AP Language and Composition Terms

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rhetorical situation or rhetorical triangle

This term refers to any set of circumstances/elements (Speaker/ Audience/Message/ Context/Exigence/Subject) that involves at least one person using some sort of communication to modify the perspective of at least one other person.



what information the speaker wants to communicate.

This is the content of a text targeted to an audience.

While it is important to carefully choose what content the audience needs, it is equally critical to cut out content that the audience does not need or want. “Time is money” may be a tired old cliché, but it is important to avoid wasting the audience’s time with information that is unnecessary or irrelevant to them.



The time and the place of the piece; the context that prompted the writing. Writing does not occur in a vacuum. All writers are influenced by the larger occasion: an environment of ideas, attitudes, and emotions that swirl around a broad issue. Then there is the immediate occasion: an event or situation that catches the writer’s attention and triggers a response.



The term exigence comes from the Latin word for "demand." It was popularized in rhetorical studies by Lloyd Bitzer in "The Rhetorical Situation" ("Philosophy and Rhetoric," 1968). "In every rhetorical situation," said Bitzer, "there will be at least one controlling exigence which functions as the organizing principle: it specifies the audience to be addressed and the change to be affected."

In other words, says Cheryl Glenn, a rhetorical exigence is "a problem that can be resolved or changed by discourse (or language)... All successful rhetoric (whether verbal or visual) is an authentic response to an exigence, a real reason to send a message." ("The Harbrace Guide to Writing," 2009)



The group of readers to whom this piece is directed.

one must determine who the audience is that they intend to address. It may be one person or a specific group. This choice of audience will affect how and why the writer creates a particular text.



The reason behind the text. Consider the purpose of the text in order to develop the thesis or the argument and its logic. They should ask themselves, “What do I want my audience to think or do as a result of reading my text?”


Speaker/ Writer

The voice that tells the story. A writer must decide whose voice is going to be heard: their own, or a fictional character (persona they create). Regardless, determine how those attributes of the speaker will influence the perceived meaning of the piece.


Aristotelian appeals

Aristotle's "modes for persuasion" - otherwise known as rhetorical appeals - are known by the names of ethos, pathos, and logos.



(sometimes called an appeal to ethics), then, is used as a means of convincing an audience via the authority or credibility of the persuader, be it a notable or experienced figure in the field or even a popular celebrity.



(appeal to logic) is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts and figures.



(appeal to emotion) is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response to an impassioned plea or a convincing story.



The wants and needs of your audience.

Sometimes it a simple request such as your target audience wants a longer lunch break or more food to feed their family.

I like to start by thinking about the physical resources one "needs" for survival (Shelter, Water, Warmth/Fire, Food).

Then, needs for emotional comfort and happiness

(Friendship/Love, Play, opportunities for creativity)

Basically, what does the audience want/need to be well or happy.



This is something that is very important to your target audience. They often would shape their life around it. Here on Kaua'i family is an important value. Many people will give up things they need or want to do because they value showing up for their family.

In other places, someone may greatly value truth or honest. They will not feel okay if they are not being honest or surrounding themself wit honest people.



Beliefs are thoughts that govern or shape your target audience's life.

Like the idea, "Education is the key to success" this belief is the reason our parents and society makes sure all children under 18 must goto school.

Another belief is, "Respect your elders". This belief comes from the idea that if someone has lived a long life, they have successfully overcome many of life's obstacles. In doing this they hold wisdom, guidance, and important answer's for our own success. Therefore, it is important to treat them with respect because their life has help protect ours and will provide insight into our futures.

Beliefs may not hold true for some people and are rarely absolute. Yet, it is important to know the believes of your target audience, because the ideas we live by are the thoughts that drive us through life.



The attitude of the author. The spoken word can convey the speaker’s attitude and thus help impart meaning through tone of voice. With the written word, tone extends meaning beyond the literal, and students must learn to convey this tone in their diction (choice of words), syntax (sentence construction), and imagery (metaphors, similes, and other types of figurative language). The ability to manage tone is one of the best indicators of a sophisticated writer.



is how we are made to feel as readers, or the emotion evoked by the author.



words used by the author


word choice

diction or specific word choice of the author for rhetorical effect



structure of language within Rhetoric.

This can be the types or sentences used or how a sentence/phrase is organized.



contrary to what is expected



A paradox is a rhetorical device that is made up of two opposite things and seems impossible or untrue but is actually possible or true



Figure that binds together TWO words that are ordinarily contradictory



In a literary context, an allusion is usually a passage in a work of art that makes reference to another work of art or some object within popular culture. The allusion is meant to evoke a specific reaction the audience. For example, the composer Mahler was known for using a relatively "lowbrow" allusion here and there in his symphonies as a means of destabilizing the difference between high culture and low culture.



The comparison of two things, which are alike in several respects, for the purpose of explaining or clarifying some unfamiliar or difficult idea or object by showing how the idea or object is similar to some familiar one.



figure of speech that compares two subjects without the use of “like” or “as.”


extended metaphor

The term “extended metaphor” refers to a comparison between two unlike things that continues throughout a series of sentences in a paragraph, or lines in a poem. It is often comprised of more than one sentence, and sometimes consists of a full paragraph.



A simile is a figure of speech that makes a comparison, showing similarities between two different things. Unlike a metaphor, a simile draws resemblance with the help of the words “like” or “as.” Therefore, it is a direct comparison.



is one of the most commonly used and recognized literary devices. It refers to the practice of attaching human traits and characteristics with inanimate objects, phenomena and animals



derived from a Greek word meaning “over-casting,” is a figure of speech that involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis. ... Therefore, a hyperbole is an unreal exaggeration to emphasize the real situation.



