Whether you’re a creative content writer, a sales copywriter, a blogger, or a student, it would be helpful to know various writing techniques and understand how they work.
For web content creators, it’s an instrument of audience engagement and persuasion. When used right, writing tricks can turn ordinary texts into masterpieces your target readers will remember.
For students, it’s an instrument to craft A-worthy essays and other college papers.
In today’s blog post, we’ll reveal the list of writing techniques that come from literary works. These literary devices fit web content and academic papers, either: So, don’t hesitate to use them in your texts whenever relevant to surprise readers and make your writings stand out.
What Are Writing Techniques?
Writing techniques are tools authors use to create a specific effect on their texts. They serve to convey meanings, express ideas, and highlight core themes.
Writing techniques come from different niches: Some are literary devices peculiar to fiction works or creative non-fiction, and others are more salesy and, therefore, intrinsic to marketing texts aimed at persuading online users and making them act.
Different writing methods serve different purposes. Thus, literary devices allow writers to hint at broader themes and meanings. Some work on an intellectual level, while others are more about emotions; some operate at a sentence level, while others influence a whole writing piece.
The most famous literary device is a metaphor.
30 Writing Techniques from Literature to Try in Content
Types of writing techniques in literature are many, and, sure thing, you won’t use all writing methods in one content piece. (Though some of them work great in tandem!)
Most of them are figurative language, and your readers won’t identify each technique by name. (Though they can “feel” some literary devices’ presence when noticing an unusual narrative structure you use in texts.)
Below are 30 writing techniques from literature to consider for your creative or academic works, with these writing techniques examples for you to understand how they work in texts.
So, here we go!
- Asyndeton and polysyndeton
- In Medias Res
- The Rule of Three
1 — Asyndeton and Polysyndeton
Two simple yet powerful methods of writing to create rhythm in your sentences and paragraphs:
- Asyndeton is about leaving out conjunctions when writing direct statements.
- Polysyndeton is about using extra conjunctions (frequently) to create a stylistic effect.
Both are common for political speeches or when the author wants to focus the reader’s attention on a particular scene.
2 — Anastrophe
Anastrophe is a figure of speech where an author reverses the traditional sentence structure. If you are a Star Wars fan, you will understand it best: Yoda’s talking is a prime example of using apostrophes.
- “Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained.”
- “Patience you must have my young Padawan.”
- “Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.”
Writers also use this literary device in their works:
- “Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance.” — Eugene Smith
- “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing.” — Edgar Allan Poe
3 — Chiasmus
As well as anastrophe, chiasmus is about a reversal sentence structure to create an artistic effect. But here you invert (crisscross) two or more parallel clauses for your message to sound more convincing.
Chiasmus is among the best friends of political speechwriters. Let’s take John F. Kennedy’s statements as an example:
- “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”
- “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
4 — Cliffhanger
Movie fans, are you here? A cliffhanger is a plot device when an author ends an episode, a chapter, or a scene in some unexpected or shocking way to hook the audience so they would keep reading or watching.
As a rule, cliffhanger endings are of two types:
- A protagonist faces a dangerous or life-threatening situation.
- A shocking revelation appears, unexpected, and able to change the whole course of the narrative.
In plain English, cliffhangers are scene endings that leave the audience with more questions than answers.
- Professor Dumbledore’s death in the Harry Potter series
- Darth Vader’s “Luke, I’m your father!” in Star Wars
- Jon Snow’s assassination in Game of Thrones
Additional Read: 15 Thrilling Cliffhanger Examples (+ Definitions & Tips)
5 — Colloquialism
Colloquialism is the use of casual language in writing, including slang or dialects to provide context to characters or settings and make your texts sound more authentic.
This literary device is intrinsic to dialogues or monologues when a writer wants to demonstrate a character’s origins or background. You can use colloquialisms in blog articles, creative writing assets, or social media posts, either — given your brand voice and your target audience allow.
- “Hey Sue, what’d you get up to last night? This science test is gonna suck.”
- “Thing is, as ye git aulder, this character-deficiency gig becomes mair sapping. Thir wis a time ah used tae say tae aw the teachers, bosses, dole punters, poll-tax guys, magistrates, when they telt me ah was deficient: ‘Hi, cool it, gadge, ah’m jist me, jist intae a different sort ay gig fae youse but, ken?'”
6 — Contrast
This one is among the most popular writing tricks, emphasizing the differences between two statements, people, places, or things. Contrast is a surefire way to grab readers’ attention and explain something by comparing it to other items and highlighting their differences.
Contrast attracts attention to your words, adds drama, and makes sales copies more enchanting and persuasive. It’s a powerful technique to use in business writing.
This literary device is also among the writing techniques for essays: Students write compare-and-contrast papers where they analyze the similarities and differences between two subjects of the same category: historical figures, literary works, research methods, etc.
