What are Literary Techniques

Many of you will be able to give an answer to the question ‘what are literary techniques’ without much problems by giving some names as metaphor, simile, etc. However, how many of you can tell the actual purpose of using literary techniques in a text or a poem? Some may say that by adding literary techniques to stories writers add artistic value to the story. Still, can you all define what literary techniques are? If not, this article is for you to understand what literary techniques are from the beginning. Here, we will first see what literary techniques are and then go on to discussing a few of those techniques.

Definition of Literary Techniques

Different methods are employed to make a piece of fiction more appealing to the reader, and all these methods are commonly known as literary devices. These devices are divided into two groups as literary techniques and literary elements. Literary elements are the basic elements such as plot, setting, and theme that are essential to a story. They are unavoidable characteristics of a story. On the other hand, literary techniques are the way language is used in order to add more beauty to the work. Literary techniques are also added to make the author’s message clear to the reader. Unlike literary elements, literary techniques are avoidable. That means, if the author chooses, he can avoid using literary techniques. Examples for literary techniques are metaphor, simile, personification, onomatopoeia, alliteration, etc.

Examples of literary techniques

Now, let us discuss some basic literary techniques.


This is one of the literary techniques that are the easiest to understand. In a simile, the author compares one object to another object using words such as ‘like’ and ‘as.’ Look at the following example.

Her face glowed like the moon.

Here, the glowing face of the female is compared to the moon by using the word ‘like.’ In doing so, the author has made us understand what he means when he says her face glowed. Glowing can happen in different degrees. The glowing of the sun is harsh. By using the word moon, the author is telling us that the face had a soft glow like that of the moon.

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Simile: ‘Her face glowed like the moon.’


Metaphor is a direct comparison between two objects. What is meant by direct comparison? Let us see. Metaphor is known as a direct comparison because metaphor does not use any words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’ when comparing two things. For example,

That vile snake, called my mother, did this.

Here, someone is referring to their mother as vile snake. Does that mean the mother of this person is a snake? Of course, that is not that case. It is a comparison made by the speaker. He or she compares his or her mother to a vile snake because of the mother’s evil nature. This is another way of making comparisons.


Onomatopoeia is one of the most interesting literary techniques that are relevant to sound. Onomatopoeia uses words that resemble the actual sound. For example,

The door banged open.

Here, the word bang is a word that is similar to the sound made when someone is opening a door fast and without a regard to anyone else.


Personification gives life or bestows human qualities to an idea, object or an animal. For example,

See my new bike. She is awesome!

Bike is an inanimate object. However, here the speaker uses the word she to talk about the bike. She is used to speak about human females. Therefore, by using that pronoun that is used for humans, the speaker has given life to the bike. So, the bike is personified in this example.

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Personification: ‘See my new bike. She is awesome!’


Literary techniques is one of the major categories under literary devices. Literary techniques are the ways in which the writers use different language formats to attract the readers. Literary techniques are also used to add more value to the text as well as to deliver the message he or she wants to deliver effectively. However, an important fact about literary techniques is that they are avoidable. That means, if the writer chooses, he can choose not to use literary techniques. Some of the literary techniques are simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia, and personification.



Images Courtesy:

  1. Moon via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Motorbike by Fungenix  (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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