The definition of a metonymy is a figure of speech in which one thing is replaced with a word closely associated with it. An example of a metonymy is referring to the King as "the Crown."

As with other literary devices, one of the main purposes of a metonymy is to add flavor. Instead of saying, "These chicken wings, coleslaw, and green beans are delicious," you could say, "This dish is delicious." Now, you've avoided naming all the separate elements of the meal, breaking up some of the awkwardness and making the sentence more vibrant.



is a literary device in which a part of something represents the whole, or it may use a whole to represent a part. Synecdoche may also use larger groups to refer to smaller groups, or vice versa. It may also call a thing by the name of the material it is made of, or it may refer to a thing in a container or packaging by the name of that container or packing.

For example, the phrase “all hands on deck” is a demand for all of the crew to help, yet the word “hands”—just a part of the crew—stands in for the whole crew.



is the use of components in a sentence that are grammatically the same; or similar in their construction, sound, meaning, or meter. Parallelism examples are found in literary works as well as in ordinary conversations.

This method adds balance and rhythm to sentences, giving ideas a smoother flow and thus persuasiveness, because of the repetition it employs. For example, “Alice ran into the room, into the garden, and into our hearts.” We see the repetition of a phrase that not only gives the sentence a balance, but rhythm and flow as well. This repetition can also occur in similarly structured clauses, such as, “Whenever you need me, wherever you need me, I will be there for you.”

Common Examples of Parallelism

  1. Like father, like son.
  2. Easy come, easy go.
  3. Whether in class, at work, or at home, Shasta was always busy.
  4. Flying is fast, comfortable, and safe.


Antithesis, which literally means “opposite,” is a rhetorical device in which two opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect.

Antithesis emphasizes the idea of contrast by parallel structures of the contrasted phrases or clauses. The structures of phrases and clauses are similar, in order to draw the attention of the listeners or readers. For example:

“Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for mankind.”

The use of contrasting ideas, “a small step” and “a giant step,” in the sentence above emphasizes the significance of one of the biggest landmarks of human history.

Common Antithesis Examples

Some famous antithetical statements have become part of our everyday speech, and are frequently used in arguments and discussions. Below is a list of some common antithetical statements:

  • Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
  • Man proposes, God disposes.
  • Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing.
  • Speech is silver, but silence is gold.
  • Patience is bitter, but it has a sweet fruit.
  • Money is the root of all evil: poverty is the fruit of all goodness.
  • You are easy on the eyes, but hard on the heart.


is a literary technique in which two or more ideas, places, characters, and their actions are placed side by side in a narrative or a poem, for the purpose of developing comparisons and contrasts.

Charles Dickens uses the technique of juxtaposition in the opening line of his novel A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”



In writing or speech, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora.



inverted sentences

An inverted syntax refers to a change in the pattern of words in the formation of a sentence. It serves as an effective literary device to create rhyming patterns, a specific tempo, a certain mood, or a dramatic effect.


Subject : Jane
Verb : ate
Object : Cake

Inverted Syntax: A cake Jane ate
This is the OSV format.


cumulative sentences

In grammar, a cumulative sentence is an independent clause followed by a series of subordinate constructions (phrases or clauses) that gather details about a person, place, event, or idea.

  • "He dipped his hands in the bichloride solution and shook them--a quick shake, fingers down, like the fingers of a pianist above the keys."
    (Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith, 1925)
  • "The radiators put out lots of heat, too much, in fact, and old-fashioned sounds and smells came with it, exhalations of the matter that composes our own mortality, and reminiscent of the intimate gases we all diffuse."
    (Saul Bellow, More Die of Heartbreak. William Morrow, 1987)
  • "Her moving wings ignited like tissue paper, enlarging the circle of light in the clearing and creating out of the darkness the sudden blue sleeves of my sweater, the green leaves of jewelweed by my side, the ragged red trunk of a pine."
    (Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm. Harper & Row, 1977)

periodic sentences

A periodic sentence is a long and frequently involved sentence, marked by suspended syntax, in which the sense is not completed until the final word — often with an emphatic climax. This is also called a period or a suspended sentence.

P.G. Wodehouse, "Something Fresh"

"In the almost incredibly brief time which it took the small but sturdy porter to roll a milk-can across the platform and bump it, with a clang, against other milk-cans similarly treated a moment before, Ashe fell in love."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius."

E.B. White, "Stuart Little"

"In the loveliest town of all, where the houses were white and high and the elms trees were green and higher than the houses, where the front yards were wide and pleasant and the back yards were bushy and worth finding out about, where the streets sloped down to the stream and the stream flowed quietly under the bridge, where the lawns ended in orchards and the orchards ended in fields and the fields ended in pastures and the pastures climbed the hill and disappeared over the top toward the wonderful wide sky, in this loveliest of all towns Stuart stopped to get a drink of sarsaparilla."



Antecedent is an earlier clause, phrase, or word to which a pronoun, noun, or another word refers. Broadly speaking, antecedent is a literary device in which a word or pronoun in a line or sentence refers to an earlier word. For instance, “While giving treats to children or friends offer them whatever they like.” In this line, children and friends are antecedents, while they is a pronoun that refers to friends and children. It is a typical linguistic term and originates from grammar.



You should be able to state the subject in a few words or phrases. This step helps them to focus on the intended task throughout the writing process.