Literary devices and effects


Literary techniques, devices and structures and their effects:


Meter is the pattern of stressed and unstressed beats in a line of poetry. Basically, this is what we call rhythm. It is often very hard to identify rhythm, especially because poets don’t always follow a set rhythm in every line. Even if you do identify a regular rhythm pattern it can be harder still to come up with a plausible effect that the poet might have been trying to create by using that pattern.

  • obvious repetitive rhythms which might suggest organisation, control and regularity
  • obvious changes in rhythm which might suggest a change in mood or a disruption
  • if the words that are stressed have anything in common / are more important than other words

English poetry employs five basic rhythms of varying stressed (/) and unstressed (x) syllables.

The meters with two-syllable feet are

  • IAMBIC (x /) : That time of year thou mayst in me behold
  • TROCHAIC (/ x): Tell me not in mournful numbers
  • SPONDAIC (/ /): Break, break, break/ On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!

Meters with three-syllable feet are

  • ANAPESTIC (x x /): And the sound of a voice that is still
  • DACTYLIC (/ x x): This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlock (a trochee replaces the final dactyl)


Despite being the hardest word to spell in the English language, onomatopoeia is, very simply, when the meaning of a word is echoed by or similar to its sound. Basically, it is when words ‘sound like what they mean’. For example:


  • fizz                          the ‘zz’ sounds a bit the noise something makes when it is fizzing
  • buzz                        is similar
  • crash                      the violent ‘c’ sound makes this sound a bit like a crash
  • bang                       the harsh ‘b’ sound here has a similar effect
  • whisper  the sibilant ‘s’ makes you almost whisper this word out

Onomatopoeia can often be quite fun or used to create violent, loud, crashing, disruptive effects.




Sound Effects

Here is a list of some typical sounds that you might be able to identify in the texts you are studying:


Technical Name


m / n / ung


calming and soothing

k / t / p / b / g / d

harsh consonants

violence, anger, etc

f / th


calm or sinister

s / sh / z


calm or sinister

e / o / i

high / short vowels


ay / or / ar

low / long vowels



Word level analysis:


The denotation of a word is its basic meaning. For example the denotation of the word ‘black’ is simply the color of the text on this screen. ‘Black’ means this color. The denotations of words are useful for communicating ideas, descriptions and points of view clearly.


The words we use, however, do not stop there. They are rich with the shadows and echoes of other meanings that they have


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