English Language Techniques

Students with a strong grasp of English language techniques & literary elements as well as the metalanguage relevant to their texts always outperform their peers.

Here’s a list of a number of techniques you can use in your language analysis:

Allegory: Where every aspect of a story is representative, usually symbolic, of something else, usually a larger abstract concept or important historical/geopolitical event.

Alliteration: The repetition of consonant sounds within close proximity, usually in consecutive words within the same sentence or line.

Antagonist: Counterpart to the main character and source of a story’s main conflict. The person may not be “bad” or “evil” by any conventional moral standard, but he/she opposes the protagonist in a significant way. (Although it is technically a literary element, the term is only useful for identification, as part of a discussion or analysis of character; it cannot generally be analyzed by itself.)

Anthropomorphism: Where animals or inanimate objects are portrayed in a story as people, such as by walking, talking, or being given arms, legs, facial features, human locomotion or other anthropoid form. (This technique is often incorrectly called personification.)

Blank verse: Non-rhyming poetry, usually written in iambic pentameter

Caesura: Syntactical isolation of a part of a sentence in order to draw attention to it. There will be a punctuation mark before and after the clause.

Character: The people who inhabit and take part in a story. When discussing character, as distinct from characterization, look to the essential function of the character, or of all the characters as a group, in the story as a whole.

Characterization: The author’s means of conveying to the reader a character’s personality, life history, values, physical attributes, etc. Also refers directly to a description thereof.

Climax: The turning point in a story, at which the end result becomes inevitable, usually where something suddenly goes terribly wrong; the “dramatic high point” of a story.(Although it is technically a literary element, the term is only useful for identification, as part of a discussion or analysis of structure; it cannot generally be analyzed by itself.)

Conflict: A struggle between opposing forces which is the driving force of a story. The outcome of any story provides a resolution of the conflict(s); this is what keeps the reader reading. Conflicts can exist between individual characters, between groups of characters, between a character and society, etc., and can also be purely abstract (i.e., conflicting ideas).

Context: Conditions, including facts, social/historical background, time and place, etc., surrounding a given situation.

Creative license: Exaggeration or alteration of objective facts or reality, for the purpose of enhancing meaning in a fictional context.

Dialogue: Where characters speak to one another; may often be used to substitute for exposition.

Direct Address:Usually uses the second person pronoun “you” or “your” in order to share an idea with the reader, or to invite the reader into the world of the text.