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Rhetoric Devices and Delivery. Body Language- Nonverbal Communication  Posture  Movement  Gestures  Facial Expression  Eye Contact  What body language.

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Presentation on theme: "Rhetoric Devices and Delivery. Body Language- Nonverbal Communication  Posture  Movement  Gestures  Facial Expression  Eye Contact  What body language."— Presentation transcript:

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body language literary device

The Significance of Body Signals in Literary Works

Imaginative literature, the importance of the presence of body signals in imaginative literature, communicative functions and realistic functions, communicative situations, realistic functions, about flannery o"connor, bibliography.

This paper attempts to prove the importance of body signals in literary works .In order to accomplish that, the author shows how analyzing and decoding the nonverbal language in literary works helps the reader to have a better understanding of the characters and their relationship. This paper decodes a short story by analyzing the communicative and realistic functions of the body signals in it.

Burgoon and Saine (1990: 9) defined non-verbal communication(NVC) as a group of human attributes or actions in which words are not involved, but which have a social shared meaning. They are intentionally sent or interpreted as intentional, and consciously sent or consciously received. They can provide the receiver with feedback. Other authors such as Ekman and Friesen (1981) also consider that NVC is intentional and conscious (as cited by Padrón, 2000).

However, since NVC is part of the communicative process in general we communicate even if our behavior is unconscious or unintentional (Porter and Samovar (1985: 19)). Therefore, Burgoon and Saine"s definition eliminates the possibility of the existence of unconscious NVC, as it occurs when there is a contradiction between words and facial expressions. It only analyzes the external manifestation of the phenomenon, and eliminates involuntary non-verbal elements that provide information, like sweat, pupils" expansion, blinks, blush, etc. Then, Padrón"s definition of NVC is one of the most accurate in our opinion. Padrón states that NVC is "a group of face-to-face human automatic socially – significant actions that occur in a communicative act based on body movements not on words" (2000: 10).

The criteria on the components of NVC also varied, it encompassed all kinds of non-verbal elements ranging from body signals to architecture. We concentrated our attention on those elements that can be more regularly studied and focused on what Argyle (1990) called "body signals": facial expressions, gaze, gestures and bodily movements, postures, body contact and spatial behavior.

Argyle calls "signals" to those elements of the behavior, appearance, etc. of one organism that are received by the sense of the organs of a second organism and affect its behavior. These elements have goal-directed meaning, which does not mean that they are always conscious. They can be unconscious, but they are part of a goal-directed evolutionary process. He sets an example, "a person may indicate that he has come to the end of a sentence by looking up, and returning his hand to rest, or indicate that he wants to go on speaking by keeping a hand in midgesture. In none of these cases the involved are usually aware of the signals being used or of what they mean" (1990: 5-6). Argyle"s taxonomy for body signals comprises face expressions, gaze, gestures, body movements, posture, bodily contact and spatial behavior (proximity, orientation, height and movement of the physical setting).

However, does analyzing and decoding non-verbal language (NVL) in literary works helps the reader to have a better understanding of the characters and their relationship? This is the area under discussion in our research which holds the purpose of attesting that in order to have a complete understanding of the situation presented in a literary work; the reader should pay attention not only to verbal language, but also to nonverbal language.

Michael Meyer in the book The Bedford Introduction to Literature describes literature "…as a fiction consisting of carefully arranged words designed to stir the imagination. Stories, poems, and plays are fictional. They are made up -imagined- even when based upon actual historic events" (1993:3).According to this author such imaginative writing is different from other kinds of writing since its main purpose is to transmit facts or ideas. Imaginative literature should be considered as a source more of pleasure than a source of facts or information. Readers get involved with this kind of literature for the sake of enjoyment, delight and contentment. The same way other art manifestations do, imaginative literature usually tries to express a perspective, moods, feelings, or experiences and writers have the miraculous task of converting the facts the world provides -people, places, and objects- into these experiences that at the same time will suggest meanings.

In the same way -since imaginative literature constitutes a reflection of real life, and people use nonverbal language when they communicate- writers use nonverbal language to create a more realistic world. When it comes to understanding a piece of writing so intricate as a novel , we should remind ourselves of Fernando Poyatos"s words when he stated: "A cursory reading of a page in a novel where both the characters and the writer speak… shows that if we were to rely exclusively on what words those characters say… and on a few punctuation marks, plus some instances of extralinguistic communicative features, a good part (perhaps the most important one) of the total human message would be simply lost, even though not so in the mind of the novelist". (1981: 107).

According to Finocchiaro and Brumfit (1989), communicative functions are related to the purpose for which language is used. In the book The Functional-Notional Approach. From Theory to Practice , they refer to the communicative functions of verbal language and its categories. However, both of them can be also applied to non-verbal language since it is closely related to verbal language. It has already been stated that in most cases NVC co-exists with verbal communication.

