Texts About Writing

Terms about Writing
The Major Categories
Poetry: writing usually characterized by the figurative use of language, the employment
of sound devices, and a greater degree of rhythm than prose achieved through the
manipulation of writing mechanics and line breaks in ways not ordinarily utilized in
prose. However, the distinction between poetry and prose is never as obvious as this
definition (or any other definition for that matter) might suggest.
Prose: writing that does not generally possess a rhythm which can be scanned by using
any of the usual metrical schemes. Prose could be considered to be all writing that is not
Rhetoric: the body of principles and theories having to do with the presentation of facts
and ideas in clear, convincing, and attractive language. However, the word can also refer
to oratorical emptiness.
Line: the fundamental difference between poetry and prose, the place where rhythm
Verse: both a unit of poetry (usually a line) and a name given to poetry in general
End-Stopped: refers to lines of poetry where endings coincide with natural speech
pauses – the opposite of run-on lines
Feminine Ending: refers to a line of poetry that ends with an unaccented syllable
Masculine Ending: refers to a line of poetry that ends with an accented syllable
Run-On (Enjambment) : refers to lines endings that do not correspond to natural speech
Groups of Lines
Stanza: a recurring group of lines combined according to a definite rhyme scheme or
other distinguishing pattern
Couplet: two consecutive rhyming lines – when written in iambic pentameter they are
called heroic couplets
Triplet/Tercet: three line stanza or group of lines
Quatrain: four line stanza or group of lines
Sestet: six line stanza or group of lines
Octave: eight line stanza or group of lines
Refrain: a line or group of lines repeated at various intervals throughout a poem found in
most songs and ballads
Measuring Lines of Poetry
Rhythm: more or less regular recurrence of accented and unaccented syllables
Meter: more systematic than rhythm, arrangement of accented and unaccented syllables
in regular repeated patterns
Accent: emphasis in loudness, pitch, or duration with which a syllable is spoken – stress
Scansion: The analysis of a poems metrical scheme
Syllabic Meter: meter based on the number of syllables in each line
Alliterative Meter: based on an equal number of stressed syllables on each side of a line
of poetry, divided by a caesura
Accentual Syllabic Meter: pattern of accented and unaccented syllables in a line
Foot: elementary unit of measure in Accentual Syllabic Meter determined by the
following combinations of accented and unaccented syllables
Iamb: a foot consisting of two syllables, the first unstressed, and the second stressed
Trochee: a foot consisting of two syllables, the first stressed and the second unstressed
Anapest: a foot consisting of three syllables, the first two unstressed and the last stressed
Dactyl: a foot consisting of three syllables, the first accented and the last two unaccented
Spondee: a foot consisting of two accented syllables Double Iamb: a foot consisting of
four syllables, two unaccented followed by two accented
Monometer: a line containing one foot
Dimeter: a line containing two feet
Trimeter: a line containing three feet
Tetrameter: a line containing four feet
Pentameter: a line containing five feet
Hexameter: a line containing six feet
Heptameter: a line containing seven feet
Types of Poems
Lyric: derived from the Greek word lyre, the musical instrument, and given to any poetry
which has the effect of communicating an emotion or mood, usually the personal feelings
of the speaker or even the poet shorter than dramatic or epic poems
Dramatic: a poem presenting characters and situations almost entirely through dialogue
with no, or few, direct statements from a narrator
Dramatic Monologue: A lyric poem which reveals a character through that characters
own words in a dramatic situation with another silent character. By hearing one side of
the discussion, the reader receives insights into the speaker’s personality.
Pastoral: usually dealing with simple characters (commonly shepherds and their loves,
not necessarily their sheep) in an idealized, unspoiled setting
Narrative: poetry concerned with telling a story, containing dramatic and lyric elements
Epic: long narrative poem centered on a representative hero taking part in a series of
significant adventures, usually written in elevated language about a great theme (love or
war, at least for the Greeks)
Elegy: a lament for the dead, derived from Greek word “elegeia” meaning “song of
Ode: long, lyric poem elevated in style and serious in theme -- often addressed to a
person, place, object, or abstract idea
In Greek poetry the ode was characterized by a particular form and meter; in
English, however, no particular ode form exits. Therefore, this type of poem, in the
English tradition, can only be defined in terms of tone and content.
Blank Verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter
Ballad: simple, narrative poem meant to be sung, built on Scottish and English forms
Prose Poem: blocked as a paragraph — does not employ the poetic line
Sonnet: 14 line lyric poem of iambic pentameter also defined by various rhyme schemes
Italian (Petrarchan): a,b,b,a,a,b,b,a, c,d,c,d,c,d or c,d,e,c,d,e with the division
between the octave and sestet generally marking an abrupt
change in thought or tone
Elizabethan (Shakespearean): a,b,a,b,c,d,c,d,e,f,e,f,g,g Any change in tone or
thought generally occurs in the couplet.
Rhyme: repetition of concluding sounds in words
End: two different words at the end of two different lines
Feminine: between words that end with unstressed syllables
Masculine: between words that end with stressed syllables
Internal: occurring in words within one line of poetry
Light: involving a masculine ending word and a feminine ending word
Slant: imperfect -ex. breed and dread
Elements of Fiction
Plot: sequence of events
Setting: time and place in which a work occurs
Narrative Point of View: term used to describe the way a reader is presented with
information in a work of fiction, and how much information is
A first-person narrator takes part in the action of apiece.
A third-person narrator does not take part in the action of a piece.
A narrator who is “all-knowing,” is called omniscient.
A narrator who is not “all-knowing,” is called limited.
