15 Common Literary Terms That Help You Write Better Essays

15 Common Literary Terms That Help You Write Better Essays

The best way to learn more about perfect writing is to read. Reading blog posts or funny stories shared by friends is not a good idea. The person should dedicate some time to reading pieces written in classic English. While reading novels by famous writers, the audience notices various literary terms authors use to attract attention. Literary terms list is huge but keep in mind 15 major methods of grabbing reader’s attention.

Two main literature techniques exist to grab reader’s attention: the usage of professional literary elements and hook sentences.

If your teacher assigns a literature analysis, do not ignore this task. It is the most effective way to understand how the poem/novel/short story is written. In case you find it complicated, turn to the online writing specialists not to fail your assignment. The goal of such task is to explain to students how different world-recognized authors make their choices. Discover which words serve as the best literary terms by reading this article.

Hot 15 Literary Terms List to Memorize


No matter what the book is describing, using comparisons makes the story clearer. The author might be using some specific words an average reader does not understand. Every story has a hidden lesson, and to interpret it correctly, the author involves allegories to explain the true meaning of the story. These terms are effective to send a particular message, which represents a valuable life lesson. Different characters and certain events reflect large-scale abstract ideas.

Each hero represents specific human quality (e.g., wisdom, mercy, or bravery). Modern authors prefer allegories, which parallel plot and main topic.

Here is an example of allegory taken from the literary terms list – learn how to discover a true meaning!

  1. Example: George Orwell in his “Animal Farm” uses the images of different animals to display the political authorities of his time along with ongoing political & social events.
  2. If you read T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” with the necessary knowledge and recognition of the historical events, you will see the hidden meaning in this allegorical poem recalling the war.
  3. Among modern books that use allegories, “The Hunger Games” is one of the best stories to have excellent allegory examples. The Capitol refers to Hollywood. It points to how much modern world is obsessed with television). 


A useful way to explain the meaning of the unknown word to the reading audience is through involving analogies. The writer compares a phenomenon to the one his readers should know. It makes the meaning of the word clear.

The analogy is a useful literary term, which draws a parallel between 2 dissimilar objects to let the audience get versed with the basic idea delivered in the short story/novel/poem. Imagine the author is trying to deliver the feeling of being desperate through the character’s smile. The reader might confuse this smile with the interpretation of happiness by mistake; an overcrowded premise may mean loneliness instead of being surrounded by people.

Example: Do you remember famous William Shakespeare’s words: “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players . . .” Famous British writer explains the way he views our world. He does it with the help of his biggest passion – theatre. If you read Walt Whiteman, you can notice him mentioning Abraham Lincoln as a captain of the ship. 


A simile is a literary term, misunderstood by many people. The goal of given literary technique is to compare subjects, individuals, traits, and events using corresponding words. It’s not about pointing to the similarities between subjects directly. The author prefers words “like”/”as” to draw the parallels.

Example: In a daily speech, people hear the phrase “Slow as a snail.” It equals to being a slowpoke. A simile is met in many world’s great fictions. E.g., “quiet as the mice,” “funny as a clown,” etc.

If you wish your essay to have excellent similes & other words to make it winning, do not hesitate to place an order with professional academic writers


Symbolism is one of those words you meet on the literary terms list, which stands for the object to display a particular idea more meaningful than the selected object. In any language, a cross symbolizes Jesus Christ/Christian religion. Bald eagle the way it appears on the US flag means pure patriotism or corresponding country. An owl refers to wisdom & rich life experience. Yellow color reflects a rot. Talented writers recall symbolism in their most powerful titles.

Example: in “Hunger Games,” the mockingbird is the main symbol, which refers to the innocent person who is intentionally, violently harmed/killed. It is also a symbol of freedom, initiated by the main hero.


Symbolism compares two subjects indirectly. The metaphor is a literary technique applied to compare subjects directly. Writers then do not use words “like” to interpret one object via another one; they simply say the subject is something else.

Example: Return to William Shakespeare to his most known story about tragic love, “Romeo & Juliet”: the author presents Juliet as the sun with the help of Romeo’s major love speech. 


