Vocab Terms Set

Ad Hominem Argument
Comes from the Latin phrase, meaning “to the man”. It refers to an argument that attacks the opposing speaker or another person rather than addressing the issues at hand.
Allegory
A fictional work in which the characters represent ideas or concepts.
Alliteration
The repetition of constant sounds, usually at the beginning of words.
Allusion
A passing reference to a familiar person, place, or thing, drawn from history, the Bible, mythology, or literature. It is an economical way for the writer to capture the essence of an idea, atmosphere, emotion, or historical era.
Ambiguity
Uncertain or indefinite; it is subject to more than one interpretation.
Analogy
Ask a reader to think about the correspondence or resemblance of between two things that are especially different; a form of comparison in which the writer explains something unfamiliar by comparing it to something similar.
We will write a custom essay sample on
Any topic specifically for you
For only $13.90/page
Order Now
Analytical Reading
Reading actively, paying close attention to both the content and the structure of the text. It often involves several basic questions about the piece of writing under consideration: what does the author want to say? What is his or her main point? Why does the author want to say it? What is his or her purpose? What strategy or strategies does the author use? Why and how does the author’s writing strategies suit both the subject and the purpose? What is special about the way the author uses the strategy? How effective is the essay and why?
Antecedent
The grammatical term for the noun of or pronoun from which another pronoun derives it’s meaning.
Antithesis
An opposition or contrast of ideas that is often express in balanced phrases or clauses.
Aphorism
A terse statement of know authorship which expresses a general truth or a moral principle. It can be a memorable summation of the author’s point.
Apostrophe
A figure of speech in which an absent person or personified object is addressed by a speaker.
Apotheosis
It is derived from the Greek word “deify”. It occurs in literature when the character or thing is elevated to such a high status that it appears godlike.
Appositive
A word or phrase that follows as noun or pronoun for emphasis or clarity. They are usually set off by commas.
Appropriateness
See Diction
Argument
One of the four basic types of prose. It is to attempt to convince the reader to agree with a point of view, to make a given decision, or to pursue a particular course of action.
Assertion
The thesis, claim, or proposition that a writer puts forward in an argument.
Assonance
A type of internal rhyming in which vowel sounds are repeated.
Assumption
A belief or principle, stated or implied, that is taken for granted.
Asyndeton
Occurs when the conjunctions that would normally connect a string of words, phrases, or clauses are omitted from a sentence.
Atmosphere
The emotional feeling – or mood – of a place, scene, or event.
Attitude
Describes the feelings of a particular speaker or piece of writing towards a subject, person, or idea.
Audience
The intended readership for a piece of writing.
Bathos
A false or forced emotion that is often humorous. It takes emotions to such an extreme that the reader finds it humorous rather than touching.
Beginnings
The sentence, group of sentences, or section that introduces an essay. It usually identifies the thesis or controlling idea, attempts to interest the reader, and establish a tone.
Cause and Effects Analysis
One of the types of exposition. It answers the question “Why?”, and it explains the reason for an occurrence or the consequences of an action.
Claim
The thesis or proposition put forth in an argument.
Endings
The sentence or group of sentences that brings an essay to closure. Good ones are purposeful and well-planned. It satisfies readers when it is the natural outgrowths of the essay itself, and conveys a sense of finality or completion.
Classification
One of the types of exposition. When classifying, the writer arranges and sorts people, places, or things into categories according to their differing characteristics, thus making them more manageable for the writer and more understandable for the reader.
Caricature
A verbal description, the purpose of which is to exaggerate or distort, for comic effect, a person’s distinctive physical features or other characteristics.
Clause
A grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb. An independent, or main, clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence. A dependent, or subordinate clause, cannot stand alone as a sentence and must be accompanied by an independent clause. The point that you want to consider is the question of what or why the author subordinates one element should also become aware of making effective use of subordination in your own writing.
Cliché
An expression that has become ineffective through overuse. Expressions such as quick as flash, dry as dust jump for joy, and slow as molasses are all examples. Good writers normally avoid such trite expressions and seek instead to express themselves in fresh and forceful language.
Coherence
Quality of good writing that results when all sentences, paragraphs and longer divisions of an essay are naturally connected. Coherent writing is achieved through (1) a logical sequence of ideas (arranged in chronological order, spatial order, order of importance or some other appropriate order), (2) the thoughtful repetition of key words and ideas, (3) a pace suitable for your topic and your reader, and (4) the use of transitional words and expressions. Coherence should not be confused with unity.
