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Netcom - Glossary of stylistic features
Category: Language and Literature > Stylistic features
Date & country: 25/11/2007, UK
Words: 51


Alliteration
e.g. The silken ship sailed silently through the sea. (Here the 's' sound is helping to reinforce the silence and the smooth grace of the ship's passage through the sea.) Poets are very fond of alliteration but look out for it also in newspaper headlines.

Allusion
a reference, sometimes indirect, to a person, place, theory etc. which the reader is assumed to have some knowledge of. e.g. a Biblical allusion with which the reader is assumed to be familiar.

Analogy
a parallel case with one or more points of resemblance. This is often used by writers to help the reader to understand a complex or abstract point

Anecdote
a short story used to illustrate a point, often used by writers as a way of introducing their topic.

Audience
the readership whom the writer is addressing, the people who are being targeted by the article. e.g. young people, the elderly, an intelligent, sophisticated and articulate readership etc.

Bathos
anti-climax, designed to shock or amuse. e.g. The Queen stepped graciously out of her gleaming limousine, walked up the red carpet in suitably regal style--then gave a huge yawn, bored with the day's proceedings. (The reader has been built up to expect one type of serious, ceremonial atmosphere but this anticipation is deflated with reference to th…

Brackets
these are for extra information (an aside, sometimes humorous etc.) which is clearly not part of the main statement. They are used for the same purpose as a pair of commas but are more decisive.

Cliche
a stereotyped expression which is overused e.g. 'the dawn of a new era'.

Coin an expression
to invent a new word or phrase to suit the context.

Colloquialism
word or phrase chiefly found in everyday speech, as opposed to writing. The use of colloquialism is one of the hallmarks of an informal style of writing. e.g. 'kids' for children or 'magic' for wonderful.

Colon
separates two clauses/sentence structures that are of equal importance and are related to each other. e.g. Spring is green: Autumn is gold. It is used after a general statement before a list of examples: e.g. The world is full of challenges: climbing mountains, exploring the oceans, discovering new ideas.

Comma
this cuts off one clause from another. It separates items on a list.. As a pair, it acts as parenthesis, separating added information, asides, non essential extras etc. from the main sentence. The placement of a comma can alter the emphasis placed on a word or phrase.

Command
This gives a sense of urgency, requiring action from others. e.g. Do this!

Connotation
the various secondary meanings and overtones of a word: what associations it carries.

Dashes
often used for the same purpose as brackets (parenthesis). One dash may be used to indicate a pause in thinking before speech.

Denotation
the dictionary meaning of a word, what it literally denotes.

Emotive Language
language deliberately designed to arouse the emotions. (often to be found in tabloid newspapers) e.g. murderers described as 'beasts' or people who might have unusual views on something being described as 'raving lunatics' etc.

Emphatic Words
words being used for the purpose of emphasis: e.g. even; so; too; indeed; only; most; all (as in 'all too clear')

Euphemism
a deliberate softening of a harsh truth. e.g. The old man passed away. (rather than 'died')

Exclamation
This gives a sense of astonishment, anger or urgency. e.g. Do that!

Figures of Speech
literary devices used by writers to create special effects. The most commonly used are: alliteration; bathos; hyperbole; litotes; metaphor; onomatopoeia; oxymoron; paradox; personification; pun; similie.

Hyberbole
use of intentional exaggeration to create an effect. e.g. In her excited state she imagined she heard thousands of fans beating on the doors, ready to die if they did not set eyes on their idol.

Imagery
figurative or descriptive language which builds a mental picture of a person, place or idea.

Inverted Commas
The most common use of inverted commas is to indicate direct speech or a quote from someone. Other key uses are: To indicate a foreign word that has been imported into the English Language e.g. 'glasnost'. To enclose a title of a film, play etc. To show the deliberate use of a slang or colloquial expression in an otherwise formal piece of writing. …

Inverted Sentence Structure
A sentence in which the normal grammatical order of subject, verb, object has been inverted, usually to place emphasis on the initial or end word(s).

