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Analyzing Style

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Analyzing Style



        The style of a piece is a function of the writer’s craft or the techniques used by the writer to communicate his ideas.  To discuss the style of work of literature, consider the diction (vocabulary choices), the syntax (sentence construction) and the tone (author’s attitude toward the subject and the reader).

  1. DICTION:  When analyzing diction, consider the following:

  • figurative language (use of simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, allusion, irony, metonymy, symbolism)
  • abstract or concrete words
  • denotative or connotative words
  • monosyllabic or polysyllabic words
  • archaic diction
  • formal or colloquial English
  • slang, clichés, idioms, foreign phrases
  • sound effects:  onomatopoeia, alliteration, euphony, cacophy
  • jargon, technical language
  1. SYNTAX:  Sentence structure and Rhetorical Devices
  • long or short sentences
  • loose or periodic sentences
  • balanced sentences
  • parallel sentences
  • rhetorical questions
  • syntactic inversion
  • epigram
  • paradox
  • climactic sentences
  • Methods of achieving emphasis:
  1. Repetition
  2. Climactic order
  3. Periodic sentences
  4. Short sentences
  5. Active rather than passive verbs
  6. Parallel structures and balanced sentences
  7. Antithesis
  8. Chiasmus
  1. TONE – analysis of the author’s attitude toward the subject and the reader

  • sincere, genuine, honest
  • satirical, ironic, sarcastic, sardonic
  • whimsical, light, humourous, wry, mock-serious
  • nostalgic
  • didactic
  • objective, reporting, detached, scientific
  • morose, sad, pensive, melancholy
  • sentimental, gentle, tender, maudlin
  • impassioned, angry, indignant, vehement
  • colloquial, folksy, hearty, conversational, friendly, chummy, chatty, intimate
  • serious, formal, dignified, lofty
  • polite, courteous, deferential, reverent
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Euphony – certain words are combines to give a pleasing effect.  Eg. And moveless fish in the water gleam, cool blue umbrellas

Cacophony – harsh sounding words. Eg. Stark black crabs scrape barnacles.

Archaic – words no longer used, or words used with a meaning that is no longer accepted.  Eg.  Thou dost,  methought

Colloquial – conversational, informal, comfortable, everyday ways of saying something

Eg.  Formal:  I have a great appetite.      Colloquial:  I’m hungry.  

Formal -  I am very pleased to make your acquaintance.  Colloquial:  Glad to meet you.

Abstract – words which have no tangible referent; that is, which refer to things which cannot be perceived by the senses.  Eg. Hope, love, democracy, adolescence, education, success, sensitivity, freedom.

Slang – faddish expressions which are considered non-standard English.  Idioms are a form of slang, specific to a region, province, town, etc.  Eg.  Uptight, hang-up, groupie, mod, right-on, gotcha, “that’s lame”.

Cliché – a trite, hackneyed, overworked expression such as “all’s well that end well”, “last but not least”, “pitter patter of little feet”.

Jargon – overly wordy, “in-group” way of saying something.

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Oxymoron – a device in which the idea is expressed in words or phrases usually considered contradictory.  Eg.  “an open secret”

Irony – always involved some sort of discrepancy or incongruity between the expected and what happens, between what is said and what is meant, between the supposed and the actual, etc

Balanced Sentence – symmetry in sentence structure with the clauses on either side of a coordinate conjunction (but, and yet) being approximately equal grammatically.

        Eg – He could not love her, yet he could not hate her.

Parallel Structure – Balancing one statement against another in words, clauses or phrases of similar length and grammatical structure.

        Eg. “I do not doubt by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”

Euphemism – a substitution or a less distasteful word or expression for the harsh or unpleasant truth.

        Eg. “He was under the influence of liquor.”

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