Colloquial Expressions
Characteristic of or appropriate to spoken language or to writing that seeks its effect. They are informal, and because of this, they are acceptable in formal writing only if they are used purposefully.
Comparison and Contrast
Another one of the types of exposition. In comparison and contrast, the writer points out the similarities and differences between two or more subjects in the same class or category. The function of any comparison and contrast is to clarify – to reach some conclusion about the items being compared and contrasted.
Conclusions
See Endings
Conceit
A fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between seemingly dissimilar objects. A conceit displays intellectual cleverness as a result of the unusual comparison being made.
Concrete/Abstract
A concrete word names a specific object, person, place or action that can be directly perceived by the senses. An abstract word refers to general qualities, conditions, ideas, actions, or relationships that cannot be directly perceived by the senses. Although writers must use both concrete and abstract language, good writers avoid using too many abstract words. Instead, they rely on concrete words to define and illustrate abstractions. Because concrete words affect the senses, they are easily comprehended by the reader.
Connotation/Denotation
Both connotation and denotation refer to the meanings of words. Denotation is the dictionary meaning of a word, the literal meaning. Connotation, on the other hand, is the implied or suggested meaning of a word. Good writers are sensitive to both the denotations and connotations of words and they use these meanings to advantage in their writing.
Controlling Idea
Same as thesis.
Contrast
Writers often use contrasts, or oppositions, to elaborate ideas. Contrasts help writers to expand on their ideas by allowing them to show both what a thing is and what it is not.
Deduction
Deduction is the process of reasoning from a stated premise to a necessary conclusion. This form of reasoning moves from the general to the specific.
Definition
Definition is one of the types of exposition. (Process analysis, division and classification, comparison and contrast, exemplification and cause and effect analysis are the others.) Definition is a statement of the meaning of a word. A definition may be either brief or extended, part of an essay or an entire essay itself.
Description
Description is one of the four basic types of prose. (Narration, exposition and argument are the other three.) Description tells how a person, place or thing is perceived by the five senses. Objective description reports these sensory qualities factually, whereas subjective description gives the writer’s interpretation of them.
Dialogue
Dialogue is conversation that is recorded in a piece of writing. Through dialogue, writers reveal important aspects of characters’ personalities as well as events in the narrative.
Diction
Diction refers to an author’s choice of words. For instance, in the sentence, “That guy was really mad!” the author uses informal diction (“guy,” “mad”); whereas in the sentence, “The gentleman was considerably irritated,” the author uses more elevated diction (“gentleman,” “irritated”). A writer’s diction contributes to the tone of a text.
Didactic
From the Greek, didactic literally means “teaching.” Didactic words have the primary aim of teaching or instructing, especially the teaching of moral or ethical principles.
Division
Like comparison and contrast, division and classification are separate yet closely related mental operations. Division involves breaking down a single large unit into smaller subunits or breaking down a large group of items into discrete categories. For example, the student body at a college or university can be divided into categories according to different criteria (by class, by province or country, by sex and so on.)
Dominant Impression
A dominant impression is the single mood, atmosphere, or quality a writer emphasizes in a piece of descriptive writing. The dominant impression is created through the careful selection of details and is, of course, influenced by the writer’s subject, audience and purpose.
Draft
A draft is a version of a piece of writing at a particular stage in the writing process. The first version produced is usually called the rough draft or first draft and is a writer’s beginning attempt to give overall shape to his or her ideas. Subsequent versions are called revised drafts. The copy presented for publication is the final draft.
Editing
During the editing stage of the writing process, the writer makes his or her prose conform to the conventions of the language. This includes making final improvements in sentence structure and diction, and proofreading for wordiness and errors in grammar, usage, spelling and punctuation. After editing, the writer is ready to prepare a final copy.
Elegiac
An elegy is work (of music, literature, dance, or art) that expresses sorrow. It mourns the loss of something, such as the death of a loved one.
Emphasis
Emphasis is the placement of important ideas and words within sentences and longer units of writing so that they have the greatest impact. In general, the end has the most impact and the beginning nearly as much; the middle has the least.
Essay
An essay is a relatively short piece of nonfiction in which the writer attempts to make one or more closely related points. A good essay is purposeful, informative and well organized.
Ethos
Ethos is the characteristic spirit or ideal that informs a work. In “The Country of the Pointed Firs” by Sarah Orne Jewett, for instance, the ethos of the work is derived from the qualities of the inhabitants, who are described as both noble and caring. Ethos also refers more generally to ethics, or values of the arguer: honesty, trustworthiness, even morals. In rhetorical writing, authors often attempt to persuade readers by appealing to their sense of ethos, or ethical principles.
