but it is a few of them. For more information, I would suggest visiting the link I provided to a page on Purdue's website. It has a long list of well-defined terms.

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