If you realize what the word “image” means, you can get the meaning of “imagery.” With the help of this literary term, the writer tries to develop a mental picture. Imagery is used to help the audience get the emotional, sensational, or physical feeling during the reading process. Imagery helps to awake reader’s taste, touch, and even smell.

Example: Read famous “Charlotte's Web” to discover imagery (e.g., when the author describes midway in the smallest details). 


Short stories are full of archetypes. They point to the immortal dogmas related to human life based on social norms and ethics (good/bad, hero/villain). We can list examples by hours because every novel/short story/poem has archetypes. There are more complex characters who do not represent just one side of the coin; modern literature is full of such characters.

A good example is Tolkien’s Frodo, little hobbit, facing his darker side after The Ring takes over him. 


Have you noticed some authors recalling episodes from mythology and legends? They like comparing current book events to the events from the past to stress how cyclical our life is. It is a good way to explain how people can use lessons learned in a different situation. Great American essayists loved involving allusions in their pieces.

Example: The Garden of Eden appears in many short stories and novels when the author tries to compare a beautiful, calm place to the place mentioned in Holy Bible. Alluding to something means referencing it. 


Conflict is the major part of the story, its key success factor in case of its recognition. There is no complete plot without this powerful literary term. The authors are competing for wide recognition by coming up with original, unexpected conflicts that must result into impressive, unpredictable ending. External conflicts occur between the main hero and the power of nature, cataclysms, villains, and more. Internal conflicts happen inside the characters.

Both protagonists & antagonists have to make some critical choices. Great authors prefer showing the internal fights of the characters, especially antagonists: they want to show every person can change and has a chance for a normal life.

A good example from the latest releases is Draco Malfoy from “Harry Potter,” which decides to turn down Voldemort in favor of his family. Remember Faith Lehane from “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”? She goes voluntarily to prison after committing several crimes and then joins the main cast to save the world in season seven. 


The apostrophe is a separate figure of speech used to address a particular subject, topic, concept, or individual unable to respond. The reason why target object is not responding is it is not alive/does not exist.

Literature examples to better understand the idea: Macbeth trying to talk to a dagger which is seen before him, and which he is eager to clutch. William Shakespeare’s works possess many good examples of this literary term.

5 Most Commonly Used Literary Terms


Literary terms dictionary offers the word “foreshadowing.” Do you know what spoiler is? Foreshadowing is a literature plot spoiler offered by the story’s author to give a hint of what is going to occur. It is a pity you did not recognize these symbols until you’ve concluded.

Examples: Most often, the trick is used to enrich detective stories. In “Shutter Island,” the reader is given a lot of tips explaining that the main character, U.S. Marshall, is insane being a client of the asylum instead of investigating the murder. 


Do not take hyperboles serious: their main role is to be an exaggeration and add fun to the story.

“Old Times on the Mississippi” by Mark Twain is a good example of hyperbole usage: “I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do. I was quaking from head to foot, could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far."

Do not mind reading about another useful literary technique, strong hook sentences, to create a winning paper.


This one is easy to understand without an example. One of the obligatory literacy terms every writer should include is a theme – the main message delivered by the author through his characters, events, and lessons. The author shares his feelings about the relevant topic, discussed by his society members. 


Literary terms dictionary has tone among different literary techniques. The word’s meaning is simple. The tone refers to the general mood a particular short story, novel, or poem has. The story may be tragic, but the characters can be full of optimistic ideas & plans.

Here are several examples of tones:

  • Smart
  • Depressive
  • Disturbing
  • Gloomy
  • Scared
  • Horrifying
  • Foolish 


The last thing to discuss from our literary terms list is personification – technique beloved by many world’s known authors thanks to its ability to breathe life into the soulless subjects by providing them with human traits. Poets use this method more frequently than novelists or short story writers. Find various examples in stories by fairy tale writers or Lewis Carrol: his “Alice” involves a plenty of personification.

Did you find this literary terms list useful? Try to memorize at least several best techniques to make your personal short story or large novel interesting & alive. Study other methods to catch reader’s eye from the first line, and do not forget about unique opportunity to buy custom essay online without spending much money!



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