Literary techniques

These are the most common literary tools. They are useful both when you need to analyze or interpret text and when you are creating your own text.

Accessibility icon Literary techniques

Literary techniques

When working with language, it’s exciting to find new ways to use it, especially when it comes to writing. There are many different tools and techniques that you can use to improve your writing. Their use makes it more fun for you to write and for your audience to read. Using these tools in your writing can improve any text you create.

These skills need to be practiced just like everything else. Few people become expert writers overnight. This presentation will show you some of the most common linguistic techniques and how using them makes writing much more fun!

Fargeblyanter i en sort kopp, og en skriveblokk med en blyant liggende oppå.
Fargeblyanter i en sort kopp, og en skriveblokk med en blyant liggende oppå.

1. Allusion

In literary terms, an allusion is the technique of making a short reference to a well-known text in popular culture to add more meaning to your writing. You may for example write a story about a girl with a red cloak and allude to the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Another example could be drafting the Ten Commandments for Surviving Middle School drawing on the Ten Commandments in the Bible.

En stor mørk ulv og ei lita jente med røde klær og kurv.
En stor mørk ulv og ei lita jente med røde klær og kurv.

2. Personification

Personification is when non-human things and creatures gain human characteristics. It can be talking wolves, dancing trees, the wind singing in trees, or a lonely house. With this tool, you can create a more lively and exciting text. What you write about comes to life with the words used. It’s not just an old tree standing in the garden, but the tree has long, thin fingers and two holes that look like eyes. The leaves are like hair, and they get a voice when the wind blows.

3. Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives a hint of what will come later in the story. Foreshadowing often appears at the beginning of a story or a chapter, and it helps the reader develop their expectations about upcoming events. Some examples of this include:

  • It was the day I came to meet my great love.
  • The bat he had in his hand was not stained with blood yet.
  • Little did we know that the matchbox would make us homeless.
Sort åpen fyrstikkeske med ubrente fyrstikker inni.
Sort åpen fyrstikkeske med ubrente fyrstikker inni.

4. Repetition

Repetition is a tool that creates both excitement and context but also makes the reader remember important information. It may be single words or parts of the story that are repeated several times. This is often seen in lyrics, poems, or fairy tales. Just think of how many times the bears say, “Someone’s been eating my porridge!” in the fairy tale Goldilocks and the three bears.

Look up the words to a song you really like. Which words or frases are repeated in the lyrics?

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Blank Word-bakgrunn

5. Irony

Irony is when the writer describes something by saying the opposite. A real-life example might be when someone says, “It was so great that it rained all vacation.” Another example could be someone saying, “Things got even better when my phone ran out of power just as I was about to use it to pay for the bus.”

Blank Word-bakgrunn
Blank Word-bakgrunn

6. Juxtapositions

Juxtapositions show contrast by placing concepts side by side. Juxtaposition is an important tool not only in written and verbal texts but also in art, architecture, clothing design, music, and other forms of expression. Something that stands out will become more obvious.

For example: “The white snowman had a worried expression in his black eyes of coal.”

“Napoleon’s white horse almost glowed in the dark and bloody chaos.”

Grønn ballong svever over mange hvite ballonger.
Grønn ballong svever over mange hvite ballonger.

7. Metaphors

Metaphors are linguistic images. In a metaphor, two objects are compared to each other. It can be words, language expressions, or various forms of imagery. One writes or talks about one thing to express another. 

The body can be a model for linguistic images. 

Examples include:

  • His words cut deeper than a knife.
    Words can not physically cut anyone, but they can hurt your feelings deeply.
  • I’m feeling blue.
    None of us will actually turn the color blue when we are sad.
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Blank Word-bakgrunn

8. Hyperbole

Hyperbole refers to any sort of overstated description. By overstating or understating what you mean, you can make a clear point as either positive or negative support. This literary tool is very common in films, comics, ads, and newspaper headlines.

  • It was the best ice cream in the world!
  • This is the greatest thing I have ever experienced!
  • I’m dying of hunger!
Full saltdrøsse der lokket ligger oppe saltet som ikke fikk plass inni.
Full saltdrøsse der lokket ligger oppe saltet som ikke fikk plass inni.

9. Rhythm and rhyme

You will find rhythm and rhyme in most texts, including poems, pop songs, and rap songs. There are many ways to work with rhythm and rhyme in a text. One example is music, where composers must consider both the text and the melody for their work. Lyrics should be easy to remember, and the melody should match the content of the lyrics.

Blokk og blyant ligger oppå en brun kassegitar.
Blokk og blyant ligger oppå en brun kassegitar.

10. Simile

Similes, also known as indirect comparisons, can look like metaphors but have a different meaning. Like metaphors, two unrelated objects are being compared to each other. Unlike a metaphor, the comparison relies on the words “like” or “as.” We can also make comparisons by using adjectives, such as “kinder than”.

  • You are sweet as sugar
  • I was hungry like a wolf
  • She’s kinder than her little brother
Blank Word-bakgrunn
Blank Word-bakgrunn


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