Poetry · Writing

Crib Sheet of Poetic Devices


I know a few people have taken to writing in these weird times, to keep themselves creative whilst safe at home. I thought it might be helpful to do a mini crib sheet of a few literary devices than can be fun to play with in poetry (and just writing in general).

Also, some are words you hear quite often but can never remember which definition goes with which name.

Synecdoche (Greek for ‘taking together’) – Using a part of something to signify a whole. Example: ‘a hundred sails‘ could signify a flotilla of ships.

Metonymy (Greek for a change of name) – Using one common term in place of another. Example: using ‘The Crown‘ instead of ‘the Monarch’.

Simile – a comparison between two distinctly different things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. Example: ‘My love is like a red, red rose‘. (Robert Burns)

Metaphor – application of a distinctly different type of thing without asserting a comparison. Example: ‘My love is a red, red rose.’

Mixed Metaphor – a combination of two diverse metaphoric vehicles. Sometimes resulting in a phrase that is utterly nonsensical when read literally. Example: Keep an eye on your metaphors and an ear to the ground so that you don’t end up with your foot in your mouth.

Dead Metaphor – a metaphor that has been so overused over time that we are no longer consciously aware that is is actually a metaphor. Example: Time is running out (Originally used to refer to the sand in an hourglass running out into the bottom bulb)

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