Euphemism
A euphemism is a mild or pleasant sounding expression that substitutes for a harsh, indelicate, or simply less pleasant idea. Euphemisms are often used to soften the impact of what is being discussed. For example, the word “departed” is a euphemism for the word “dead,” just as the phrase “in the family way” is a euphemism for the word “pregnant.”
Evaluation
An evaluation of a piece of writing is an assessment of its effectiveness or merit. In evaluating a piece of writing, you should ask the following questions: What is the writer’s purpose? Is it a worthwhile purpose? Does the writer achieve the purpose? Is the writer’s information sufficient and accurate? What are the strengths of the essay? What are its weaknesses? Depending on the type of writing and the purpose, more specific questions can also be asked. For example, with an argument you could ask: Does the writer follow the principles of logical thinking? Is the writer’s evidence convincing?
Evidence
Evidence is the data on which a judgment or argument is based or by which proof or probability is established. Evidence usually takes the form of statistics, facts, names, examples or illustrations and opinions of authorities.
Examples
Examples illustrate a larger idea or represent something of which they are a part. An example is a basic means of developing or clarifying an idea. Furthermore, examples enable writers to show and not simply tell readers what they mean. The terms example and illustration are sometimes used interchangeable.
Exemplification
Exemplification is a type of exposition. (Definition, division and classification, comparison and contrast, cause and effect analysis and process analysis are the others.) With exemplification, the writer uses examples – specific facts, opinions, samples and anecdotes or stories – to support a generalization and to make it more vivid, understandable and persuasive.
Exposition
Exposition is one of the four basic types of prose. (Narration, description and argument are the other three.) The purpose of exposition is to clarify, explain and inform. The methods of exposition include process analysis, definition, division and classification, comparison and contrast, exemplification and cause and effect analysis.
Writing or speech that is organized to explain. For example, if the novel you read involves a wedding, your exposition might explain the significance of the wedding to the overall work of literature.
Fact
A piece of information presented as having a verifiable certainty or reality.
Figures of Speech
Figures of speech are brief, imaginative comparisons that highlight the similarities between things that are basically dissimilar. They make writing vivid and interesting and therefore more memorable. The most common figures of speech are these.
Simile
An implicit comparison introduced by like or as: “The fighter’s hands were like stone.”
Metaphor
An implied comparison that uses one thing as the equivalent of another: “All the world’s
a stage.”
Personification
A special kind of simile or metaphor in which human traits are assigned to an inanimate object: “The engine coughed and then stopped.”
Fiction
The word “fiction” comes from the Latin word meaning to invent, to form, to imagine. Works of
fiction can be based on actual occurrences, but their status as fiction means that something has been imagined or invented in the telling of the occurrence.
Figurative Language
Figurative language is an umbrella term for all uses of language that imply an imaginative comparison. For example, “You’ve earned your wings” is a figurative way to say, “you’ve succeeded.” It implies a comparison with a bird who has just learned to fly. Similes, metaphors and symbols are all examples of figurative language.
Focus
Focus is the limitation that a writer gives his or her subject. The writer’s task is to select a manageable topic given the constraints of time, space and purpose. For example, within the general subject of sports, a writer could focus on government support of amateur athletes or narrow the focus further to government support of Olympic athletes.
Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a purposeful hint placed in a work of literature to suggest what may occur later in the narrative. For instance, a seemingly unrelated scene in a mystery story that focuses on a special interest of the detective may actually foreshadow the detective’s use of that expertise in solving the mystery.
Generic Conventions
This term describes traditions for each genre. These conventions help to define each genre; for example, they differentiate an essay and journalistic writing or an autobiography and political
writing. On the AP language exam try to distinguish the unique features of a writer’s work from those dictated by convention.
Genre
A distinct classification in literature. From the Lat., “genus:” “type, kind;” pron.: “Zhawn-reh.” A classification according to what different works have in common, in their structure and treatment of a
subject. By correctly identifying the genre of a text, we can get a better idea of its author’s intention and purpose. We can also deepen our sense of the value of any single text, by allowing us to view it comparatively, alongside other texts of the same type. In ancient Greece and Rome the primary genres were: epic; lyric (ode and ballad); drama (tragedy and comedy) and satire. Today the novel and short story have been added to those major classical genres, as well as numerous minor categories. The literary genres used by the College Board in their AP study guides are the following: autobiography and diary; biography and history; criticism; drama; essay and fiction (novel and short story); expository prose; journalism; political writing; science and nature writing.
