Humanities › English AP English Exam: 101 Key Terms Prepare for the AP English Language and Composition Exam Share Flipboard Email Print Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury / Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated April 10, 2018 On this page, you'll find brief definitions of 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 expanded articles. *AP is a registered trademark of the College Board, which neither sponsors nor endorses this glossary. Ad Hominem: An argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case; a logical fallacy that involves a personal attack.Adjective: The part of speech (or word class) that modifies a noun or a pronoun.Adverb: The part of speech (or word class) that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb.Allegory: Extending a metaphor so that objects, persons, and actions in a text are equated with meanings that lie outside the text.Alliteration: The repetition of an initial consonant sound.Allusion: A brief, usually indirect reference to a person, place, or event—real or fictional.Ambiguity: The presence of two or more possible meanings in any passage.Analogy: Reasoning or arguing from parallel cases.Anaphora: The repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or verses.Antecedent: The noun or noun phrase referred to by a pronoun.Antithesis: The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases.Aphorism: (1) A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion. (2) A brief statement of a principle.Apostrophe: A rhetorical term for breaking off discourse to address some absent person or thing.Appeal to Authority: A fallacy in which a speaker or writer seeks to persuade not by giving evidence but by appealing to the respect people have for a famous person or institution.Appeal to Ignorance: A fallacy that uses an opponent's inability to disprove a conclusion as proof of the conclusion's correctness.Argument: A course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood.Assonance: The identity or similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words.Asyndeton: The omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses (opposite of polysyndeton).Character: An individual (usually a person) in a narrative (usually a work of fiction or creative nonfiction).Chiasmus: A verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed.Circular Argument: An argument that commits the logical fallacy of assuming what it is attempting to prove.Claim: An arguable statement, which may be a claim of fact, value, or policy.Clause: A group of words that contains a subject and a predicate.Climax: Mounting by degrees through words or sentences of increasing weight and in parallel construction with an emphasis on the high point or culmination of a series of events.Colloquial: Characteristic of writing that seeks the effect of informal spoken language as distinct from formal or literary English.Comparison: A rhetorical strategy in which a writer examines similarities and/or differences between two people, places, ideas, or objects.Complement: A word or word group that completes the predicate in a sentence.Concession: An argumentative strategy by which a speaker or writer acknowledges the validity of an opponent's point.Confirmation: The main part of a text in which logical arguments in support of a position are elaborated.Conjunction: The part of speech (or word class) that serves to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences.Connotation: The emotional implications and associations that a word may carry.Coordination: The grammatical connection of two or more ideas to give them equal emphasis and importance. Contrast with subordination.Deduction: A method of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises.Denotation: The direct or dictionary meaning of a word, in contrast to its figurative or associated meanings.Dialect: A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, and/or vocabulary.Diction: (1) The choice and use of words in speech or writing. (2) A way of speaking usually assessed in terms of prevailing standards of pronunciation and elocution.Didactic: Intended or inclined to teach or instruct, often excessively.Encomium: A tribute or eulogy in prose or verse glorifying people, objects, ideas, or events.Epiphora: The repetition of a word or phrase at the end of several clauses. (Also known as epistrophe.)Epitaph: (1) A short inscription in prose or verse on a tombstone or monument. (2) A statement or speech commemorating someone who has died: a funeral oration.Ethos: A persuasive appeal based on the projected character of the speaker or narrator.Eulogy: A formal expression of praise for someone who has recently died.Euphemism: The substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit.Exposition: A statement or type of composition intended to give information about (or an explanation of) an issue, subject, method, or idea.Extended Metaphor: A comparison between two unlike things that continues throughout a series of sentences in a paragraph or lines in a poem.Fallacy: An error in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.False Dilemma: A fallacy of oversimplification that offers a limited number of options (usually two) when, in fact, more options are available.Figurative Language: Language in which figures of speech (such as metaphors, similes, and hyperbole) freely occur.Figures of Speech: The various uses of language that depart from customary construction, order, or significance.Flashback: A shift in a narrative to an earlier event that interrupts the normal chronological development of a story.Genre: A category of artistic composition, as in film or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content.Hasty Generalization: A fallacy in which a conclusion is not logically justified by sufficient or unbiased evidence.Hyperbole: A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect; an extravagant statement.Imagery: Vivid descriptive language that appeals to one or more of the senses.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.