Writing Mini-Lessons: Some Additional Literary Devices

Below are definitions of some other effective literary techniques, along with examples. Experiment with these literary devices when you write to further enhance your pieces.

Hyperbole: This is a type of figurative language.  A hyperbole is a bold, deliberate overstatement not intended to be taken literally; it is used as a means of emphasizing the truth of a statement.

Example: “I nearly died laughing,” “I was hopping mad,” and “I tried a thousand times.” Such statements are not literally true, but people make them to sound impressive or to emphasize something, such as a feeling, effort, or reaction.

Onomatopoeia:  Onomatopoeia is the imitation of natural sounds in word form. These words help us form mental pictures about the things, people, or places that are described. Sometimes the word names a thing or action by copying the sound.

Examples: Buzz! Hiss! Clang!

Alliteration: Alliteration occurs when the initial sounds of a word, beginning either with a consonant or a vowel, are repeated in close succession.

Example: The wild and woolly walrus waits and wonders when we’ll walk wistfully past.

Assonance: Assonance occurs when the vowel sound within a word matches the same sound in a nearby word, but the surrounding consonant sounds are different. “Tune” and “June” are rhymes; “tune” and “food” are assonant.

Example: “Hear the mellow wedding bells.” ~ Edgar Allen Poe

Irony: Irony involves making a statement that means the opposite of what it states literally.

Example: Suppose you happen to be experiencing a streak of bad luck: your house has been robbed, your cat just died, your best friend is mad at you, and this morning you backed your car into a tree. You cry in exasperation: “Well that’s just great!” Clearly you don’t mean that you’re happy about this sequence of events: you have just made an ironic statement. You may also encounter irony in pieces of literature or anecdotes. One of the most famous examples of literary irony is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: it is ironic that the lovers die as a result of the plan that was meant to ensure their spending the rest of their lives together.

Symbolism: Symbolism, another type of figurative language, is the use of a word, a phrase, or a description, which represents a deeper meaning than the words themselves. This kind of extension of meaning can transform the written word into a very powerful instrument. A symbol works two ways: It is something itself, and it also suggests something deeper

Example: The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling could be seen as containing a lot of symbolism, although there are as many interpretations as there are creatures in the books! One clear example is a commonly used one: the use of a snake to represent evil. It is no coincidence that the symbol of Slytherin House is a serpent.  Other examples of symbolism could be spring representing rebirth or a storm representing conflict.

Allegory: Allegory takes symbolism a step further. An allegory is a narrative that serves as an extended metaphor, a comparison that carries through an entire passage.

Example: This excerpt from the monologue in Shakespeare’s As You Like It compares the world to a stage and life to a play in which people are merely actors:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
they have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…


Below are videos that provides examples of literary devices in pop culture:

Below are a few videos exploring literary devices used in popular songs:

Here is a song, Literary Spices, about literary devices. The lyrics are below.

Literary Spices

Verse 1
Alliteration first sounds repeat
Pickled peppers picked by Piper Pete
I’m showing feelings with the mood,
Happy, sad, mysterious dude.
Onomatopoeia sound attack
Noises like buzz, quack or smack
Exaggerate! Hyperbole
That dinky meal couldn’t fill a flea
A metaphor can substitute
My bank account is a parachute.
Personify gives human traits
To things that like bears, guitars, or plates
Like or as, to compare
This simile is light as air
It’s just a saying, an idiom
I’ll break the news, or bite my tongue.

Literary devices
We add in all of those spices
Language full of surprises
A lot like Vanilla Ice is

Verse 2
Unexpected events use irony
My dog and cat live in harmony
My frog and cat live in harmony
My log and cat live in harmony
Foreshadowing hints at what’s to come
From far away, I hear a drum
Now symbolism, the meaning of
A dove is peace; a rose is love
A metaphor can substitute
My bank account is a parachute.
Personify gives human traits
To things that like bears, guitars, or plates
Like or as, to compare
This simile is light as air
It’s just a saying, an idiom,
I’ll break the news, or bite my tongue.

(Repeat Verse 1)