Society & Culture & Entertainment Languages

101 Terms to Know Before Taking the AP English Language and Comp Exam

On these two pages you will find brief definitions of 100 grammatical, literary, and rhetorical terms that have appeared on the multiple-choice and essay portions of the AP English Language and Composition exam. For examples and more detailed explanations of the terms, follow the links to the expanded entries in our Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms.
Ad HominemtoImagery (page one)
InductiontoZeugma (below)

  • Induction
    A method of reasoning by which a rhetor collects a number of instances and forms a generalization that is meant to apply to all instances.
  • Invective
    Denunciatory or abusive language; discourse that casts blame on somebody or something.
  • Irony
    The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is directly contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.
  • Isocolon
    A succession of phrases of approximately equal length and corresponding structure.
  • Jargon
    The specialized language of a professional, occupational, or other group, often meaningless to outsiders.
  • Litotes
    A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.
  • Loose Sentence
    A sentence structure in which a main clause is followed by subordinate phrases and clauses. Contrast with periodic sentence.
  • Metaphor
    A figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common.

  • Metonymy
    A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as "crown" for "royalty").
  • Mode of Discourse
    The way in which information is presented in a text. The four traditional modes are narration, description, exposition, and argument.
  • Mood
    (1) The quality of a verb that conveys the writer's attitude toward a subject.
    (2) The emotion evoked by a text.
  • Narrative
    A rhetorical strategy that recounts a sequence of events, usually in chronological order.
  • Noun
    The part of speech (or word class) that is used to name a person, place, thing, quality, or action.
  • Onomatopoeia
    The formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to.
  • Oxymoron
    A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.
  • Paradox
    A statement that appears to contradict itself.
  • Parallelism
    The similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.
  • Parody
    A literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule.
  • Pathos
    The means of persuasion that appeals to the audience's emotions.
  • Periodic Sentence
    A long and frequently involved sentence, marked by suspended syntax, in which the sense is not completed until the final word--usually with an emphatic climax.
  • Personification
    A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities.
  • Point of View
    The perspective from which a speaker or writer tells a story or presents information.
  • Predicate
    One of the two main parts of a sentence or clause, modifying the subject and including the verb, objects, or phrases governed by the verb.
  • Pronoun
    A word (a part of speech or word class) that takes the place of a noun.
  • Prose
    Ordinary writing (both fiction and nonfiction) as distinguished from verse.
  • Refutation
    The part of an argument wherein a speaker or writer anticipates and counters opposing points of view.
  • Repetition
    An instance of using a word, phrase, or clause more than once in a short passage--dwelling on a point.
  • Rhetoric
    The study and practice of effective communication.
  • Rhetorical Question
    A question asked merely for effect with no answer expected.
  • Running Style
    Sentence style that appears to follow the mind as it worries a problem through, mimicking the "rambling, associative syntax of conversation"--the opposite of periodic sentence style.
  • Sarcasm
    A mocking, often ironic or satirical remark.
  • Satire
    A text or performance that uses irony, derision, or wit to expose or attack human vice, foolishness, or stupidity.
  • Simile
    A figure of speech in which two fundamentally unlike things are explicitly compared, usually in a phrase introduced by "like" or "as."
  • Style
    Narrowly interpreted as those figures that ornament speech or writing; broadly, as representing a manifestation of the person speaking or writing.
  • Subject
    The part of a sentence or clause that indicates what it is about.
  • Syllogism
    A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.
  • Subordination
    Words, phrases, and clauses that make one element of a sentence dependent on (or subordinate to) another. Contrast with coordination.
  • Symbol
    A person, place, action, or thing that (by association, resemblance, or convention) represents something other than itself.
  • Synecdoche
    A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole or the whole for a part.
  • Syntax
    (1) The study of the rules that govern the way words combine to form phrases, clauses, and sentences.
    (2) The arrangement of words in a sentence.
  • Thesis
    The main idea of an essay or report, often written as a single declarative sentence.
  • Tone
    A writer's attitude toward the subject and audience. Tone is primarily conveyed through diction, point of view, syntax, and level of formality.
  • Transition
    The connection between two parts of a piece of writing, contributing to coherence.
  • Understatement
    A figure of speech in which a writer deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.
  • Verb
    The part of speech (or word class) that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being.
  • Voice
    (1) The quality of a verb that indicates whether its subject acts (active voice) or is acted upon (passive voice).
    (2) The distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or narrator.
  • Zeugma
    The use of a word to modify or govern two or more words although its use may be grammatically or logically correct with only one.
Ad HominemtoImagery (page one)
InductiontoZeugma (above)

Leave a reply