Writing Terms

 
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Flashback to English 101!  If you're like most of us, some of those terms you learned back in high school can be hard to remember now.  Here is a list of common writing terms defined.


Allegory--using a specific character or situation in your writing to express a more general truth

Alliteration--a series of words in a sentence all beginning with the same sound.  (Remember the old tongue-twister "Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers"?)

Analogy--a comparison showing like parts of two unlike things.  Remember those old tests?  (foot is to person as paw is to cat, for instance)

Anaphora--several consecutive sentences starting with the same group of words.  (President Bush's speech is a good example: "We will not tire.  We will not falter.  We will not fail."

Antonyms--opposites (day and night, for instance)

Cliche--similar to a dead metaphor; an expression that has been widely overused.  (Like saying something cost "an arm and a leg".  Ugh!)

Denouement--French, defined by Merriam-Webster as the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work.

Double Entendre--a phrase that can be interpreted in two different ways.  Usually one of the meanings is slightly "off color".  Thank you Erika for these examples!

 

Euphemism--a phrase used in place of something disagreeable or upsetting  ("passed on" instead of died)

Homographs--words that are spelled alike but pronounced differently and/or mean different things (Sahara desert and to desert someone, for instance)

Homonyms--words that are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings (baby; an infant, and baby; to coddle, for instance)

Hyperbole--deliberate exaggeration  (scared to death)

Metaphor--this is similar to a simile, but more direct.  One word is used directly in place of another to suggest a relationship between them.  Usually a metaphor says one thing is something else.  (Rachel is a peach, for instance)

Dead Metaphor--a metaphor that has lost its "force" through overuse.  Most often not even recognized as a metaphor any more (being "over your head", for instance)

Mixed Metaphor--an inconsistent metaphor ("That's water over the bridge", for instance; a cross of "water under the bridge" and "water over the dam")

Onomatopoeia--a word that sounds like what it is (hiss, for instance)

Oxymoron--a phrase composed of two words with contradictory meanings--"virtual reality", for instance

Personification--giving living attributes to an inanimate object  (leaves dancing in the wind)

Simile--the similarities of two separate things are shown through a comparison using the words like or as.  (lips as red as cherry wine, for instance)

Synonyms--words with the same meaning (happy and glad, for instance)

Voice--in writing, how you "sound" on the page.  Your voice is your style, your tone, your unique way of telling a story.

Widows & Orphans--In publishing lingo, a "widow" is the last line of a paragraph, printed alone at the top of a page.  An "orphan" is the first line of a paragraph, printed alone at the bottom of a page.  Many word processors offer features to control these in your documents.


Got a term that should be added to this list?  Email me!