Irony
a device where words conveying a meaning different from the apparent meaning are used, sometimes to emphasise a point or a situation. Dramatic irony occurs when an audience is given privileged information which is unknown to the relevant character(s). e.g. Spoken by a dying man who is unaware of his condition; 'I think the future is a bright and be…

Layout of Text
e.g. in columns usually indicates a newspaper article; divided into clearly marked sections with sub-headings usually indicates some kind of instruction manual or official report. Font Style, Size of lettering, use of Italics, Bold Type, Block Capitals, Underlining, Framing, Use of Illustration, Centring of text: These are all useful techniques use…

Litotes
a deliberate understatement, often designed to create a comic or sarcastic effect. e.g. In the middle of a furious argument, a third party might enter and say, 'Did I detect a slight difference of opinion here?'

Metaphor
a comparison but this time one thing becomes another in every sense, except the literal. There is no 'like' or 'as' acting as links. e.g. The man was a mountain. The wind was a knife, cutting through outer garments to attack the defenceless body.

Onomatopoeia
a device whereby the sound of the word accords with the meaning. e.g. splash! bang! splinter! whoosh! etc.

Oxymoron
the technical term for a paradox which is expressed in two contradictory words. e.g. bitter sweet; love hate; bitter laughter.

Paradox
an apparent contradiction. e.g. Riches make men miserable. (One would normally assume that wealth would bring happiness, rather than misery.)

Parody
a humorous imitation of a literary work or style. e.g. a serious news report written in the style of a disc jockey's script could be described as a parody.

Personification
a device whereby an inanimate object is given a human quality. e.g. The coals settled comfortably in the fireplace. (Coal is normally regarded as inanimate/lifeless but here it is seen as settling like a human might settle into a chair.)

Pun
a deliberate playing on two possible meanings of one word. e.g. arms (as in limbs on the body ) and arms (as in weapons) or meet (as in coming together with someone socially and meat (as in flesh) This device is usually used to create a comic effect. It is very popular with newspaper headline writers.

Punctuation
a system of marking written text to illustrate pauses or logical relationships e.g. brackets; comma; colon; dashes; inverted commas; semi-colon.

Purpose
The reason(s) for which the text has been written. Some of the main purposes of writing are: to inform; to persuade; to entertain; to convey a personal experience; to rouse to action.

Register
This is a technical term for words, phrases or sentence structures which are associated with a particular group of writers or professionals. e.g.legal, medical, pop musical, computer magazine, specialised instruction manuals etc. These will all use a particular type of specialised language or jargon which is peculiar to their genre.

Rhetorical Question
This is a literary device used to indicate a question to which no answer is expected: the answer is implied in the question. e.g. Is there such a thing as evil in the human child?

Semi-colon
The semi-colon separates clauses that form part of a list. It also separates a statement from further development of that statement, perhaps in the form of an expansion or explanation.

Sentence Structures
the ways in which sentences are organised. The most common is the short, simple sentence, often used very effectively to shock the reader or to heighten tension. e.g. The result was disastrous. The next two types are called complex or compound-complex. These are characterised by length and by number of secondary clauses. They are often used to conv…

Simile
a literary device whereby two things or actions are compared to each other, linked by the words 'as' or 'like'. e.g. The litter drifted round the playground like tattered butterflies lost in flight.

Slang
a more extreme form of colloquialism of a racy, offensive or abusive nature. e.g.referring to the police as 'pigs'.

Style
There are a number of features that would go under the collective heading of style: e.g.see register/tone/language (colloquial,emotive,jargon)

Symbol
refers to something that stands for or represents something else. e.g. a nation's flag is literally a piece of cloth with a distinctive design but it is also a symbol of that country's identity.

Syntax
This means the relationship between the word order within a sentence. The normal word order within a sentence would follow the pattern: Subject, Verb, Object. e.g. The boy borrowed the rubber. ('boy' is the subject of the sentence, 'borrowed' is the verb and 'rubber' is the object)

Tenses
These are three main tenses: the Present, Past and Future. If a writer suddenly switches tenses, he is doing so for a particular reason. If, for example, he changes from the past to the present, he may be trying to convey a sense of immediacy, of the event happening NOW. There are THREE past tenses in English: the Simple Past to indicate something …

Tone
this is the emotional feel of the passage, the unspoken voice of the writer. e.g. amused, mocking, angry, indignant, sympathetic, approving, cynical, scathing, indifferent. (N.B. a tone can also be neutral, as in an informative passage where the writer is not conveying any particular point of view)

Typography
This term relates to the way in which a passage is set down visually on the page. Some of the features to be aware of are listed under Layout.

Verbless Sentences
a statement without a verb, and hence, grammatically speaking, not a sentence.

Word choice
the selection of individual words to create specific effects.