Grammar
Grammar is a set of rules that specify how a given language is used effectively.
Homily
This term literally means “sermon,” but more informally, it can include any serious talk, speech, or lecture involving moral or spiritual advice.
Hyperbole
Hyperbole is a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used to achieve emphasis. The
expressions, “my feet are as cold as an iceberg” and “I’ll die if I don’t see you soon,” are examples of
hyperbole. The emphasis is on exaggeration rather than literal representation. Hyperbole is the opposite of understatement.
Idiom
An idiom is a word or phrase that is used habitually with a particular meaning in a language. The meaning of an idiom is not always readily apparent to nonnative speakers of that language. For example, catch cold, hold a job, make up your mind and give them a hand are all idioms in English.
Image/Imagery
An image is a mental picture that is conjured by specific words and associations, but there can be auditory and sensory components to imagery as well. Nearly all writing depends on imagery to be effective and interesting. Metaphors, similes, symbols and personification all use imagery. The sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions. On a physical level, imagery uses terms related to the five senses: visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory. On a broader and deeper level, however, one image can represent more than one thing. For example, a rose may present visual imagery while also representing the color in a woman’s cheeks and/or symbolizing some degree of perfection. An author may use complex imagery while simultaneously employing other figures of speech, especially metaphor and simile. In addition, this term can apply to the total of all the images in a work. On the AP Language exam, pay attention to HOW an author creates imagery and to the effect of this imagery.
Induction
Induction is the process of reasoning to a conclusion about all members of a class through an examination of only a few members of the class. This form of reasoning moves from the particular to the general.
Inference/infer
To draw a reasonable conclusion from the information presented. When a multiple choice question asks for an inference to be drawn from a passage, the most direct, most reasonable inference is the safest answer choice.
Irony
Irony occurs when a situation produces an outcome that is the opposite of what is expected. In Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Fences,” for instance, it is ironic that the presence of a barrier – a fence – keeps a friendship alive; Frost’s observation that “Good fences make good neighbors” is both true and ironic. Similarly, when an author uses words or phrases that are in opposition to each other to describe a person or an idea, an ironic tone results. For example, in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, when the speaker says, “I am glad my case is not serious!” the reader – who is also aware of just how “serious” her case is – is aware of the irony of the statement.
Invective
An emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attack using strong, abusive language. (For example, in Henry IV, Part I, Prince Hal calls the large character of Falstaff “this sanguine coward, this bedpresser, this horseback breaker, this huge hill of flesh.”)
Juxtaposition
When two contrasting things – ideas, words or sentence elements – are placed next to each other for comparison, a juxtaposition occurs. For instance, a writer may choose to juxtapose the coldness of one room with the warmth of another, or one person’s honesty with another’s duplicity. Juxtaposition sheds light on both elements in the comparison.
Litotes
A form of understatement that involves making an affirmative
point by denying its opposite. Litotes is the opposite of hyperbole. Examples: “Not a bad idea,” “Not many,” It isn’t very serious,” “I have this tiny little tumor on the brain” (Salinger, Catcher in the Rye)
Logical Fallacies
A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning that renders an argument invalid. Some of the more common logical fallacies are these
Oversimplification
he tendency to provide simple solutions to complex problems: “The reason
we have inflation today is that OPEC has unreasonably raised the price of oil.”
Non sequitur
An inference or conclusion that does not follow from
established premises or evidence: “It was the best movie I saw this year and it should get an
Academy Award.”
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
Confusing chance or coincidence with causation. Because one event comes after another one, id does not necessarily mean that the first event caused the second: “I won’t say I caught cold at the hockey game, but I certainly didn’t have it before I went there.”
Begging the question
Assuming in a premise that which needs to be proven: “If American autoworkers built a better product, foreign auto sales would not be so high.”
False analogy
Making a misleading analogy between logically unconnected ideas: “He was a brilliant
basketball player; therefor5e, there’s no question in my mind that he will e a fine coach.
Either/or thinking
The tendency to see an issue as having only two sides: “Used car salespeople are either honest or crooked.
Logos
The use of reason as a controlling principle in an argument. In rhetorical writing, authors often
attempt to persuade readers by appealing to their sense of logos, or reason. A type of argumentative proof having to do with the logical qualities of an argument: data, evidence, factual information
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech in which something is referred to by using the name of something that is associated with it. For example, a crown is associated with royalty, and is often used as a metonym for royal authority. (“The edict issued today by the Crown forbids grazing in the commons.”)
