Literary Terms

Literary Terms – Nonfiction

  • Allusion: a brief reference to a person, place, thing, event, or idea in history or literature.  Allusions conjure up biblical authority, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, historic figures, wars, great love stories, etc. Allusions imply cultural and reading ties between the writer and reader.
  • Anecdote: a short account of an incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature.  It’s a brief story to entertain or make a point.
  • Archetype: universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious response in a reader. In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences – regardless of when or where they live – are considered archetypes.
  • Autobiography: a story of a person’s life written by that person. It is nonfiction.
  • Bibliography: a list of source materials used or consulted in the preparation of a work or that are referred to in the text.
  • Caricature: a picture or description greatly exaggerating the peculiarities or defects of a person or thing.
  • Chronicle: a chronological record of events; a history.
  • Cliché: an idea or expression that has become tired and trite from overuse, its freshness and clarity having worn off. They are usually a sign of weak writing.
  • Coherence: logical interconnection.
  • Connotation: the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its primary or literal meaning.
  • Denotation: the explicit (dictionary) or direct meanings of a word or expression; it does NOT include the ideas or meanings suggested by it.
  • Dialect: a type of informal diction (word choice). Dialects are spoken by definable groups of people from a particular geographic region, economic group or social class.
  • Diction: a writer’s choice of words, phrases, sentence structures and figurative language which combine to help create meaning.
  • Didactic: intended to teach a lesson.
  • Editorial: an article in a newspaper or other periodical or broadcast statement presenting the opinion of the publishers or editors, or of station owners or station managers.
  • Elaboration: the act of developing or expanding in great detail.
  • Essay: a short nonfiction work that deals with one subject. The author might give an
    opinion, try to persuade or simply narrate an interesting event. Essays may be formal or informal. Formal essays examine a topic in a thorough, serious and highly organized manner. Informal essays reflect the writer’s feelings and personality.
  • Eulogy: a formal speech of praise, usually for someone who is dead.
  • Euphemism: a word or phrase used in place of a more direct but distasteful or offensive word or phrase.
  • Narrator: the teller of a story or other narrative. A narrator may be the author speaking in his or her own voice, or a character or persona created by the author to tell the story. A narrator may stand inside the story, telling events from a first-person point of view, or outside the story, telling the events from the third-person point of view.
  • Intrusive narrator: a storyteller who keeps interrupting the narrative to address
    the reader directly to make extended personal comments about the characters or
    about other matters.
  • Unreliable narrator: Characters telling their stories in first person are often
    unreliable because they have attitudes or emotions that distort the story they tell.
  • Oration: a formal speech.
  • Paradox: a statement that, while apparently self-contradictory, is essentially true.
    Examples: Success is counted sweetest by those who never succeed.
  • Parallelism: the technique of showing that words, phrases, clauses, or larger structures are comparable in content and importance by placing them side by side and making them similar in form.
  • Paraphrase: a restatement of an expression or a passage that retains the meaning of
    the original but presents it in different words and often in a different form; a rewording.
  • Periodical: published with a fixed time between a series or articles (i.e., magazines).
  • Plagiarism: Using another writer’s ideas or words as one’s own. Plagiarism ranges from deliberate literary theft to inept paraphrasing to unconscious borrowing.
  • Prose: all forms of ordinary writing and speech lacking the sustained and regular
    rhythmic patterns of poetry. Prose is characterized by the sort of plain, straightforward statement found in everyday speech written in paragraph form. It is the language of essays, short stories, and novels.
  • Requiem: a chant, dirge, or poem for the dead; from the Roman Catholic mass for the dead.
  • Rhetorical question: a question asked that is not intended to be answered.
  • Sarcasm: Harsh, cutting, personal remarks to or about someone, not necessarily ironic.
  • Satire: a term used to describe any form of literature that blends ironic humor and wit with criticism for the purpose of ridiculing folly, vice, stupidity – the whole range of human mistakes – in individuals and institutions. Satire differs from comedy in that it seeks to correct, improve, or reform through ridicule, while comedy aims simply to amuse. It differs from an invective (direct denunciation and name-calling) and mere insult in the sharp wit of its presentation.
  • Fact: something that can be proven true by concrete information.
  • Opinion: is the belief of a person. It can’t be proven.
  • Sensory Details: information you can observe through any of your senses.
  • Statistics: a fact based on numbers.
  • Defining: identify a group something belongs to and explain how it is unique.
  • Evaluating: when you determine the value of something.
  • Comparing and Contrasting: “compare” shows how things are similar (alike); “contrast” shows how things are different.
  • Cause and Effect: one event causes a second event to occur.
  • Explaining a process: you tell how something works or how to do something.
  • Editorial (Political) Cartoon: a cartoon that expresses the issues of the day.
  • Captions: the words spoken by the artist or characters in the cartoon.
  • Symbol: something that stands for or represents something else.
  • Humor: comical.
  • Stereotype: eliminates anything unique about an individual by exaggerating features associated with a group.
  • Irony: uses words or something else in the editorial cartoon to express an opposite
    meaning to the overall point of the editorial cartoon.
  • Bias: a prejudiced outlook; a personal or distorted view.
  • Propaganda: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor to either help or injure a

Source:  Georgia Virtual Learning pdf