In their book, Finocchiaro and Brumfit (1989:61-68) provide the different categories of communicative functions according to different authors. They show the eight categories under which Wilkins grouped communicative functions (Finocchiaro and Brumfit (1989:63), the six categories proposed by van Ek (Finocchiaro and Brumfit 1989: 64), and they also provide the five categories under which they preferred to group communicative functions (Finocchiaro and Brumfit 1989:65-66). But most of these categories overlap. For example, two of Wilkins" categories, "Emotional Relations" and "Interpersonal Relations" (1989:63) have many points in common with van Ek"s sixth category, "Socializing", and also with Finocchiaro"s second category("Interpersonal" category)(1989:65)

In order to simplify the work, since most of the categories proposed by those three authors overlapped and since the number of communicative functions is so great, the two broad categories suggested in the Professional Handbook "Teaching English in a World at Peace" were adopted for this research(Terroux,1991: 29).

It must be taken into account that the communicative functions of body signals are necessarily related to the context in which communication takes place, that is to say, to the communicative situation. Finocchiaro and Brumfit (1989: 66-68) also provide the categories of situation according to Richterich and van Ek. They should be kept in mind when analyzing the excerpts from which body signals will be taken because that helps the reader to visualize the context.


Richterich (1989: 67-68)

(Many of his examples are omitted or condensed)

A. Identification ( occupation, age, sex, name, place of residence, civil status)

B. Number in the situation (one, two, three to five, etc.)

a. Social: old/young, parent/child, asker/giver, friend/friend, stranger/stranger, etc.

b. Psychological: respect, obedience, admiration, antipathy, disdain, etc.

c. Language: one single speaker; one speaker + one addressee, etc.

Time of day

Duration of the speech act

Frequency-first time, occasionally, regularly

Events-prior (to the) meeting, present, subsequent

A. Geographical location (country, region, locality)

B. Place-outdoors (square, street, beach, building site), indoors: private life (flat, villa, room); public life (shop, hotel , school, station, theater, office ); work (office, workshop)

C. Means of transportation (car, bus , train, plane, subway, boat)

D. Surroundings (family, friends, acquaintances, learning, anonymous)

E. Environment (relevant to the language act)

Van Ek (1989: 68)

1. Social roles (strange/ stranger, friend/friend, private person/official, patient/doctor, etc.)

2. Psychological roles (neutrality, equality, sympathy, antipathy)

3. Settings

A. Geographical location (foreign country where the target language is the native language, foreign country where the target language is not the native language, one"s own country)

a. outdoors (park, street, seaside)

b. indoors: private life (house, apartment, room, kitchen); public life (purchases, eating and drinking), accommodation (hotel, camping site, etc.), transport ( gas station, lost and found), religion, physical services (hospital, pharmacy or chemist"s), learning site, displays (museum, art gallery), entertainment, communication, finances, work, means of transport

4. Surroundings (human) family, friends, acquaintances, strangers

It is obvious that they are very similar. However, Richterich' categories are more suitable to the present paper. Richterich includes "Time" as a category, while van Ek does not. "Time" is an element to take into account when studying gestures' communicative functions. For example, if a speech act has a long duration, a person can make a gesture expressing boredom or else.

Fernando Poyatos devoted a great part of his time to study nonverbal communication, and in his paper "Forms and Functions of Nonverbal Communication in the Novel: A New Perspective of the Author-Character-Reader Relationship " (1981) he stated clearly the importance of the nonverbal elements in imaginative literature and how it contributes to an effective relationship between the work, the writer and the audience. We considered appropriate to present Poyatos" criteria on the realistic functions of nonverbal communication in literature.

Physical realism , as differentiated from the psychological one, conveys the sensorial perception of people's behavior and, therefore, their intended authenticity.

As a variety within physical realism, it is interesting how the description of task-performing behaviors contribute to what have been classified as documentary or historical realism .

Distorting realism , that is the literary, or artistic, expressionistic rendering of psychological reality, meant to ridicule, to offer a caricature of reality, to gratuitously exaggerate it, or, truly to show what the eyes cannot see.

Individualizing realism , which shows a conscious effort to differentiate the characters, as to their physical and psychological characteristics, by means of their verbal repertoires and, in the best cases, by their nonverbal ones as well.

Psychological realism is, of course, the conscious ultimate aim … individualizing realism, and includes also the sensorial world (as the… perception of it may let us probe deeper into subtle inner reactions…)

Interactive realism is always a thoughtful depiction of the mechanism of conversation, mainly in face to-face encounters, and its study offers and interesting socio-psychological angle of narration, as we observe whether that mechanism reflects reality or seems rather improbable.

Documentary realism (or historical realism) through non-verbal behavior, finally, is a logical result of physical realism, mostly, and another rich source of research material.

When Flannery O'Connor died of lupus in 1964, before her fortieth birthday, her work was cruelly cut short. Nevertheless, she had completed two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), as well as thirty-one short stories. Despite her short life and relatively modest output, her work is regarded among the most distinguished American fiction of the mid-twentieth century. Her two collections of short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), were included in The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor (1971), which won the National Book Award.

O'Connor's fiction is related to living a spiritual life in a secular world. Although this major concern is worked into each of her stories, she takes a broad approach to spiritual issues by providing moral , social, and psychological contexts that offer a wealth of insights and passion that her readers have found both startling and absorbing. Her stories are challenging because her characters, who initially seem radically different from people we know, turn out to be, by the end of each story, somehow familiar- somehow connected to us.

