What Are Literary Techniques?

According to Pittsford Schools, a literary device is any specific aspect of literature, or a particular work, which we can recognize, identify, and interpret and/or analyze. Literary techniques are specific, deliberate, construction of language which an author uses to convey meaning. Authors usually choose to use literary techniques to describe or emphasize feelings or emotions. These literary techniques can contain a single word or a particular group of words and phrases.

How many literary techniques are there?

There are over 50 literary techniques that any author could use, but we decided to make your job easier and highlight the most important ones.

What are the most common literary techniques?

The allegory

An allegory could be a poem, or a story interpreted in such way that it reveals an underlying symbolic meaning. The topic usually treats human existence. We can encounter allegories in many fables and parables that we've read as children.

The allusion

An allusion is an implied reality used in literature. It comes from the verb, to allude, which means to refer to something in an indirect way, making a reference to it.

The anachronism

An anachronism is an intentional error in chronology used in literature to emphasize a certain idea or symbol. The misplacing can the form of people, events, or objects.


A colloquial expression is an expression used in a regional or dialectal language. It's basically informal language or slang. It's usually used by authors to give their texts a sense of realism.

The epigraph

An epigraph is a quotation posted at the beginning of a literary piece to suggest its theme and narrative. The epigraph is usually written by a different author.

The euphemism

A euphemism is the substitution of an offensive expression. It is an indirect way of conveying that idea. For instance, using “not making it” instead of “dying.”

The flashback

In literature, a flashback is a memory described in detail. It is used to add context to a specific story and background information about characters, plots, or important events that can add to the narrative.

The foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a clever technique used to indicate what is about to come in an indirect way. Instead of revealing the course of action, the author chooses to use foreshadowing to create a feeling of tension.

The hyperbole

The hyperbole is used to exaggerate a specific idea, characteristic, or concept in order to highlight its importance. It could be used in both negative and positive portrayals of events.


Imagery means figurative language. Authors may choose to use imagery to appeal to our deepest emotions and senses. This technique helps readers visualize various parts of the story presented.


One of my favorite literary techniques, irony means overstating an idea by emphasizing its opposite meaning. There are three types of literary techniques irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic.


Juxtaposition is one of the literary techniques used to compare and contrast two concepts challenging to explain on their own. Authors create a larger picture of the subject discussed by using this technique.


Malapropism is the unintentional yet hilarious use of a word of phrase sounding or intended to sound odd in the context.

The metaphor

A metaphor is a comparison used to clarify or emphasize a certain word, phrase, or idea. It usually suggests an analogy between two concepts.

The metonym

A metonym is a figure of speech used when a word or phrase is substituted by the actual thing to which that word or phrase refers to. It is used to give the narrative a poetic effect.


Onomatopoeia is the naming of one thing by vocally imitating the sound that associates with that thing. For example, buzz, hiss, boo, zoom, etc.

The oxymoron

The oxymoron is used to highlight two different concepts by comparing and contrasting them within text. This technique can be used to give tension to your story.

The paradox

A paradox is an idea that seems too complex to be true. It is a statement that seems illogical, but it is used to highlight a specific concept.


Personification is when the author attributes human, personal qualities to an inanimate object. It is an abstractive method of creating a clearer mental picture of the action.


As you can tell by its name, repetition is when a word or idea gets reemphasized over and over again to convey a specific message. It is most often used in poetry.


Soliloquy resembles the typical monologue in that it describes a person talking to oneself. Interesting ideas are exchanged, and thoughts and feelings are revealed.


Symbolism is the art of using symbols to give a special meaning to your ideas. The messages conveyed are usually different than what they seem to be expressing.


A synecdoche is a figure of speech by which parts of something are used to represent the whole, or vice versa. It is one of the most complex literary techniques used in literature.

How to Use Literary Techniques

Here are three important ideas to keep in mind:

Start to learn how to recognize them in different texts and observe how they are being use. Perform an analysis of each one of them and write down ideas to help you memorize them.

Use literary techniques only if they fit naturally in the context!

Learn them and then, don't hesitate to apply the concepts!


Using literary techniques will improve your writing style, develop your vocabulary, and enhance a deepened analysis of the concepts presented. Use them wisely!