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Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact

Pathfinder: Literary Devices

Selected by Judi Moreillon, Ph.D.

Literary Devices, Tropes, and Schemes

Literary (Poetic) Devices

For definitions and examples of poetic (or literary) devices, visit the Poetic Devices Page at:


comparison of seemingly unlike things that compares their functions: A is to B as C is to D.

When he swims, he uses his feet the way a dolphin uses its fluke.

exaggeration that is used for effect or emphasis; the opposite of understatement

She cried a river of tears over the smallest insult.

words used to convey the opposite of the literal meaning; to say one thing and mean another

The directions were as clear as mud.

comparison of seemingly unlike things (made without using like or as)

He was a cheetah running through the forest.

rhetorical question
a question that is used to persuade but is not intended to be answered

Aren't you the most thoughtful person?

a comparison of seemingly unlike things using like or as

Her heart beat fast like the hummingbird's wings.

a statement that minimizes the complete or true picture; the opposite of hyperbole

The bully gently hurt her feelings.


juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

inverted word order
placing a preposition, prepositional phrase, or other expression at the beginning of a sentence followed by inverted word order

Sweet was the taste of blackberries on her tongue.

similarity of structure in a pair of words or phrases

They couldn't come to an agreement. She wouldn't say he was right. He wouldn't say she was wrong.

repetition of words or phrases more than once in a short passage resulting in emphasis

She was the best runner on the team, the very best.

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Launched: December 2010
Updated: 16 October 2012