Mood
Mood is the prevailing or dominant feeling of a work, scene or event. The opening scene of Macbeth in which three witches are center stage, for instance, sets a mood of doom and tragedy for the first act of the play. Mood is similar to atmosphere.
Narration/Narrative
Narration is one of the four basic types of prose. (Description, exposition and argument are the other three.) To narrate is to tell a story, to tell what happened. Although narration is most often used in fiction, it is also important in nonfiction, either by itself or in conjunction with other types of prose. Narrative: The telling of a story or an account of an event or series of events.
Objective / Subjective
Objective writing is factual and impersonal, whereas subjective writing, sometimes called impressionistic writing, relies heavily on personal interpretation.
Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is an effect created by words that have sounds that reinforce their meaning. For example, in the sentence, “The tires screeched as the car zoomed around the corner,” the words “screeched” and “zoomed” are onomatopoetic because the sounds they make when spoken are similar to the sounds the car makes when performing these actions.
Opinion
An opinion is a belief or conclusion not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. An opinion reveals personal feelings or attitudes or states a position. Opinion should not be confused with argument.
Organization
In writing, organization is the thoughtful arrangement and presentation of one’s points or ideas. Narration is often organized chronologically. Exposition may be organized from simplest to most complex or from most familiar to least familiar. Argument may be organized from least important to most important. There is no single correct pattern of organization for a given piece of writing, but good writers are careful to discover an order of presentation suitable for their audience and their purpose.
Overview
An overview is a brief summary of the whole work.
Oxymoron
An oxymoron combines two contradictory words in one expression. The results of this
combination are often unusual or thought provoking. For instance, if you praise a child for her “wild docility,” in essence you change the separate meanings of the words “wild” and “docility” and create a new, hybrid
image.
Pacing
Pacing is the speed of a story’s action, dialogue, or narration. Some stories are told slowly, some more quickly. Events happen fast or are dragged out according to the narrator’s purpose. For example, “action
movies” are usually fast paced; when their pacing slows, the audience knows that the section is being given special emphasis.
Paradox
A paradox is a seeming contradiction that in fact reveals some truth. For example, the paradoxical expression, “he lifted himself up by his bootstraps,” suggests a physical impossibility, and thus communicates a truth about the enormity of the person’s achievement.
Paragraph
The paragraph, the single most important unit of thought in an essay, is a series of closely related sentences. These sentences adequately develop the central or controlling idea of the paragraph. This central or controlling idea, usually stated in a topic sentence, is necessarily related to the purpose of the whole composition. A well-written paragraph has several distinguishing characteristics: a clearly stated or implied topic sentence, adequate development, unity, coherence and an appropriate organizational strategy.
Parallelism
A literary technique that relies on the use of the same syntactical structures, (phrases, clauses, sentences) in a series in order to develop an argument or emphasize an idea. For example, in the declaration,
“At sea, on land, in the air, we will be loyal to the very end,” the parallel phrases at the beginning of the sentence emphasize the loyalty and determination of a group of people. Parallel structure is the repetition of word order or form either within a single sentence or in several sentences that develop the same central idea. As a rhetorical device, parallelism can aid coherence and add emphasis. Roosevelt’s statement, “I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished,” illustrates effective parallelism.
Anaphora
A sub-type of parallelism, when the exact repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines or sentences. MLK used anaphora in his “I Have a Dream” speech (1963).
Parody
Parody is an effort to ridicule or make fun of a literary work or an author by writing an imitation of the work or of the author’s style.
Pathos
A sympathetic feeling of pity or compassion evoked by an artistic work. In rhetorical writing, authors often attempt to persuade readers by appealing to the sense of pathos, or their emotions. A type of argumentative proof having to do with audience: emotional language, connotative diction and appeals to certain values.
Pedantic
An adjective that describes words, phrases, or general tone that is overly scholarly, academic, or booking (language that might be described as “show-offy”; using big words for the sake of using big words.
Person
A grammatical term that describes the relationship of a writer or speaker to an audience by examining the pronouns that are used. Depending on the choice of pronouns, narration is said to be written in first person (I, we), second person (you, both singular and plural) or third person (he, she, it, they).
Persona
Persona is the character created by the voice and narration of the speaker of a text. The term, “persona” implies a fictional representation or an act of disguise (that the speaker is not the author, but a created character).
