Topics: Figure of speech, Word, Sentence Pages: 17 (2915 words) Published: March 13, 2013

Active voice/passive voice

Writing that uses the forms of verbs which create a direct relationship between the subject and the object. Active voice is lively and more direct.

Eg. ‘We had fun’ is written in the active voice; ‘Fun was had’ is written in the passive voice.


The repetition of the consonant sounds at the beginnings of words. It is used to produce sound that adds to the atmosphere or mood of the words, or perhaps even echoes their meaning.

Eg. ‘The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free’ 
(from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samual Taylor Coleridge.)


A reference to another text. This is usually used to clarify an idea or enhance meaning.

Eg. The playful advertisement for a brand of bathers showed pictures of their new products with the voice- over warning us: ‘just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ….’ Most people in the  TV audience understood the allusion to the promotional line to the film Jaws 2 and laughed (or at least smiled).


A word or phrase that invites at least two interpretations.

Eg. In act 2, scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the prince deliberately misinterprets Polonius’s words (not  taking ‘matter’ to mean ‘printed matter’ but ‘problem’):

Polonius: What do you read my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words!
Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Polonius: I mean the matter that you read, my lord.


A comparison made between two things that share something in common.

Eg. Seamus Heaney, in his poem Digging, compares his pen to a spade and makes us think again about  the way his poetry works by concluding: ‘Ill dig with it’.

Anecdote/anecdotal evidence

A small story, usually based on an individual case that illustrates a point. Often used to introduce feature articles and essays and thought of as a poor substitute for ‘real evidence’.

Eg. A feature article about grandparents who have lost their grandchildren may begin like this: ‘It all began when my daughter, Kris, went to visit a remote Greek island for three days ….’

An argument in favour of smoking may rely on anecdotal evidence like this: ‘My grandfather smoked for 47 years and he never developed cancer .…’


A point in narrative that promises to be the climax and then fails to deliver. Problems are not resolved, the truth is not revealed, things don’t turn out the way we expected them to and a sense of disappointment is felt.


Setting up an opposition of contrasting ideas in a phrase or sentence.

Eg. ‘Help yourself, and Heaven will help you’ and ‘Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no  pleasures’.


A short and pithy (tense; forcible) statement.

Eg. ‘Knowledge is power’.


Words or lines spoken for the benefit of the audience or a particular character but which other characters on stage cannot hear. The lines reveal the chara cter’s thoughts, feelings or motivations.


The repetition of a vowel sound to sound out or to create a particular effect.

Eg. ‘Those who have seen thee seeking know thee well’. The ‘ee’ sound in ‘seen’, ‘thee’ and ‘seek’ are in  assonance and create a pleasant effect on the ear.

The repetition of the ‘o’ in Seamus Heaney’s poem, Death of a Naturalist lengthens the sound of each  line and slows down its pace.

‘Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were 
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails,
Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats ….’ 


The mood created by the language of a text.

Eg. ‘Then, the house was grand … now, the walls are scribbled upon and scarred … the rails are rusted …  the lino is rucked and split like wounds.’ The words ‘rusted’, ‘rucked’ and ‘split’ create a feeling of  neglect and decay. Underneath this, words like ‘scarred’ and ‘wounds’ suggest a sense of...
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