7 — Hypophora
Hypophora is a writing trick when an author or a character asks a question and answers it immediately. Perfect to use in web writing and explaining some concepts to the audience; in fiction, hypophora helps when a character needs to reason something aloud.
8 — Imagery
“Show, don’t tell.” As a writer, you’ve heard this expression thousands of times, haven’t you? It’s the perfect one to explain the nature of the imagery in texts, no matter if you write a novel, a blog post, or a business newsletter.
Imagery is about using figurative language in writing to evoke a sensory experience in the reader. It’s about highly descriptive adjectives, sensory words, power verbs, and other language tricks playing with readers’ senses and helping them “see, hear, smell, and taste” your text.
In other words, imagery is about directing a mental movie in your reader’s mind.
Additional Read: Imagery Examples: How to Paint Vivid Pictures with Only a Few Words
9 — In Medias Res
“In medias res” means “in the middle of things” in Latin. It’s the practice of beginning a narrative with a conflict or crucial situation, skipping a prologue, an introduction, etc. You launch straight into a scene to hook readers, and then extend and explain everything through flashbacks, dialogues, and other writing techniques.
- “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” — The opening line of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
In marketing writing and journalism, such a tactic is known as an “inverted pyramid,” when you present the information in descending order of importance: The most fundamental info appears at the top of a story, and non-essential details come in the following paragraphs.
Speaking of writing techniques for essays, In Media Res reflects in thesis statements a student places in introductions: core thoughts they will develop throughout the paper.
10 — Isocolon
Isocolon is a writing trick of crafting two or more words (phrases) using a similar structure, rhythm, and length. Perfect to use for slogans and catchy hooks throughout the content:
Thanks to the balanced rhythm, writings with isocolon look and sound memorable.
- Eat Healthily. Think Better. — Britannia
- Food, folks, and fun. — McDonald’s
- But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. — Abraham Lincoln
- I came, I saw, I conquered. (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
11 — Juxtaposition
Juxtaposition reminds contrast as it places two or more dissimilar things (concepts, themes, characters) side by side to highlight their differences that way. Other related methods of writing are oxymorons and paradoxes (see below).
- “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.” — A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
12 — Oxymoron
While a juxtaposition is a figurative language contrasting two story elements, an oxymoron is about using two contradictory words to describe something.
Sweet sorrow; bittersweet; sad smile; old news; joyful sadness; negative income; and so on
13 — Paradox
A paradox is a writing trick of using seemingly illogical yet true premises to encourage the audience to think outside the box. It’s a statement with contradictory ideas.
The primary example is George Orwell’s 1984 with its slogans, “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” Contradictory, these statements have become the accepted truth in this novel’s context.
Other examples of paradox:
- “I must be cruel to be kind.” — Hamlet
- “Life is much too important to be taken seriously.” — Oscar Wilde
Using paradoxes in your writing, you can add conflict, challenge your readers and keep them in suspense, point out some inconsistencies, or add a touch of humor.
14 — Litotes
Litotes is a literary device to affirm something positive by making a double negative. Thus, writers express certain sentiments by saying that the opposite is not the case.
- “You won’t be sorry.” (read: You’ll be happy)
- “You’re not wrong.” (read: You’re right)
- “Not bad.” (read: Good)
- “He’s not as young as he used to be.” (read: He’s old)
15 — Metaphors
A metaphor is among the most popular and widely-used writing techniques, and it’s about poetically comparing one thing to another. A writer takes a characteristic of something unknown and compares it to something known for readers to understand the meaning.
- “The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid near and nearer the sill of the world.” — Lord of the Flies, William Golding
- “Her mouth was a fountain of delight.” —The Storm, Kate Chopin
As defined by Grammarly,
A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.
Other literary devices to write about comparisons are similes and analogies. More on them below.
16 — Similes
Unlike metaphors, similes compare two things directly, using the words “like” or “as.” This literary device is not about specifying that two things are the same but only that they are alike.
- “The ships were golden and huge as leviathans, their rails carved from ivory and horn. They were towed by grinning dolphins or else crewed by fifty black-haired nereids, faces silver as moonlight.” — Circe by Madeline Miller
- “Life is like a box of chocolates.” — Forrest Gump
17 — Analogies
An analogy serves a similar purpose to a simile and a metaphor: to show how two things are alike. However, the point here is not only to show but also to explain this comparison. So, analogies are a more complex writing technique than a metaphor.
- Finding that lost dog will be like finding a needle in a haystack.
- She’s as blind as a bat.
- “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” — Forrest Gump (Without the second sentence here, the saying is a simile; with it, it becomes an analogy.)
18 — Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia is about describing sounds. All those “buzz,” “snap,” “clap,” “moo,” “meow,” “tick-tock,” “ding-dong,” etc. are great examples of using this literary device in texts.
19 — Repetition
This writing method is exactly what it is: repetition of words or phrases to create a particular atmosphere or communicate a specific context to readers.