Point of View
The particular perspective from which a story is told is called the point of view. Stories may be told from the point of view of specific characters or a narrator. The narrator, in turn, may be a subjective
narrator (who may or may not be involved in the story), or an all – knowing (omniscient) narrator. (An omniscient narrator can tell you everything about the characters – even their inner feelings and thoughts.) Examining the person of the pronouns used can further describe point of view. Some literary works blend different points of view for emphasis and experimentation. For example, a first person point of view uses the pronoun I and is commonly found in autobiography and the personal essay; a third person point of view uses the pronouns he, she, or it and is commonly found in objective writing.
Prewriting
Prewriting encompasses all the activities that take place before a writer actually starts a rough
draft. During the prewriting stage of the writing process, the writer selects a subject area, focuses on a particular topic, collects information and makes notes, brainstorms for ideas, discovers connections between pieces of information, determines a thesis and purpose, rehearses portions of the writing in the mind or on paper and makes a scratch outline.
Process Analysis
Process analysis is a type of exposition. (Definition, division and classification, comparison and contrast, and cause and effect analysis are the others.) Process analysis answers the question how?
And explains how something works or gives step-by-step directions for doing something.
Publication
The publication stage of the writing process is when the writer shares his or her writing with the intended audience. Publication can take the form of a typed or an oral presentation, a photocopy or a commercially printed rendition. What’s important is that the writer’s words are read in what amounts to their final form.
Pun
A pun is a play on words. A pun is created by using a word that has two different meanings, or using two different words with similar meanings, for a playful effect. Shakespeare uses puns extensively in his plays; in Hamlet, for instance, Hamlet says he is “too much in the sun,” making use of the meaning of the word “sun” and stressing his role as a “son” simultaneously.
Purpose
Purpose is what the writer wants to accomplish in a particular piece of writing. Purposeful writing seeks to relate (narration), to describe (description), to explain (process analysis, definition, division and classification, comparison and contrast and cause and effect analysis), or to convince (argument).
Repetition
Repetition is the reiteration of a word or phrase for emphasis.
Revision
During the revision stage of the writing process, the writer determines what in the draft needs to be developed or clarified so that the essay says what the writer intends it to say. Often the writer needs to revise several times before the essay is “right.” Comments from peer evaluators can be invaluable in helping writers determine what sorts of changes need to be made. Such changes can include adding material, deleting material, changing the order of presentation and substituting new material for old.
Rhetoric, Rhetorical Purpose
Rhetoric is the art and logic of a written or spoken argument. Rhetorical writing is purposeful; examples of rhetorical purposes include to persuade, to analyze, or to expose. The lines between purposes, strategies, and devices are blurry. To accomplish a rhetorical purpose, a writer develops a rhetorical strategy, and then uses rhetorical devices to accomplish the goal. Consider shelter as an example. If your purpose in constructing a shelter is to protect you from inclement weather, one strategy for doing this might be to build a house (other strategies might involve a tent or a cave, for instance). Devices would be the choices that you make as you build the house, such as whether to use wood or bricks, the number and location of doors and windows, and so on. In the same way, to achieve a purpose in writing you need a strategy and devices. To use a more literary example, when arguing to persuade the world that Americans deserved to be independent from England (rhetorical purpose), the writers of the Declaration of Independence refused to recognize Great Britain’s legislative authority (rhetorical strategy). To achieve this in their prose, the writers used syntax (rhetorical device) that presented all Americans as adhering to one idea (“We the People … “) and diction (rhetorical device) that affirmed their right to be independent (“self-evident” and “endowed by their Creator”).
Rhetorical, or stylistic devices
he specific language tools that an author uses to carry out a rhetorical
strategy and thus achieve a purpose for writing. Some typical language devices include allusion, diction, imagery, syntax, selection of detail, figurative language and repetition.
Rhetorical Question
A rhetorical question is a question that is asked for the sake of argument. No direct answer is provided to a rhetorical question; however, the probable answer to such a question us usually implied in the argument. “When will nuclear proliferation end” is such a question. Writers often use rhetorical questions to introduce topics they plan to discuss or to emphasize important points.
Rhetorical Strategy
A strategy is a plan of action or movement to achieve a goal. In rhetoric or writing, strategy describes the way an author organizes words, sentences and overall argument in order to achieve a particular purpose.
Rhetorical Modes
his flexible term describes the variety, the conventions, and the purposes of the major kinds of writing. The four most common rhetorical modes (often referred to as “modes of discourse”) are as follows:
1. The purpose of exposition(or expository writing) is to explain and analyze information by presenting an idea, relevant evidence, and appropriate discussion. The AP language exam essay questions are frequently expository topics.