Although her personal life was largely uneventful, O'Connor inhabited simultaneously two radically different worlds. The world she created in her stories is populated with bratty children, malcontents, incompetents, pious frauds, bewildered intellectuals, deformed cynics, rednecks, hucksters, racists, perverts and murderers who experience dramatically intense moments that surprise and shock readers.

A number of 23 excerpts where taken from the short story Revelation (year) by Flannery O"Connor. Each excerpt represents a given communicative situation in which the main or one of the secondary characters is involved. In the process of analyzing and decoding the non-verbal language of the characters, the communicative functions (Finocchiaro & Brumfit, 1989) they express and the realistic functions (Poyatos, 1981) they are related to were taken into consideration as well. The target excerpts were selected from a large sample of communicative situations that manifest different types of body signals according to Argyle"s categorization (1990).

The 23 excerpts were analysed and decoded in a chart were they were set according to the body signal each of them represented. For each communicative situation, the communicative function they embodied was shown (explaining which subcategory was being represented specifically) as well as the realistic function they belonged to.

In terms of what type of excerpts we took from the short story, we decided to vary among examples of gestures, gaze, body movements, facial expressions and body contact. As we explained before our classification for body signals is based on Argyle"s (1990). In the case of communicative functions and realistic functions taxonomies we followed Finocchiaro & Brumfit"s (1989) and Poyatos"s (1981) respectively.

The following constitutes a resume of the short story we worked with while decoding and analyzing the different body signals.

Revelation (1964)

Mrs. Turpin enters a crowded doctor"s waiting room accompanied by her husband Claud. She immediately starts labeling and analyzing the other patients based on their physical appearance and behavior, particularly a young girl named Mary Grace. She establishes a conversation with a well-dressed, pleasant lady, Mary Grace's mother, and her thoughts reveal that she thinks of herself as a superior, grateful, lucky, Christian woman. In her head she constantly thanks Jesus Christ for not making her neither a black nor a "white trashy" woman, but a middle class, white, decent, married woman. She is proud of her charity work and her "love" for white people. However, when all of a sudden Mary Grace hurls a book right to her face without apparent reason, Mrs. Turpin begins questioning her own attitude towards life and faith.)

From the 23 excerpts analyzed and decoded, among all the body signals facial expressions was the most frequent one with 11 cases and in one case it was combined with gestures . The body signal of gestures as such was the second one most found through the all the excerpts with three cases and it came together in three occasions with body movements. The third body signal most found was body contact with 4 cases. Finally, only three cases of gaze were found through all the excerpts.

As to the communicative functions it is marked the presence of the personal category with 19 cases; more specifically 14 belong to the subcategories of expressing emotions (despair, resignation, anger, emotional pain, discomfort, sympathy, dislike, embarrassment, among others) and the other 5 cases to the act of expressing social interaction (give moral support, call someone"s attention, way of farewell or greeting). The category of rational was relegated to a second level with 4 cases distributed among the subcategories of suasion (1 case: having someone do something), judgment and evaluation (2 cases: condemn, deplore) and argument (1 case: agreeing with a statement).

The fact that the expression of emotions was a relevant outcome of the analysis illustrates that nonverbal communication is a powerful instrument for a writer. By decoding the characters NVL, we are able to figure out the characters' personality traits and their roles when establishing a relationship. For example, once we analyze Mrs. Turpin's body signals, we

learn that she is a strong, determined, confident woman who is accustomed to taking the lead and being always right (i.e. 1. "[Mrs. Turpin] put a firm hand on Claud"s shoulder… and gave him a push down"). Based on that we can totally understand why she gets so upset when Mary Grace shows clear signs of disliking her. We can also realize that Mrs. Turpin thinks of herself as a superior person and that she is very fond of people like her (i.e. 2. "Her gaze settled agreeably on a well dressed…lady…").

We also notice that Claud Turpin likes to please and obey her wife (i.e. 5. "Claud only grinned…"). Likewise, Mary Grace's facial expressions and gazes constitute a prediction of what is going to happen. Her non-verbal behavior reveals that she despises Mrs. Turpin (i.e. 12. "Her lower lip turned downward and inside out… as if she has known and dislike her all life…" 14. "Her eyes fixed like two drills on Mrs. Turpin").

In the same way, we can enter the other characters" personal worlds if we, besides reading what the author write about their personalities and actions in an explicit way, interpret their non-verbal behavior.

-Argyle, Michael. Bodily Communication . London: Routledge, 1990

-Armstrong, David F., William C. Stokoe, and Sherman E. Wilcox (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

-Finocchiaro, M. and Brumfit, Ch. The functional-notional approach. From theory to practice. La Habana: Edición Revolucionaria, 1989.

-Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature . Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1993

-Nguyen, Duong. A system of exercises for Teaching American Non-Verbal Elements in the Beginning Stages at FLEX . (Diploma Paper) Havana: FLEX-UH, 2006

-Padrón, C. and Ayala, I. M. A First Approach to Nonverbal Communication in Literature . In the Sixth Annual Convention of GELI, 1981

-Padrón, Concepción. Comunicación No Verbal. Enseñanza de los gestos culturales en la clase de lenguas extranjeras. ( Tesis presentada en opción al grado científico de Doctor en Ciencias Pedagógicas) La Habana: FLEX-UH, 2000

-Poyatos, F. "Forms and functions of nonverbal communication in the novel: A new perspectives of the author-character-reader relationship". In T. A. Sebeok, J. U. Sebeok , J.U Sebeok y A. Kendon (Eds), Nonverbal Communication Interaction and gesture. Selections from Semiotics (pp 107-150). The Hague. Mounton,1981.

-Kendon. A. (Eds.), Nonverbal communication, interaction and gesture. Selections from semiotica ( pp.107-150). The Hague: Mouton, 1981

-Samovar, L. and Porter, R. Intercultural Communication: A Reader . Belmont: Wadsworth, 1985

-Terroux, W., Woods, H. Teaching English in a world at peace. Professional handbook.

Canada: McGill University, Faculty of Education, 1991

Arlen Herrera Rodríguez

Department of English Language

School of Foreign Languages. University of Havana

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body language literary device

Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language

What is body language and how do you use it when you write? Use these cheat sheets to help you with your body language descriptions.

What Is Body Language?

People react to situations with micro-expressions, hand gestures, and posture. Most of us are not even aware of them. However, what we do with our body language has a huge impact on other people and how they interpret and perceive us.

‘Even when they don’t express their thoughts verbally, most people constantly throw off clues to what they’re thinking and feeling. Non-verbal messages communicated through the sender’s body movements, facial expressions, vocal tone and volume, and other clues are collectively known as body language.’ ( Psychology Today )

Body language happens when we are doing something. We could be sitting, standing, or walking. We could be talking or thinking . Body language is often an involuntary reaction to something perceived by one of the five senses .

How To Use It In Writing

Using body language is one of the best ways to show and not tell when we write.

This is why we are always told to use body language in our writing. Sometimes, it’s easier said than written. So, I created these cheat sheets to help you show a character’s state of mind through their body language.

When you are completing your character biographies , be sure to include how your main characters move and talk. This is especially important for your protagonist , antagonist , confidant , and love interest . They are the characters that hold the story together and they should be as well-rounded and believable as possible.

The Top Five Tips For Using Body Language

TIP: Use our Character Creation Kit  to create great characters for your stories.

Use this list to help you with your body language descriptions. It will help you to translate emotions and thoughts into written body language.

Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, they may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy.

Use these combinations as needed.

Cheat Sheets For Body Language

Use our  Character Creation Kit  to create great characters for your stories.

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Body Language in the Communication Process

Examples and Observations

Shakespeare on body language, clusters of nonverbal cues, an illusion of insight, body language in literature.

Body language is a type of nonverbal communication that relies on body movements (such as gestures, posture, and facial expressions) to convey messages .

Body language may be used consciously or unconsciously. It may accompany a verbal message or serve as a substitute for speech .

"Speechless complainer, I will learn thy thought; In thy dumb action will I be as perfect As begging hermits in their holy prayers: Thou shalt not sigh, nor hold thy stumps to heaven, Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign, But I of these will wrest an alphabet And by still practice learn to know thy meaning." (William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus , Act III, Scene 2)

"[A] reason to pay close attention to body language is that it is often more believable than verbal communication. For example, you ask your mother, 'What's wrong?' She shrugs her shoulders, frowns, turns away from you, and mutters, 'Oh . . . nothing, I guess. I'm just fine.' You don't believe her words. You believe her dejected body language, and you press on to find out what's bothering her. "The key to nonverbal communication is congruence. Nonverbal cues usually occur in congruent clusters--groups of gestures and movements that have roughly the same meaning and agree with the meaning of the words that accompany them. In the example above, your mother's shrug, frown, and turning away are congruent among themselves. They could all mean 'I'm depressed' or 'I'm worried.' However, the nonverbal cues are not congruent with her words. As an astute listener, you recognize this incongruency as a signal to ask again and dig deeper." (Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning, Messages: The Communication Skills Book , 3rd ed. New Harbinger, 2009)

"Most people think liars give themselves away by averting their eyes or making nervous gestures, and many law-enforcement officers have been trained to look for specific tics, like gazing upward in a certain manner. But in scientific experiments, people do a lousy job of spotting liars. Law-enforcement officers and other presumed experts are not consistently better at it than ordinary people even though they’re more confident in their abilities. "'There’s an illusion of insight that comes from looking at a person’s body,' says Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago. 'Body language speaks to us, but only in whispers.' . . . "'The common-sense notion that liars betray themselves through body language appears to be little more than a cultural fiction,' says Maria Hartwig, a psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Researchers have found that the best clues to deceit are verbal--liars tend to be less forthcoming and tell less compelling stories--but even these differences are usually too subtle to be discerned reliably." (John Tierney, "At Airports, a Misplaced Faith in Body Language." The New York Times , March 23, 2014)

