What are Literary Techniques?

Literary techniques are used in literature, speeches and poetry to examine both the literal and figurative meanings behind words and phrases chosen by the authors. Literary techniques can incorporate figurative language, sound devices and rhetorical strategies to enhance meaning, emphasize key ideas and deliver an overarching theme or message to the reader or audience. Readers can identify literary techniques that authors and speakers use to analyze, evaluate and connect with the material on a deeper level.

Why are Literary Techniques Important?

Literary techniques are important because writers and speakers carefully choose their words in order to convey a specific message to their audience. A good writer knows how to connect with their reader not only on a surface, literal level, but also in a deeper, more personal way. One way in which a writer can connect on a more personal level with their audience is to create layers of meaning, especially through figurative language, that enhance the audience’s understanding of the writer’s theme. Writers often use symbolism, metaphors and imagery to achieve this multi-layered message.

Literary techniques are also important in creating a setting, establishing a mood and developing memorable characters which transcend time and distance. Many of the most well-known books, plays and songs are carefully crafted with literary techniques by the authors in order to draw their audience into a different world full of colorful characters and suspenseful events.

In poetry, literary techniques are crucial to establishing rhythm, tone and sound. Poets often utilize literary techniques to draw the reader’s attention to important words or phrases, or to parallels between the sound of the poem and the subject matter. A good poet can use literary techniques to speed up or slow down parts of their poem while also engaging their reader’s emotions through the use of sensory imagery. Poets often use literary techniques such as alliteration, rhyme scheme and onomatopoeia to paint emotional pictures and moments with their words.

Rhetorical devices and techniques are crucial to crafting a good speech, or even a good advertisement. Speech writers who want to persuade their audience to action, and connect with their audience on an ethical, logical and emotional level will use a variety of literary and rhetorical techniques to sway their audience to their point of view. Some of these techniques include parallelism, repetition, rhetorical questions, and even some rhetorical fallacies.

What are the Kinds of Literary Techniques?

There are many kinds of literary techniques that are found in all kinds of writing. They are broken down into 4 main categories: rhetorical techniques, narrative techniques, sound techniques and figurative language techniques.

Rhetorical Techniques

Rhetorical techniques deal with the art of persuasive writing, most often found in speeches and persuasive essays. They access the three important parts of the rhetorical triangle: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotions) and logos (logic), all of which are important in persuading an audience to agree with the speaker or writer’s premise.

Narrative Techniques

Narrative techniques refer to the techniques authors use when crafting a narrative story, both fictional and nonfictional. These can include plot elements such as setting, mood and characterization, along with the narrative structure of a story such as exposition, climax and conclusion. Narrative techniques can also be a specific narrative strategy such as the use of flashbacks, the narrator’s point of view or foreshadowing.

Sound Techniques

Sound techniques are utilized across all mediums of writing, but are primarily found in poetry and public speaking. Sound techniques establish the rhythm of a poem or section of writing, which can enhance meaning, create tone or connect with the emotions of the reader. This can include elements such as onomatopoeia, consonance, assonance, rhyme scheme, structure of a poem and the use of meter.

Figurative Language Techniques

Figurative language techniques are utilized across all kinds of writing, and are used by writers and speakers to create several levels of meaning for their audience to explore and connect with. Figurative language techniques include the use of symbolism, metaphors, similes, apostrophe, personification and sensory imagery.

Who Can Use Literary Techniques?

Literary techniques can be used by any writer, poet or speaker! A carefully placed literary technique can make a piece of writing very powerful, very persuasive and very emotional. An audience that can connect on an emotional level with a piece of literature will be much more likely to remember that work, and the writer. In addition, a literary technique that is employed properly in a work can shift a mood, develop an unforgettable character or place, promote an important theme or change how the reader thinks about the world around them.

The Power of Literary Techniques

Words and writing have been used throughout history to inspire, enrage, thrill, weaken, manipulate, embolden, terrify and revitalize. Wars have started and ended because of words; people have loved and lost because of words; world leaders have changed the course of history because of words. The power of literary techniques in writing and speaking cannot be underestimated. It is important to not only be able to identify literary techniques in writing and speaking, but to evaluate that technique’s impact on the work as a whole, and then analyze its message and impact on the audience. Being able to identify and analyze a literary technique is an important skill. When there are so many literary techniques to explore and learn, it is important to have a place where these techniques are identified, defined and explained so that readers can apply them to speeches, writing, advertising and poetry to better understand the messages these writers are trying to convey. Below is a list of important literary techniques to know, along with examples from literature, songs, poetry and speeches to show how they are used and how they function.