2. The purpose of argumentation is to prove the validity of an idea, or point of view, by presenting sound reasoning, discussion, and argument that thoroughly convince the reader. Persuasive writing is a type of argumentation having an additional aim of urging some form of action.
3. The purpose of description is to recreate, invent, or visually present a person, place event or action so that the reader can picture that being described. Sometimes an author engages all five senses in description; good descriptive writing can be sensuous and picturesque. Descriptive writing may be straightforward and objective or highly emotional and subjective.
4. The purpose of narration is to tell a story or narrate an event or series of events. This writing mode frequently uses the tools of descriptive writing.
Sarcasm
From the Greek meaning “to tear flesh,” sarcasm involves bitter, caustic language that is meant to hurt or ridicule someone or something. It may use irony as a devise, but not all ironic statements are sarcastic (that is, intended to ridicule). When well done, sarcasm can be witty and insightful; when poorly done, it is simply cruel.
Satire
To ridicule or mock ideas, persons, events or doctrines, or to make fun of human foibles or weaknesses. “A Modest Proposal” and Gulliver’s Travels, both by Jonathan Swift, are satires of particular people and events of his time.
Selection of Detail
The specific words, incidents, images or events the author uses to create a scene or narrative are referred to as the selection of detail.
Semantics
The branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words, their historical and psychological development, their connotations, and their relation to one another.
Sequence
Sequence refers to the order in which a writer presents information. Writers commonly select chronological order, spatial order, order of importance, or order of complexity to arrange their points.
Slang
Slang is the unconventional, very informal language of particular sub-groups of a culture. Slang, such as bummed, coke, split, hurt, dis, blow off, cool and hot is acceptable in formal writing only if it is used purposefully.
Slanting
The use of certain words or information that results in a biased view point.
Speaker
The speaker is the narrator of a story, poem or drama. The speaker should not be confused with the author, who creates the voice of the speaker; the speaker is a fictional persona.
Specific / General
General words name groups or classes of objects, qualities, or actions. Specific words, in contrast, name individual objects, qualities or actions within a class or group. To some extent, the terms general and specific are relative. For example, dessert is a class of things. Pie, however, is more specific than dessert but more general than pecan pie or chocolate cream pie. Good writing judiciously balances the general with the specific. Writing with too many general words is likely to be dull and lifeless. General words do not create vivid responses in the reader’s mind as concrete, specific words can. However, writing that relies exclusively on specific words may lack focus and direction – the control that more general statements provide.
Strategy
A strategy is a means by which a writer achieves his or her purpose. Strategy includes the may rhetorical decisions that the writer makes about organization, paragraph structure, syntax and diction. In terms of the whole essay, strategy refers to the principal rhetorical mode that the writer uses. If, for example, a writer wishes to show how to make chocolate chip cookies, the most effective strategy would be process analysis. If it is the writer’s purpose to show why sales of American cars have declined in recent years, the most effective strategy would be cause and effect analysis.
Style
Style is the individual manner in which a writer expresses his or her ideas. The author’s particular selection of words, construction of sentences and arrangement of ideas create style.
Subject
The subject of an essay is its content, what the essay is about. Depending on the author’s purpose and the constraints of space, a subject may range from one that is broadly conceived to one that is narrowly defined.
Subordinate Clause
Like all clauses, this word group contains both a subject and a verb (plus any
accompanying phrases or modifiers), but unlike the independent clause, the subordinate clause cannot stand
alone; it does not express a complete thought. Also called a dependent clause, it depends on a main clause,
sometimes called an independent clause, to complete its meaning. Easily recognized key words and phrases
usually begin these clauses–for example: “although,” “because,” “unless,” “if,” ‘even though,” “since,” “as soon as,” “while,” “who,” “when,” “where,” “how,” and “that.”
Syllogism
A syllogism is an argument that utilizes deductive reasoning and consists of a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion. For example: All trees that lose leaves are deciduous. (Major premise) Maple trees lose their leaves. (Minor premise) Therefore, maple trees are deciduous. (Conclusion)
Symbol
A symbol is a person, place or thing that represents something beyond itself. The beaver, for instance, is a symbol of Canada; the eagle is a symbol of America and the bear, a symbol of Russia. Literary symbols often refer to or stand for a complex set of ideas. The moors, in Wuthering Heights, for instance, symbolize the wild and complex relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff.