"For the purpose of literary analysis, the terms 'non-verbal communication' and 'body language' refer to the forms of non-verbal behaviour exhibited by characters within the fictional situation. This behaviour can be either conscious or unconscious on the part of the fictional character; the character can use it with an intention to convey a message, or it can be unintentional; it can take place within or outside of an interaction; it can be accompanied by speech or independent of speech. From the perspective of a fictional receiver, it can be decoded correctly, incorrectly, or not at all." (Barbara Korte, Body Language in Literature . University of Toronto Press, 1997)

Robert Louis Stevenson on "Groans and Tears, Looks and Gestures"

"For life, though largely, is not entirely carried on by literature. We are subject to physical passions and contortions; the voice breaks and changes, and speaks by unconscious and winning inflections, we have legible countenances, like an open book; things that cannot be said look eloquently through the eyes; and the soul, not locked into the body as a dungeon, dwells ever on the threshold with appealing signals. Groans and tears, looks and gestures, a flush or a paleness, are often the most clear reporters of the heart, and speak more directly to the hearts of others. The message flies by these interpreters in the least space of time, and the misunderstanding is averted in the moment of its birth. To explain in words takes time and a just and patient hearing; and in the critical epochs of a close relation, patience and justice are not qualities on which we can rely. But the look or the gesture explains things in a breath; they tell their message without ambiguity ; unlike speech, they cannot stumble, by the way, on a reproach or an illusion that should steel your friend against the truth; and then they have a higher authority, for they are the direct expression of the heart, not yet transmitted through the unfaithful and sophisticating brain." (Robert Louis Stevenson, "Truth of Intercourse," 1879)

body language literary device

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Basic Types of Literary Devices

types of literary devices

Saying “The bag is brown.” is boring. However, adding literary elements like, “The oversized bag was a rich chocolate brown with gold trim .” provides a lot more flavor to your writing. Explore more than 40 types of literary devices used in writing to add unique details.

What Are Literary Devices?

Literary devices are techniques a writer uses to convey meaning to readers. An author's skillful use of literary devices allows readers to glean meaning beyond just what is denoted by the words on each page. Writers could convey meaning just by relying on minimal literary elements like plot, theme and setting, but that would not lead to the most interesting stories or poems.

That's where literary devices come in. They are like the dressing, cheese and croutons that make a salad so delectable. They add flavor to writing like poetry and drama, which helps readers connect with the work on a deeper, more intimate level.

20 Key Types of Literary Devices in Writing

A single book or other literary work will include multiple literary devices, as it generally takes several literary techniques to effectively communicate the overall meaning of a piece of literature. Layering in literary devices leads to a richer experience for readers and writers alike.

In literature, an archetype represents universal truths about human nature or patterns that regularly occur. There are many examples of archetypes , including things like battles of good vs. evil, or never-before, first of their kind achievements. An archetype could be a character, setting, situation, or symbol.

Do you like hidden meanings in stories? If so, then an allegory is your type of literary device because it uses symbols to reveal a hidden meaning that conveys the overall moral of the story. Many literary works contain allegories .


A type of repetition, alliteration is when a letter is used repeatedly to add emphasis and interest to a literary work. Sentences or phrases that have several words that begin with the same letter are examples of alliteration .

An allusion is a passing reference in literature. It simply involves making a passing reference to a person or another event in a story or other work. It’s a fun type of literary device that keeps writing from getting bland or boring.

You have flashbacks in life. For example, the smell of baking cookies takes you back to a time you spent with your grandmother. Flashbacks in literature are the same. These are story elements giving you insight into a previous moment or experience.


Authors are sneaky. Sometimes, they give you just a hint that something exciting or foreboding is going to happen. This foreshadowing of the events to come has us tapping our feet in anticipation. Almost every scary story or crime novel includes examples of foreshadowing .

Hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used by writers to add emphasis to a phrase. While it is a fun literary device in literature, it’s used in real life too. Discover examples of hyperbole and how to use it .

Irony is about how your perception is different from how something really is. Irony has disappointed many readers when they thought something would happen, but it didn’t. There are several types of irony . It comes in different forms like dramatic, verbal or situational irony .

Imagery is the reason people enjoy reading fiction. Within the pages of the book, you get transported to a new land or dystopian society. The sensory words the author uses to create that image in your mind are examples of imagery .


Juxtaposition adds a unique twist to literature because it places two opposites next to each other. Examples of juxtaposition could be positive and negative, like light or dark or yin and yang

A metaphor is a figure of speech that creates a direct comparison. For example, saying, "the toddler was a devil" is an example of a metaphor . The toddler is not literally a devil; the metaphor is used to say that the child was behaving badly in a figurative way.

Every literary work incorporates examples of mood to some degree. Mood sets the overall tone for a literary work. The words the writer uses to create the mood can make the book happy or the song melancholy.

Motifs are central elements writers repeat throughout a story. They are woven throughout a story and usually relate to one or more of a literary work's major themes. Motifs come in the form of symbols, objects, sounds, or even settings.


While this one might look unfamiliar, you know what it is. Everyone is familiar with at least a few examples of onomatopoeia . It occurs when the name of a word describes a sound, with the word itself sounding similar to the actual sound.


Most people are familiar with various character and personality traits that people have. Writers capitalize on readers' prior knowledge by using examples of personification in their work. Personification involves giving the traits of a person to an inanimate object. It can be a fun literary device to use.