For example, in Stephen King’s The Shining, Jack Torrance types one phrase on his typewriter again and again: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” With such an obsessive repetition, the author demonstrates Jack’s unraveling mind.
Types of repetitions are many: epizeuxis, epistrophe, anaphora, anadiplosis, and polyptoton.
More on them below.
20 — Epizeuxis
Epizeuxis is a figurative language trick to repeat simple words or phrases to emphasize the message and get the attention of the readers. Often, there are no other words in between.
- “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” — Winston Churchill
- “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” — Isaiah 6:3
21 — Epistrophe
Epistrophe is a repetition of words or phrases at the end of sentences.
- “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.” — 1 Corinthians 13:11
- “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
22 — Anaphora
Anaphora is a repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of clauses or sentences. It’s among the methods of writing most often used in poetry and speeches to provoke an emotional response from the audience.
- Stay safe. Stay well. Stay happy.
- You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
- “Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!” — William Shakespeare, King John, II
- Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech where he repeated this expression at the beginning of each new paragraph.
23 — Anadiplosis
Anadiplosis is the repetition of words or phrases at the beginning AND end of a sentence. This writing trick creates a flow and makes paragraphs sound original and memorable.
- “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
- Yoda, Star Wars (Yes, again!)
- “The frog was a prince / The prince was a brick / The brick was an egg / The egg was a bird.” Genesis, Supper’s Ready
24 — Polyptoton
Polyptoton is a repetition of the root word in sentences and paragraphs. For example, a writer uses words like “strength” and “strong” instead of repeating the same word again and again.
- “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” — A. Bronson Alcott
- “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton
- “Not as a call to battle, though embattled we are.” — John F. Kennedy
25 — Personification
Personification is a writing technique of using human traits to describe non-human things but in figurative language only.
- “The land, released from its cycle of drudgery, seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief. And as the land relaxed, so did we.” — Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabelle Tree. (The land relaxes and breathes; it’s human traits.)
- “The light danced on the surface of the water.”
Additional Read: 21 Personification Examples (+ Definition & Related Terms)
26 — Symbolism
Symbolism is about representing abstract concepts and ideas through objects or non-humans. Thus, we all know that a dove represents peace while a raven might represent death. In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Doctor T.J. Eckleburg symbolizes God judging the Jazz Age.
Other examples of symbolism include an apple as a temptation, red roses as love, a rainbow as hope, etc.
Metonymy and motif are two other literary devices sharing the same meaning as symbolism but with slight differences. (See below)
27 — Metonymy
Metonymy is about a single object representing entire institutions. The word comes from the Greek metōnymía, meaning “a change of name.”
- “The Crown” = monarchy
- “Washington” = “the U.S. government”
- “Hollywood” = the world of cinematography
- “Silicon Valley” = tech and innovative
28 — Motif
A motif is about writing techniques in literature: It can be a symbol, an image, or a concept — anything helping to develop your narrative’s theme.
In other words, it’s a narrative element with symbolic significance.
For example, in the Harry Potter series, the motifs are a scar (destiny) and muggles vs. purebloods (racism and tolerance). In Lord of the Flies by W. Golding, motifs are fire (technology and civilization) and religion (moral truth).
In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, a train is a motif to symbolize transition, violence, and destruction.
29 — Tautology
A tautology is about repeating oneself, expressing the same idea with different words or phrases within a sentence or a paragraph. While it often means revising your writing and removing redundancy, sometimes tautology works as a poetic emphasis.
Examples of poor use of tautology: frozen ice, added bonus, me personally, come together to unite.
Examples of good use:
30 — The Rule of Three
The rule of three is a popular writing trick among content creators: It’s the idea that groups of three words, phrases, or ideas are more engaging, effective, and memorable.
The Three Musketeers, The Three Little Pigs, “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” the Three Wise Men, “Lights, Camera, Action,” the Three Blind Mice, and tons of other examples like these ones.
Given the human brain reacts to three best, everything you need to persuade readers and make them remember your writing is to put your message in a sequence of three.
Trios create a sense of poetry and rhythm, make content more compelling to read, and add stress to your statement.
- In title: 37 Tips for Writing Outreach Emails That Get Opened, Read, and Clicked
- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- “Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered.” — Barack Obama’s 2008 Inaugural Speech
- Sex, Drugs & Rock-n-Roll
- Ready, Set, Go
Additional Read: How to Use the 'Rule of Three' to Create Engaging Content
So, here they go, the top 30 writing techniques from literature to use in your texts for more engaging and persuasive content. They work for various content types: Whether you craft blog articles, marketing texts, poetry, short stories, or novels — these literary devices help your texts blossom.
And if you’re a student looking for writing techniques for essays and wondering which of the above are okay to use in academic works, feel free to ask our writers for assistance. We are here to answer all your questions and provide professional writing services whenever you need them.