Synonym
A word that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word is called a synonym. For example, funny is a synonym for laughable; big for large; secret for hidden; silly for ridiculous.
Syntax
Syntax refers to the way words are arranged in a sentence. For example, the following two sentences share a similar meaning, but have different syntax, or word order: “The big blue sky beckoned her,” essentially says the same thing as, “She was beckoned by the big blue sky.”
Technical Language
Technical language, or jargon, is the special vocabulary of a trade or profession. Writers who use technical language do so with an awareness of their audience. If the audience is a group of peers, technical language may be used freely. If the audience is a more general one, technical language should be used sparingly and carefully so as not to sacrifice clarity.
Tension
Tension, in a work of literature, is a feeling of excitement and expectation the reader or audience feels because of the conflict, mood, or atmosphere of the work.
Texture
Texture describes the way the elements of a work of prose or poetry are joined together. It suggests an association with the style of the author – whether, for instance, the author’s prose is rough-hewn (elements at odds with one another) or smooth and graceful (elements flow together naturally).
Theme
The theme of a work is usually considered the central idea. There can be several themes in a single work. In The Woman Warrior, for instance, Maxine Hong Kingston includes endurance, loyalty, bravery, intelligence, fortune and risk as themes variously treated and dramatized.
Thesis
A thesis is a statement of the main idea of an essay. Also known as the controlling idea, a thesis may sometimes be implied rather than stated directly.
Title
A title is a word or phrase set off at the beginning of an essay to identify the subject, to capture the main idea of the essay or to attract the reader’s attention. A title may be explicit or suggestive. A subtitle, when used, extends or restricts the meaning of the main title.
Tone
Tone, which can also be called attitude, is the way the author presents a subject. An author’s tone can be serious, scholarly, humorous, mournful or ironic, just to name a few examples. A particular tone results from a writer’s diction, sentence structure, purpose and attitude toward the subject. A correct perception of the author’s tone is essential to understanding a particular literary work; misreading an ironic tone as a serious one, for instance, could lead you to miss the humor in a description or situation.
Topic sentence
The topic sentence states the central idea of a paragraph and thus limits and controls the subject of the paragraph. Although the topic sentence most often appears at the beginning of the paragraph, it may appear at any other point, particularly if the writer is trying to create a special effect.
Transitions
Transitions are words or phrases that link sentences, paragraphs and larger units of a composition to achieve coherence. These devices include parallelism, pronoun references, conjunctions and the repetition of key ideas, as well as the many conventional transitional expressions, such as moreover, on the other hand, in addition, in contrast and therefore.
Understatement
When an author assigns less significance to an event or thing than it deserves, the result is an understatement. For example, if a writer refers to a very destructive monsoon as “a bit of wind,” the power of the event is being deliberately understated.
Unity
Unity is achieved in an essay when all the words, sentences and paragraphs contribute to its thesis. The elements of a unified essay do not distract the reader. Instead, they all harmoniously support a single idea or purpose.
Voice
How the speaker of a literary work presents himself or herself to the reader determines that speaker’s unique voice. For example, the speaker’s voice can be loud or soft, personal or cold, strident or gentle, authoritative or hesitant, or can have any manner or combination of characteristics. Voice is also a grammatical term. A sentence can be written in either active or passive voice. A simple way to tell the difference is to remember that when the subject performs the action in a sentence, the voice is active (for example: “I sent the letter.”); when the subject is acted upon, the voice is passive (for example, “The letter was sent by me.”
Wit
In modern usage, intellectually amusing language that surprises and delights. A witty statement is humorous, while suggesting the speaker’s verbal power in creating ingenious and perceptive remarks. Wit usually uses terse language that makes a pointed statement. Historically, wit originally meant basic understanding. Its meaning evolved to include speed of understanding, an finally, it frew to mean quick perception including creative fancy and a quick tongue to articulate an answer that demanded the same quick perception.
Writing Process
The writing process consists of five major stages: prewriting, writing drafts, revision, editing and publication. The process is not inflexible, but there is no mistaking the fact that most writers follow some version of it most of the time. Although orderly in its basic components and sequence of activities, the writing process is nonetheless continuous, creative and unique to each individual writer.
Zeugma
A particular breech of sense in a sentence. It occurs when a word is used with two adjacent words in the same construction, but only makes literal sense with one of them. For example, in the sentence, “She carried an old tapestry bag and a walk that revealed a long history of injury,” the word “carried” makes sense with the word “bag,” but not with the word “walk,” and so is an instance of zeugma.