Point of View

Writing can be told from different points of view or perspectives. Writers use three different points of view: first, second and third person. The point of view used in a story greatly impacts how the story is conveyed.

As a literary device, repetition is simply repeated words, letters, phrases, or sounds. Used correctly, examples of repetition in writing and poetry can push the message or point of the writing.

Symbolism is a fun literary technique. Writers use this to add meaning to an object or person within a story. Depending on the writer's creativity, the level of symbolism can be basic or unique.

Looking to spark a little reader interest? Similes work great for this because they make an interesting comparison between two things using the word like or as.

literary device example of simile

Has anyone ever reprimanded you for your tone? Tone tells us a lot about what a character is thinking or the feeling the poem is trying to portray. There are many examples of tone , including a happy, energetic or even melancholy tone.

22 Additional Kinds of Literary Devices

Literary devices are everywhere. The examples above are used quite a bit, but they are certainly not the only ones. Discover less common, but still fairly basic, literary devices found in writing.

Literary Devices vs. Rhetorical Devices vs. Figurative Language

Are there differences between literary devices, rhetorical devices and figurative language? Now that is the question. Why? Because the answer can get murky since these terms overlap. The easiest way to understand the difference between literary devices, rhetorical devices and figurative language is to break each one down.

While these terms are different, the concepts of each intertwine and connect in writing.

Knowing Your Literary Devices

Literary devices might not seem important, but could you imagine writing without them. How boring would that be? Now that you’ve mastered literary devices, explore examples of parallelism .

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30+ Rhetorical Devices Everyone MUST Know

Rhetorical devices (also known as stylistic devices, persuasive devices, or simply rhetoric) are techniques or language used to convey a point or convince an audience. And they're used by everyone: politicians, businesspeople, even your favorite novelists .

Rhetoric definition: Techniques of language used to convey a point or convince an audience

You may already know some of these devices, such as similes and metaphors. Others, maybe not ( bdelygmia , we’re looking at you). But whether or not you realized it, you’ve probably run into all of these devices before, and maybe even used them yourself!

If you haven’t, don’t let their elaborate Greek names fool you — rhetorical devices are actually pretty easy to implement. We recommend downloading the free checklist below to follow along with this post.

body language literary device


Rhetorical Device Cheatsheet

Improve your powers of persuasion by mastering these 35 devices.

But before we dive into the different types of devices and how to use them, let’s identify the four ways that rhetorical devices work.

Types of rhetorical devices

Although there exists plenty of overlap between rhetorical and literary devices , there’s also one significant difference between the two. While literary devices express ideas artistically, rhetoric appeals to one’s sensibilities in four specific ways:

These categories haven’t changed since the Ancient Greeks first identified them thousands of years ago. This makes sense, because how we make decisions haven’t changed, either: we still decide with our brain, our heart, our morals, or based on the feeling that we’re running out of time.

Without further ado, here is our list of 30 rhetorical devices (plus a few bonus terms) to convince listeners to agree with you — or readers to continue reading your book. Get ready to master the art of rhetoric for yourself!

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List of rhetorical devices

Accismus is the rhetorical refusal of something one actually wants, to try and convince themselves or others of a different opinion. Like in one of Aesop’s Fables:

Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.


A dnomination is the use of words with the same root in the same sentence. Like many other rhetorical devices, this is a linguistic trick to make statements sound more persuasive. It's sure to somehow work on someone, somewhere, someday.

Adynata are purposefully hyperbolic metaphors to suggest that something is impossible — like the classic adage, when pigs fly. And hyperbole, of course, is a rhetorical device in and of itself: an excessively exaggerated statement for effect.


Alliteration is the repetition of consonants across s uccessive, s tressed s yllables… get it? This most often means repeating consonants at the beginning of multiple words, as opposed to consonance , which is the repetition of consonants anywhere in consecutive words. (Learn more about the difference between alliteration and consonance — and other types of repetition — in this guide !)

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven makes use of both alliteration and consonance: “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.” “Silken” and “sad” are alliterative, but the consonance continues into “uncertain” and “rustling.” And as a bonus, it contains assonance — the repetition of vowel sounds — across “p u rple c u rtain.”


An anacoluthon is a misdirection that challenges listeners and/or readers to think deeply and question their assumptions. For example, the opening sentence of Kafka’s Metamorphosis is a famous anacoluthon because it ends somewhere entirely different than where it started:

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

Note that anacoluthons are different from non-sequiturs , which are unintentional and incoherent — well, but can anything really be different from anything else?


Anadiplosis is the repetition of the word from the end of one sentence to the beginning of the next. It has been used by everyone from Shakespeare to Yeats to Yoda:

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

body language literary device

On the other hand, anaphora is the repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of subsequent sentences. Like in Ginsberg’s Howl — no, not that famous opening line, but instead those that follow it:

“ Who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated, who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war…”

Another, similar rhetorical device is epistrophe: the repetition of words at the end of sentences. And, if you combine the two, you’ve got a symploce .

A ntanagoge involves responding to an allegation with a counter-allegation. Antanagoge doesn't necessarily solve the initial problem, but it does provide an appealing alternative. The quintessential example is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” 🍋

Someone might also use antanagoge to justify something to themselves: “Well, it's raining today, but that's fine — I wanted to stay inside anyway.”

