Spelling Literary Terms Study Guide

Updated on Sep 28, 2011


In this lesson, you'll learn why literary terms are important and how they are used outside of the classroom.

IN YOUR ENGLISH classes, you have probably encountered many literary terms such as genre, metaphor, figurative language, and anthropomorphism. Perhaps you learned the terms and promptly forgot them when you moved on to the next lesson; this is common, but unfortunate. All the terms you learned in your English classes have meanings beyond the realm of literature and language. Using such terms well—and spelling them correctly—will enhance your writing, allowing you to convey more nuanced meaning with every sentence.

Are you wondering how you could possibly use literary terms in your everyday life? Consider how frequently you read the word irony in articles and essays and on websites and blogs. This literary term is commonly used in areas that have little to do with literature. In fact, a recent Google search on the word returned more than 18.7 million hits! Being familiar with a common term such as irony, with its roots as a literary device, will greatly improve your ability to use the word correctly, and to understand it fully when someone else uses it.

Let's take a look at another example. An article in The New York Times during the 2008 presidential election described then-Senator Obama as grounding his lofty rhetoric in the more prosaic language of white-working-class discontent. Clearly, the article was not discussing literary theory or the merits of a particular short story but was simply using the literary term rhetoric to address a timely issue.

The selective and proper use of literary terms can enhance your writing. This will benefit you greatly as you write essays for school, craft personal statements for college applications, and deal with correspondence when you enter the working world.

You can easily expand your knowledge of literary terms by reading study guides for popular literary fiction, journals dedicated to literary theory, or anthologies that include study guides or lessons. Many of your English textbooks and anthologies have glossaries that can be wonderful resources for learning literary terms. Book reviews in your local newspaper or your favorite magazines will also yield some new words. And, of course, the Internet is full of websites geared toward literature, language, and critical theory.

Internet Resources 

Here is a list of websites that you can visit to familiarize yourself with literary terms. As you work your way through these sites, you will undoubtedly find links to others. Visit those sites as well, read their articles, and look at any resources or glossaries they offer.

    Gale Glossary of Terms: glossary
    Glossary of Literary Terms: work/allam/general/glossary.htm
    Glossary of Rhetorical Terms: rhetoric.html
    Virtual Salt Glossary of Literary Terms: litterms.htm

Common Literary Terms 

The following table includes 23 commonly used literary terms, their meanings, and some sticky spelling situations that you should watch out for. Use this list as a starting point for developing your own list of high-impact literary terms.

Literary Terms

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Spelling Literary Terms Practice Exercises

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