Beautifying language 101: Literary devices

Poetry, drama, prose,  legends, folktales, myths, and legends - they are all beautified through the use of various literary devices. Some we are aware of, some we are not. Certainly, we all remember simile, metaphor, and personification. But, how do we call the others? Let us refresh our memories, shall we?

Simile uses the comparative words "as" and "like"; Metaphors assumes the comparison without any signal words.


Simile is the most popular literary device simply because it is a comparison device. Simile is also the device you can find the fastest because it uses comparative phrases such as 'like' or 'as'. In descriptive writing, simile is always there - after  all, we have all written that someone's hair is as black as the night.


Next to simile is another comparison device, but without the signal words. Remember Romeo and Juliet? - "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!"

Personification gives life to non-living objects.


The key idea of personification is literally personifying an object which basically means giving life through human characteristics to a non-living object, just like how you thought the wind whispered to your ear.


Hyperbole refers to an exaggerated statement or claim which cannot be true, and is never meant to be taken literally, like seeing polar bears wearing jackets because it is so cold outside.

You'll know it's alliteration if you notice a repetition of the same consonant.


Remember Peter Piper? It is your best example of alliteration which describes a set of multiple words with the same consonant.


Analogy is used when establishing the relationship of two concepts based on its similarity to utilize its meaning as a basis for understanding such as how in is to out, and up is to down. Analogy focuses on comparing one object from another that is entirely different from it. For instance, saying that love is game where you can only win or lose is a dose of analogy.



In Shakespearean language, antithesis is the device used to set a word against a word. In layman's term, it is the idea of using a word and its opposite together to create a coherent statement. The correct usage of antithesis can make a notion powerful. For example: "One small step for man - one giant leap for mankind."


Euphemism is the use of a milder tone for a negative object, often to present sympathy or mask the harshness of a word. For instance, "firing" an employee is to "lay off" or "let go of" an employee, and that "passed away" refers to someone who died.


Imagery is perhaps the most common and the best literary device that one can use when writing a novel because imagery aims to create a mental image for the reader to be able to imagine the scene. It is the most common because simile, metaphor, and personification are used for imagery. You may wonder why not just use 'imagery' for all three. The thing is, these devices have their own characteristics as aforementioned.

Metonymy is the art of utilizing a different object to present another.


Metonymy works similarly with synecdoche, however, metonymy uses a term that has a direct link to the original word. The main difference is synecdoche uses a part of a whole to represent the whole (e.g. "wheel" as the "car"), while metonymy uses an entirely different words to represent the whole (e.g. "crown" as the "royal family"). It can be an attribute or anything else that can represent the object. One popular example is the power of a written word against military aggression - "The pen (thoughts and reason) is mightier than the sword (violence)".


The use of a completely opposite notion in place of what is actually meant is irony. In a normal conversation, sarcasm may be described as irony, therefore the deeper meaning or its significance cannot be deciphered through the words used, but through the situation or context when and why it was used.

Onomatopoeia represents sounds that can stand alone to present the idea.


Aside from simile, onomatopoeia is also one of the literary devices that is easiest to spot because the words themselves sound like the actual sounds they present. The key word is 'sound'. Zap! Tick tock! Boom!

These are only just a few of the literary devices that the English language has. Actually, these devices can be used in writing a title for your essay, because for one, they can stand alone, but more often than not, they are catchy while sounding beautiful. However, keep in mind that literary devices are used when writing a creative piece, and rarely on formal papers such as research studies or research article analysis. If the amount of literary devices starts to overwhelm you, do not forget that you can always ask for professional help.