Anthimeria is the intentional misuse of one word’s part of speech, such as using a noun for a verb. It’s been around for centuries, but is frequently used in the modern day, as “Facebooking” and “adulting” have seamlessly become part of the lexicon.


Antiphrasis is a sentence or phrase that means the opposite of what it appears to say. Like how the idiom, “Tell me about it” generally means, “Don’t tell me about it — I already know.” It’s a subset of a much more common rhetorical device: irony .


Antonomasia is, essentially, a rhetorical name. Like “Old Blue Eyes,” “The Boss,” or “The Fab Four” — affectionate epithets that take the place of proper names like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, or the Beatles.

You may have noticed by now that a lot of rhetorical devices stem from irony. Apophasis — also known as paralipsis, occupatio, praeteritio, preterition, or parasiopesis — is one of these: bringing up a subject by denying that it should be brought up. This is a classic if oft-maligned political tactic, and one frequently utilized by the 45th President of the United States, particularly in his colorful tweets. For example:

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?'”

Aporia is the rhetorical expression of doubt — almost always insincerely. This is a common tool that businesses use to connect with a consumer base, typically in ads or presentations. For instance, take Steve Jobs’ introduction of touchscreen technology:

“Now, how are we gonna communicate this? We don’t wanna carry around a mouse, right? What are we gonna do?”

Lyx_va6f10s Video Thumb


Aposiopesis is essentially the rhetorical version of trailing off at the end of your sentence, leaving your listener (or reader) hanging. Like the ending of Mercutio’s famous “Queen Mab” speech in Romeo & Juliet :

“This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs, That presses them and learns them first to bear, Making them women of good carriage: This is she... ”

Asterismos is simply a phrase beginning with an exclamation. Like every other sentence in Moby-Dick : “Book! You lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places.” But if no sentence follows, it’s exclamatio: an emphatic expression like “My word!” that warrants no follow-up.

Asyndeton  is the removal of conjunctions like “or,” “and,” or “but” from your writing because the sentence flows better, or more poetically, without them. This is a favorite technique of Cormac McCarthy, as seen in this passage from Outer Dark : “A parson was laboring over the crest of the hill and coming toward them with one hand raised in blessing, greeting, fending flies.”

And like most of the enigmatic author’s preferred rhetoric, this asyndeton is almost intentionally confusing; whether the parson is blessing or greeting or swatting flies is never clarified. At other times, McCarthy uses polysyndeton, which is essentially asyndeton's opposite — the addition of extra conjunctions (“and then we walked and then we stopped and then we sat on the ground”).

Befitting its ugly spelling, bdelygmia (or abominatio) is a rhetorical insult — the uglier and more elaborate, the better. Like most rhetorical devices, Shakespeare was a big fan. So was Dr. Seuss:

"You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch, You're a nasty wasty skunk, Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch. The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote, ‘Stink, stank, stunk!’"

body language literary device

Cacophony is simply the use of words that sound bad together. That may sound pretty random, until you remember that Lewis Carroll invented words for his poem “Jabberwocky” just to make it sound harsh and unmelodious:

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”

And it goes hand in hand with euphony — the use of words that sound good together, like this passage from an Emily Dickinson poem :

“Oars divide the Ocean, / Too silver for a seam.”

“Despised, if ugly; if she's fair, betrayed.” This excerpt from Mary Leapor’s Essay on Woman is great example of chiasmus : the repetition and/or reversal of words or grammatical structure across two phrases. More specific is  antimetabole : the switching of words or phrases in order to suggest truth. (Ask not what rhetorical devices can do for you. Ask what you can do for rhetorical devices.)

Narrative arcs aren’t just for novels. Sentences can have a climax , too — the initial words and clauses build to a peak, saving the most important point for last. We’ve been using climaxes rhetorically since at least Corinthians: “There are three things that will endure: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Dysphemism is a description that is explicitly offensive to its subject and/or its audience. It stands in contrast to a euphemism , which strives to avoid outright offense, but nonetheless has unfortunate connotations. Most racial epithets started as the latter, but are recognized today as the former.

If you’ve ever understated something before, that’s meiosis — like the assertion that Britain is simply “across the pond” from the Americas. The opposite — rhetorical exaggeration — is called auxesis .


Wham! Pow! Crunch! These are all examples of onomatopoeia , a word for a sound that phonetically resembles the sound itself. Which means the finale of the 1966 Batman is the most onomatopoeic film scene of all time.

body language literary device


Personification describes things and concepts using human characteristics. It's easier for humans to understand a concept when it’s directly related to them, which is why this is such an effective rhetorical device!

Personification appears in almost all forms of literature — even simple sentences like "the alarm screamed" or "the wind howled" would qualify as personification. Anthropomorphism , which actually  turns  non-humans into human-like forms, is less common, but frequently seen in children's stories and cartoons like  Peter Rabbit and Winnie-the-Pooh.