Characterization: the creation and presentation of a character in a work of fiction, often
employing three different means: (1) direct presentation of information through direct
exposition, (2) presentation through actions, (3) presentation through internal means by
the character in question, a method determined to a large extent by point of view
Static Characters: change very little throughout a work
Dynamic Characters: change significantly during a work of fiction
Tone: writer’s attitude toward material revealed by choice of words, images, or rhythms
Theme: the central or dominating idea in a literary work, a thesis or general topic of
discussion in most non-fiction prose pieces, in poetry, fiction, or drama, the abstract
concept which is made concrete through its representation in the work
Elements of Drama
Dramatic Structure: according to the Greeks, the plot of a drama could be compared to
the tying and untying a knot, resulting in action which could be diagramed as a pyramid
with exposition, complication, conflict, climax, and denouement
Exposition: introduction to a drama which creates the tone, gives the setting, introduces
some characters, and supplies other facts necessary to the understanding of the play, such
as events in the story supposed to have taken place before the action which is actually
included in the play
Complication: rising action which begins because of some force within the play leading
to conflict and eventual climax
Conflict: struggle resulting from complications presented in the plot, usually involving
the protagonist
Four common types of conflict:
1.protagonist vs. nature
2. vs. society
3. vs. another character (antagonist)
4. vs. self
climax: (1) in rhetoric, used to indicate arrangement of words, phrases. and clauses in
sentences to form a rising order of importance in the ideas expressed
(2) in larger pieces, especially fiction, point of highest interest, and greatest
emotional response
(3) in drama, point at which the rising action ends and falling action (or
denouement) inevitably begins, sometimes called the “crisis”
Denouement: final, inevitable unraveling, or falling action, of plot in drama or fiction
serves as explanation or outcome, and sometimes includes exposure of villain, clearing
up of disguises or mistaken identities, or reuniting of family members
Protagonist: chief character in a play or story tagonist: the protagonist’s opponent when
plot involves a conflict between individuals
Elements of Rhetoric
Diction: use of words in oral or written discourse
Formal – level of usage common in serious or academic writing
Informal — level of usage found in relaxed but polite conversation
Colloquial — everyday usage of a group, but not universally acceptable
Slang — newly coined words not yet accepted as part of informal usage
Style: manner in which words are combined in order to express the individuality of the
author and the intent in the author’s mind, the adaptation of language to idea
Structure: name given to the planned framework of a piece of literature
Methods (Modes) of Development: strategies for structure and organization
(1) narration — telling a story to make a point
(2) description -- a verbal portrait
(3) process analysis — discussion of how something is done, or an end is achieved
(4) comparison — the systematic analysis of two or more things (if dissimilar, may be
termed a“contrast”)
(5) classification — organizing groups of information into groups or categories
(6) causal analysis — the consideration of cause and effect
(7) exposition — to explain the nature of an object, idea, or theme
(8) argumentation — writing which seeks to persuade
Tools and Devices Found in Most Forms of Writing
Allegory: device in which characters, things, or happenings have other meanings, usually
thematic in nature; more far-reaching in its influence than an image or symbol, even
affecting the structure of some works
Alliteration: repetition of consonant sounds (usually) at the beginning of words within a
line of poetry
Allusion: a reference to another work of literature or an historical event within another
literary work in order to enrich imagery or theme
Apostrophe: remark addressed to non-existent or absent person as though the person in
question were actually present
Assonance: repetition of vowel sounds within a line of poetry
Caesura: a pause in the middle of a line of poetry
cliche: trite or hackneyed expressions
Connotation: suggestions or implications of a word beyond its literal meaning
Consonance: repetition of consonant sounds within words in a line of poetry; also known
as alliterative effect
Denotation: literal meaning of a word
Figure of Speech: form of expression distinguished by unusual use of language
suggesting more than it states directly, not literal
Foreshadowing: represent or suggest beforehand
Hyperbole: conscious exaggeration used to produce a heightened or comic effect
Image: literal an concrete representation of a sensory experience or of an object that can
be known by one or more of the senses
Imagery: language which embodies an appeal to the senses
Irony: in its most fundamental sense, the unexpected or contrary occurrence, meaning, or
Dramatic -- occurs when a character’s actions result from information unknown
to the character but known to the audience
Situational — unexpected results
Verbal — when a statement’s intended meaning is opposite of the literal meaning
Metaphor: implied comparison between seemingly unrelated things, usually one tangible
and one intangible
Mixed Metaphor: confusing combination of metaphorical descriptions — ex. “An
avalanche of students flocked into the corridor.”
Onomatopoeia: use of words that suggest their literal meanings through their
Overstatement: asserts more than the situation seems to call for, often a type of irony or
Oxymoron: two contradictory terms in the same expression — ex. “pretty ugly”
Pathos: from the Greek root for suffering or deep emotion, stimulating pity, tenderness,
or sorrow in art
Personification: endowing animals, ideas, abstractions, and inanimate objects with
human characteristics
Pun: play on words which sound alike but have different meanings or applications — ex.
“He went and told the sexton, and the sexton tolled the bell.”
Satire: tone a writer takes blending critical attitudes with humor generally in an attempt
to highlight problematic social or cultural issues or circumstances
Symbol: object used to represent or suggest something beyond the literal
Synecdoche: type of metaphor in which a part of something stands for the whole
Synethesia: description of the five senses in terms of another
Syntax: way (especially order) in which words are put together forming phrases, clauses,
or sentences
Understatement: saying less than a situation seems to call for, a form of verbal Irony
Sources: Adventures in Poetry Edwin C. Custer
A Handbook to Literature Thrall. Hibbard, Holman
Handbook of Poetic Forms Ron Padgett
Patterns of Poetry Miller Williams
Writing Poems Robert Wallace
Writing with a Purpose Trimmer, McCrimmon