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The device of using character and/or story elements symbolically to represent an abstraction in addition to
the literal meaning. In some allegories, for example, an author may intend the characters to personify an
abstraction lie hope or freedom. The allegorical meaning usually deals with moral truth or a generalization
about human existence.
The repetition of sounds, especially initial consonants in tow or more neighboring words (as in “she
sells sea shells). Although the term is not used frequently in the multiple-choice section, you can look for
alliteration in any essay passage. The repetition can reinforce meaning, unify ideas, supply a musical
sound, and/or echo the sense of the passage
A direct or indirect reference to something which is presumably commonly known, such as an event,
book, myth, place, or work of art. Allusions can be historical, literary, religious, topical, or mythical. There
are many more possibilities, and a work may simultaneously use multiple layers of allusion.
A similarity or comparison between two different things or the relationship between them. An analogy can
explain something unfamiliar by associating it with or pointing out its similarity to something more familiar.
Analogies can also make writing more vivid, imaginative, or intellectually engaging.
to an incident in the life of a person.
A terse statement of know authorship which expresses a general truth or a moral principle. (If the
authorship is unknown, the statement is generally considered to be a folk proverb.) An aphorism can be a
memorable summation of the author’s point.
The emotional mood created by the entirety of a literary work, established partly by the setting and
partly by the author’s choice of objects that are described. Even such elements as description of the
weather can contribute to the atmosphere. Frequently atmosphere forshadows events. Perhaps it can
create a mood.
A grammatical unit that contains both a subject and a verb. An independent, or main, clause expresses a
complete thought and can sand 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 to the other. You should also
become aware of making effective use of subordination in your own writing.
A principle demanding that the parts of any composition be arranged so that the meaning of the whole
may be immediately clear and intelligible. Words, phrases, clauses within the sentence; and sentences,
paragraphs, and chpters in larger pieces of writing are the unit that by their progressive and logical
arrangement, make for coherence.
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.
The nonliteral, associative meaning of a word; the implied, suggested meaning. Connotations may
involve ideas, emotions, or attitudes.
Related to style, diction refers to the writer’s word choices, especially with regard to their correctness,
clearness, or effectiveness. For the AP exam, you should be able to describe an author’s diction (for
example, formal or informal, ornate or plain) and understand the ways in which diction can complement the
author’s purpose. Diction, combined with syntax, figurative language, literary devices, etc., creates an
Figure of amplification in which a subject is divided into constituent parts or details, and may include a
listing of causes, effects, problems, solutions, conditions, and consequences; the listing or detailing of the
parts of something.
In essays, one of the four chief types of composition, the others being argumentation, description, and
narration. The purpose of exposition is to explain something. In drama, the exposition is the introductory
material, which creates the tone, gives the setting, and introduces the characters and conflict.
A metaphor developed at great length, occurring frequently in or throughout the work.
Writing or speech that is not intended to carry literal meaning and is usually meant to be
imaginative and vivid
A device used to produce figurate language. Many compare dissimilar things. Figures of
speech include apostrophe, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, metonymy, oxymoron, paradox, personification,
simile, synecdoche, and understatement
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
The major category into which a literary work fits. The basic divisions of literature are prose, poetry, and
drama. However, genre is a flexible term; within these broad boundaries exist many subdivisions that are
often called genres themselves. For example, prose can be divided into fiction (novels and short stories) or
nonfiction (essays, biographies, autobiographies, etc). Poetry can be divided into lyric, dramatic, narrative,
epic, etc. Drama can be divided into tragedy, comedy, melodrama, farce, etc. ON the AP language exam,
expect the majority of the passages to be from the following genres: autobiography, biography, diaries,
criticism, essays, and journalistic, political, scientific, and nature writing.
Figure of reasoning in which one or more questions is/are asked and then answered, often at length,
by one and the same speaker; raising and responding to one’s own question(s). A common usage is to ask
the question at the beginning of a paragraph and then use the paragraph to answer it. You can use
hypophora to raise questions which you think the reader obviously has on his/her mind and would like to see
formulated and answered.
The sensory details or figurative language used to describe, arouse emotion, or represent abstractions.
On a physical level, imager y uses terms related to the five senses; we refer to visual, auditory, tactile,
gustatory, or olfactory imagery. 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 (It is the highest flower on the Great Chain
of Being). An author may use complex imagery while simultaneously employing other figure s 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 exam, pay attention to how an author creates imagery and to the effect of this imagery.
an emotionally violent, verbal denunciation or attach using srong, abusive language
- a type of sentence in which the main idea (independent clause) comes first, followed by
wdependent grammatical units such as phrases and clauses. If a period were placed at the end of the
independent clause, the clause would be a complete sentence. A work containing many loose sentences
often seems informal, relaxed, and conversational. Generally loose sentences create loose style.