Pleonasms are redundant phrases that emphasize the nature of the subject. Certain words are so overused that they’ve lost meaning — darkness, nice, etc. However, “black darkness” or “pleasantly nice” reinvigorate that meaning, even if the phrases are technically redundant.

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Rhetorical comparisons

Some of the most prevalent rhetorical devices are figures of speech that compare one thing to another. Two of these, you surely know: the simile and the metaphor.  But there is a third, hypocatastasis , that is just as common… and useful.

The distinctions between the three are pretty simple. A simile compares two things using like or as : “You are like a monster.” A metaphor compares them by asserting that they’re the same: “You're a monster.” And with hypocatastasis, the comparison itself is implied: “Monster!”

If you can't get enough rhetorical comparisons, check out these 90+ examples of metaphors in literature and pop culture!

Rhetorical question

You’ve probably heard of a rhetorical question, too: a question asked to make a point rather than to be answered. Technically, this figure of speech is called interrogatio, but plenty of other rhetorical devices take the form of questions.

If you pose a rhetorical question just to answer it yourself, that’s hypophora (“Am I hungry? Yes, I think I am”). And if your rhetorical question infers or asks for a large audience’s opinion (“ Friends, Romans, countrymen [...] Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?”) that’s anacoenosis — though it generally doesn’t warrant an answer, either.

Synecdoche is a rhetorical device wherein a part of one thing represents its whole. This differs slightly from metonymy, in which a single thing represents a larger institution. So if you referred to an old king as “greybeard,” that would be synecdoche. If you referred to him as “the crown,” it would be metonymy.

Have you ever, in a fit of outrage, referred to something un- effing -believable? If you have, congratulations on discovering tmesis: the separation of one word into two parts, with a third word placed in between for emphasis.

body language literary device

Zeugma , also called syllepsis, places two nouns with different meanings in a similar position in a sentence. This is a grammatical trick that can be used rhetorically as well. Mark Twain was a master at this: “They covered themselves with dust and glory.”

Another example might be: “He caught the train and a bad cold.” Though you'd “catch” these things in very different ways, the phrase still works because the same verb applies to both. Authors often use zeugma in clever wordplay, and sometimes it even enters everyday conversation. (My grandmother, for example, uses zeugma to describe staticky clothing: “This shirt attracts everything but a man.”)

Congrats on getting to the end of our rhetorical devices list! Of course, this might feel a bit like a list of fancy names for things you already do. If so, that’s great — you’re already well on your way to mastering the art of rhetoric. And now that you know the specifics, you can take the next step: implementing these techniques in your writing and swaying readers onto your side.

Leave any thoughts or questions about rhetorical devices in the comments below!

7 responses

nadaid says:

06/11/2019 – 01:45

↪️ Vic replied:

05/12/2019 – 03:37

An oxymoron creates a two-word paradox-such as "near miss" or "seriously funny." An oxymoron is sometimes called a contradiction in terms and is most often used for dramatic effect.

↪️ AtreidesOne replied:

18/08/2020 – 04:38

With "near miss", it's all about different senses of the word and the contexts they're used in.Yes, near can mean "almost", as in "a near perfect fit". So in that sense, a "near failure", or a "near disaster" means that the failure or disaster almost happened. They were "close", but only in a figurative sense. However, near can also mean "at or to a short distance away; nearby", as in "a bomb exploded near the house". This is a physical distance sense. When we're talking about a "miss", we're using the physical distance sense. So "near miss" doesn't mean "it nearly missed" or "it nearly was a miss", but instead "it missed by a small distance".So there is no oxymoron.

↪️ bruh replied:

08/12/2019 – 21:42

Denise Hidalgo says:

26/12/2019 – 14:19

Why aren't analepsis and prolepsis on this otherwise comprehensive list?!?

↪️ OK BOOMER replied:

27/01/2020 – 10:56

analepsis is for literary devices. prolepsis should have been here tho

↪️ Name replied:

12/02/2020 – 20:05

Because they're not JOHN

Comments are currently closed.

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What is the name of the term for character facial expressions showing meaning in a play?

Last year I learnt the term for a character's facial expressions showing the audience what they feel, as well as their tone of voice in the stage directions when reading a play. I am currently writing a dissertation and cannot for the life of me remember what the terms were, and cannot find anything online; all i remember is that at least one of them started with a 'p'. Could anyone please help me and tell me what these terms are? Thank you all :)

S.Wood's user avatar

4 Answers 4

Here are a few suggestions

countenance - the face as an indication of mood, emotion, or character

physiognomy - the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their configuration or expression

The verb is physiognomize.

vickyace's user avatar

If you want an outdated term you may try ' look '.

[WITH OBJECT] dated Express (something) by one’s gaze: 'Poirot looked a question'


Community's user avatar

pl. per·so·nas or per·so·nae (-nē) The character represented by the voice of the speaker in a literary work. personae The characters in a dramatic or literary work. AHDEL : the personality that a person (as an actor or politician) projects in public : image (emphasis is mine.) M-W

Elian's user avatar

Body language includes a character's facial expressions showing the audience what they feel .

From Wikipedia :

Body language is a kind of nonverbal communication, where thoughts, intentions, or feelings are expressed by physical behaviors, such as facial expressions , body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch and the use of space.

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