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Glossary of Poetic Devices
Alliteration - Repeated consonant sounds in a phrase or sentence. Alliteration usually appears at the
beginning of words. It sets a rhythm or mood to sentences or phrases. It is fun and pleasing to the ear.
Ex: Seven slippery snakes slithered silently south.
Approximate rhyme - When the final consonant sounds between words are similar, but the other sounds in
the word are different. (Emily Dickinson used this device often.) Ex: soul, oil, foul
Assonance - The repetition of vowel sounds. Ex: weak and weary, high and tight
Free verse - Poetry not written in a regular rhythmical pattern, or meter, and without a rhyme scheme.
Imagery - Details that appeal to the senses. Imagery makes the experience more real. Ex: Sweet, slow drops
of deep purple juice drip from the corners of my mouth and flow in little blueberry rivers down to my chin.
Inversion - Reversing the natural order of words for a poetic effect. Ex: “Something there is that doesn’t love
a wall.” (R. Frost)
Metaphor - A comparison between two things that are not ordinarily alike, with the intent of giving clearer
meaning to one of them. Often forms of the verb “to be” (such as “is” or “was”) are used to make the
comparison. Ex: He is my rock.
Meter - The recurrence of a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables; the rhythm. Meter can be
diagrammed by placing a \ mark above a stressed syllable and a
mark above an unstressed syllable.
Onomatopoeia - Use of a word that makes the same sound as its meaning, or a word that sounds like the
same sound an object actually makes. The use of onomatopoeia adds auditory appeal and makes the writing
more interesting. Ex: buzz, tic toc, splash, thump
Personification - Giving human characteristics to a nonliving object. Personification compares two
dissimilar things by attributing human thoughts, feelings, appearances, actions, or attitudes to an object or
animal. Ex: The lightning reached down with forked fingers and scratched the ground.
Point of view - Lets the reader know who is telling the story (or poem). The story may be told by a character
in the story, a narrator who is in the story, or a narrator who is not in the story.
1st person: The speaker is a character in the story or poem and tells about him/herself (uses "I").
3rd person limited: The speaker is not part of the story but tells about the other characters.
Knowledge of character thoughts & feelings is limited to what one character sees and feels.
3rd person omniscient: The speaker is not part of the story, but is able to "know" and describe what
all characters are thinking.
Repetition - The repeating of words, phrases, lines, or stanzas. What is repeated is important for its idea or
for its effect.
Rhyme - Repeating of sounds. Rhymes may occur at the ends of lines (“end rhyme”) or within the lines
(“internal rhyme”). Ex: The kite was sliding and gliding, slipping and flipping.
Rhyme scheme - The pattern of rhymes at the end of lines of poetry. The first end sound is represented as
the letter "a", the second is "b", etc.
Simile - A comparison between two unlike things, using the word “like” or “as” to connect the two.
Ex: My hands are as cold as ice. Her eyes were as green as emeralds.
Stanza - Two or more lines of poetry that together form one of the divisions of a poem. The stanzas of a
poem are usually of the same length and follow the same pattern of meter and rhyme. (Compare it to a
paragraph in a story.)
White space - Placing letters, words, and lines of poetry in strategic places on the page for a poetic effect.
NCL0506 adapted from and Writing Yellow Pages, Rev. Ed