A figure of speech using implied comparison of seemingly unlike things or the substitution of one for the
other, suggesting some similarity. Metaphorical language makes writing more vivid, imaginative, thought
provoking, and meaningful
This term has two distinct technical meanings in English writing. The first meaning is grammatical and eals
with verbal units and a speaker’s attitude. The indicative mood is used only for factual sentences. For
example, “Joe eats too quickly.” The subjective mod is used to express conditions contrary to fact. For
example, “If I were you, I’d get another job.” The imperative mood is used for commands. For example,
“Shut the door!” The second meaning of mood is literary, meaning the prevailing atmosphere or emotional
aura of a work. Setting, tone, and events can affect the mood. In this usage, mood is similar to tone and
The telling of a story or an account of an event or series of events
From the Greek for “pointedly foolish,” an oxymoron is a figure of speech wherein the author groups
apparently contradictory terms to suggest a paradox. Simple examples include “jumbo shrimp” and “cruel
kindness.” This term does not usually appear in the multiple-choice questions, but there is a chance that
you might find it in an essay. Take note of the effect which the author achieves with this term.
A statement that appears to be self-contradictory or opposed to common sense but upon closer inspection
contains some degree of truth or validity.
Also referred to as parallel construction or parallel structure, this term comes from Greek roots
meaning “beside one another.” It refers to the grammatical or rhetorical framing of words, phrases,
sentences, or paragraphs to give structural similarity. This can involve, but is not limited to repetition of a
grammatical element such as a preposition or verbal phrase. A famous example of parallelism begins
Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the
age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity . . .”
The effects of parallelism are numerous, but frequently they act as an organizing force to attract the reader’s
attention, add emphasis and organization, or simply provide a musical rhythm.
A work that closely imitates the style or content of another with the specific aim of comic effect and/or
ridicule. As comedy, parody distorts or exaggerated distinctive features of the original. As ridicule, it mimics
the work by repeating and borrowing words, phrases, or characteristics in order to illuminate weaknesses in
the original. Well-written parody offers enlightenment about the original, but poorly written parody offers only
ineffectual imitation. Usually an audience must grasp literary allusion and understand the work being
parodied in order to fully appreciate the nuances of the newer work. Occasionally, however, parodies take
on a life of their own and don’t require knowledge of the original
A sentence that presents its central meaning in a main clause at the end. This independent
clause is preceded by a phrase or clause that cannot stand alone. For example: “Ecstatic with my AP
score, I let out a loud, joyful shout!” The effect of a periodic sentence is to add emphasis and structural
variety. It is also a much stronger sentence than the loose sentence.
A figure of speech in which the author presents or describes concepts, animals, or inanimate
objects by endowing them with human attributes or emotions. Personification is used to make these
abstractions, animal, or objects appear more vivid to the reader.
– In literature, the perspective from which a story is told. There are two general divisions of point of
view, and many subdivisions within those. (1) the first person narrator tells the story with the first person
pronoun, “I,” and is a character in the story. This narrator can be the protagonist, a participant (character in
a secondary role), or an observer (a character who merely watches the action). 2) the third person narrator
relates the events with the third person pronouns, “he,” “she,” and “it.” There are two main subdivisions to
be aware of: omniscient and limited omniscient. In the “third person omniscient” point of view, the narrator,
with godlike knowledge., present the thoughts and actions of any or all characters. This all-knowing narrator
can reveal what each character feels and thinks at any given moment. The “third person limited omniscient”
point of view, as its name implies, presents the feelings and thoughts of only one character, presenting only
One type of subject complement is an adjective, group of adjectives, or adjective clause that
follows a linking verb. It is an the predicate of the sentence, and modifies, or describes, the subject.
One of the major divisions of genre, prose refers to fiction and non-fiction, including all its forms. In prose
the printer determines the length of the line; in poetry, the poet determines the length of the line
The duplication, either exact or approximate, of any element of language, such as a sound, word,
phrase, clause, sentence, or grammatical pattern.
From the Greek for “orator,” this term describes the principles governing the art of writing effectively,
eloquently, and persuasively.
This flexible term describes the variety, the conventions, and purposes of the major kinds of
writing. The four most common rhetorical modes and their purposes 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 re-create, 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. These four modes are sometimes
referred to as mode of discourse.
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 is a device, but not all ironic statements are sarcastic, that
is, intended to ridicule. When well done, sarcasm can be witty and insightful; when done poorly, it’s simply
A work that targets human vices and follies or social institutions and conventions for reform or ridicule.
Regardless of whether or not the work aims to reform human behavior, satire is best seen as a style of
writing rather than a purpose for writing. It can be recognized by the many devices used effectively the
satirist: irony, wit, parody, caricature, hyperbole, understatement, and sarcasm. The effects of satire are
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