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AP English Lit. Terms 3 Rhetorical Devices. Hilltop High School Mrs. Demangos. Diction . Word choice. A writer’s choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language, which combine to help create meaning . Formal Middle Diction Informal Poetic. Formal Diction.

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ap english lit terms 3 rhetorical devices

AP English Lit. Terms 3Rhetorical Devices

Hilltop High School

Mrs. Demangos

  • Word choice.
  • A writer’s choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language, which combine to help create meaning.
  • Formal
  • Middle Diction
  • Informal
  • Poetic
formal diction
Formal Diction
  • Formal diction consists of a dignified, impersonal, and elevated use of language; it follows the rules of syntax exactly and is often characterized by complex words and lofty tone.
middle diction
Middle Diction
  • Middle diction maintains correct language usage, but is less elevated than formal diction; it reflects the way most educated people speak.
informal diction
Informal Diction
  • Informal diction represents the plain language of everyday use, and often includes idiomatic expressions, slang, contractions, and many simple, common words.
poetic diction
Poetic Diction
  • Poetic diction refers to the way poets sometimes employ an elevated diction that deviates significantly from the common speech and writing of their time, choosing words for their supposedly inherent poetic qualities.
  • Since the eighteenth century, however, poets have been incorporating all kinds of diction in their work and so there is no longer an automatic distinction between the language of a poet and the language of everyday speech.
  • Sentence and phrase structure
  • The ordering of words into meaningful verbal patterns such as phrases, clauses, and sentences.
  • Poets often manipulate syntax, changing conventional word order, to place certain emphasis on particular words.
  • Emily Dickinson, for instance, writes about being surprised by a snake in her poem “A narrow Fellow in the Grass,” and includes this line:
  • “His notice sudden is.” In addition to the alliterative hissing s-sounds here, Dickinson also effectively manipulates the line’s syntax so that the verb is appears unexpectedly at the end, making the snake’s hissing presence all the more “sudden.”
point of view
Point of View
  • Narrative Perspective.
  • First Person: “I”
  • relates the thoughts and feelings of one character
  • Intimate: reader feels as if they are “in their brain”
point of view1
Point of View
  • Second Person: “you”
  • Used when giving advice
  • Can sound didactic
point of view2
Point of View
  • Third Person: “he, she, it…”
    • Third person objective
    • Third person limited
    • Third person omniscient
point of view3
Point of View
  • Third person objective:
  • “he, she, it…”
  • Reported by a seemingly neutral/impersonal observer
third person objective
Third Person Objective
  • Example:

At the pizza place, Tony the baker was getting the pizzas ready for baking. He flattened out a ball of dough into a large pancake and tossed it in the air. He spread sauce on it, sprinkled it with cheese, and shoved it in the oven. Then the telephone rang. “A fellow from the factory wants a large pizza delivered in a hurry,” Tony’s wife called. “Ok, I’ll get my coat,” said Tony.

Curious George and the Pizza by Margret Rey

point of view4
Point of View
  • Third person limited:
  • “he, she, it…”
  • Reports and interprets thought and feelings of a single character
third person limited
Third Person Limited
  • Example:

After dropping her son off at school, Sara sat at a traffic light and waited. She was on her way to her office job as a secretary in a law office. It was mainly paperwork with very little time to interact with other people, but Sara had gotten used to that. It also gave her plenty of time to daydream, something she had also gotten quite used to. She was a woman in her mid-30’s, married 13 years, with one child.

The Ninja Housewife by Deborah Hamlin

point of v iew
Point of View
  • Third person omniscient
  • “he, she, it…”
  • All knowing, relates and interprets thoughts and feelings of more than one character
third person omniscient
Third Person Omniscient
  • Example:

At dawn, Mae Tuck set out on her horse for the wood at the edge of the village of Treegap. She was going there, as she did once every ten years, to meet her two sons, Miles and Jesse, and she was feeling at ease. At noon time, Winnie Foster, whose family owned the Treegap wood, lost her patience at last and decided to think about running away.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

  • Balancing of contrasting ideas
  • From the Greek, "opposition“
  • Example:

Love is an ideal thing,

marriage a real thing.--Goethe

  • "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, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
  • "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dryrot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." Jack London
  • Stringing a sentence out with conjunctions
  • From the Greek, "bound together". A style that employs many conjunctions.
  • Example:
  • “Let the whitefolks have their money and power and segregation and sarcasm and big houses and schools and lawns like carpets, and books, and mostly--mostly--let them have their whiteness. It was better to be meek and lowly, spat upon and abused for this little time than to spend eternity frying in the fires of hell."

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  • Milton’s Satan

“. . .pursues his way,

and swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies.”

  • Example:

“I said, "Who killed him?" and he said, "I don't know who killed him but he's dead all right," and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was all right only she was full of water.” Ernest Hemingway, "After the Storm."

  • Breaking off a sentence…
  • The failure, accidental or deliberate, to complete a sentence according to the structural plan on which it was started.
  • That is, beginning a sentence in a way that implies a certain logical resolution, but concluding it differently than the grammar leads one to expect. Anacoluthon can be either a grammatical fault or a stylistic virtue, depending on its use.
  • For example, the device can work as a powerful index of anxiety or disturbed coherence.

“It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race . . .”

Tennyson “Ulysses”


Athletes convicted of drug-related crimes —are they to be forgiven with just a slap on the wrist?

“The darkness drops again; but now I know

that twenty centuries of stony sleep

were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

and what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

Yeats, “The Second Coming”

  • The use of similar grammatical structures or word order in two sentences or phrases to suggest a comparison or contrast between them.
  • Example:
  • In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129

“Before, a joy proposed;

behind, a dream”

  • Can also refer to parallels between larger elements in a narrative.
    • Two characters
    • Two plot lines
  • Example:

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, both Lear and Gloucester suffer at the hands of their own children because of their blindness to children who are goodhearted and which are evil.

  • An address, either to someone who is absent and therefore cannot hear the speaker or to something nonhuman that cannot comprehend.
  • Apostrophe often provides a speaker the opportunity to think aloud.
  • Examples:
  • John Milton’s “To Mr. Lawrence”

Lawrence, of virtuous father virtuous son,/Now that the fields are dank, and ways are mire,/ Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire/ Help waste a sullen day…

  • Extended comparison of similar things.
  • The term comes from the Greek analogia, meaning “proportion.”
  • Example: the classic analogy between the heart and a pump.
  • In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift describes the societies of the Lilliputians and the Brobdingrags in such a way as to make their characteristics and weaknesses analogous to human society.
  • Informal diction.
  • An informal expression or slang, especially in the context of formal writing.
  • Example: Larkin’s “Send No Money”

“All the other lads there

Were itching to have a bash.”