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Authors Technique

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Authors Technique

Behind every piece of writing, there is a purpose—a reason the author chose to write it. Even if it’s just to entertain, either an audience or themself by writing it, the author has a purpose and will use a variety of writing techniques to accomplish that purpose. Having insight into the techniques authors use to influence readers is like opening a window into how your favorite novel, poem, article, or really any piece of writing truly functions!

Understanding an Author's Technique

An author's technique is the way an author uses their writing to create a desired response from a reader. The techniques authors use to influence readers can refer to many things, from a single word choice to the way the entire piece is structured. The author's purpose for the text will ultimately determine which technique he or she uses.

An author who writes a piece of propaganda, for example, will use a completely different technique than an author who writes a graphic novel; the purpose of one is to persuade the audience, while the purpose of the other is to entertain. The person writing propaganda will likely use an informative technique, while the graphic novelist has more creative license and can use, say, a humorous technique.

Sometimes, though, it's not clear what the author is trying to communicate, so analyzing the author's technique is a means of gaining insight into the meaning of the text.

Techniques Authors Use to Influence Readers

Think of a piece of text as a chunk of wood, and the author’s technique is the way he or she will craft it into something else, like a table or a swing set. These items have different purposes, and so will require the use of different tools.

Authors Technique Tools StudySmarterFig. 1 - A woodworker's various tools are similar to an author's tools.

There are two major elements of an author’s technique that will have a large impact on the audience; rhetorical strategy and language choice.

Rhetorical strategies are the overall approach the author chooses to convey their message. A scientific article will be rich with examples because the author knows this is the best strategy to communicate their information, while the author of a novel is likely to use narration to share their message.

On the other hand, the choices the author makes on the more detailed level of language choice also affect the reader in a big way. Language choice is the specific way an author uses perhaps their greatest artistic tool—language—to create something that is unique and impacts their audience just the way they want. Whether the author chooses to say, “She looked at the river,” versus “She peered past the glassy surface down to pebbles of the river's bed” will certainly affect how the reader engages with the text.

As the reader, it is essential to understand how these author techniques function in order to analyze a piece of writing.

Author's Technique: Big Picture (Rhetorical Strategies)

Also called rhetorical modes, you can think of rhetorical strategies as the structure, or framework, of the text. The most commonly used rhetorical strategies are:

  • Cause/effect - explains how something happens, or more specifically, the consequences of something happening

  • Comparison/ contrast - a discussion of the similarities and differences between two or more things

  • Definition - communicates the meaning of a term, idea, or object

  • Description - uses sensory details to explain a person, place, or thing

  • Classification - groups two or more things with shared characteristics into categories

  • Narration - tells a sequence of events

  • Illustration/ exemplification - provides examples to support a concept

Each of these is a strategy for communicating a thought or idea with an audience, and each has a different purpose for its use. Knowing the rhetorical strategy an author chooses to use can give you insight into their motivation for writing, which is very helpful in understanding the text.

You might notice the article you're reading continues to pit one particular religion against another. You might conclude that the author is using a comparison and contrast rhetorical strategy. This knowledge might help you understand that the author intends for these religions to be contrasted, instead of simply describing each one individually. You've now gained new insight into the author's intent, and can read the article in a more informed light and perhaps notice details that might have escaped you before.

Author’s Technique: The Details

Some tools in an author's toolkit are meant to shape the text in a more subtle way. Below are some examples of authors’ techniques that will accomplish this on a smaller scale, but can still have a massive effect on the reader.

Language Choice

The choices an author makes about language are what one might call style. It is the specific way an author uses perhaps their greatest artistic tool—language—to create something that is unique and impacts their audience in just the right way.

Some examples of language choice are:

Word choice - Words are the building blocks of language. Also known as diction, the author’s choice of words can make the audience feel a range of emotions. Think, for example of a time you’ve been addressed in a formal manner as sir or ma’am, versus when a friend called you by a nickname. These inspired different reactions in you. Authors manipulate language to get different reactions.

Sentence structure - Readers look for a natural pattern in sentences as they read, so any deviance in the pattern will send a signal of some type. Sentence structure can communicate just as much as the words inside the sentence.

Consider this sentence from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929):

“…I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray half light where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the significance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who.” (chapter 2)

The structure of this sentence is jarring, mostly because it is without punctuation. It feels like the narrator is rambling in confusion or rage (or both) and makes the reader experience that emotion.

Figurative language - Also known as figures of speech, figurative language is phrasing that goes deeper than the literal meaning of words to get a different meaning across. Figurative language uses literary devices, such as similes and metaphors, to communicate something outside the boundaries of the words themselves.

To criticize some policy or law from an opposer, you might hear a politician say, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” This has been a popular metaphor in US politics in recent years because it makes the point that no matter how much you dress up something unattractive you cannot change what it is. This use of figurative language creates a vivid image and is effective in making the listener find the idea (or whatever the “pig” is) repulsive.

Literary Devices and Examples of Techniques in Writing

Literary devices are creative writing techniques that have been used by authors from Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling. Although they are a creative use of language, literary devices create images with words and can be effective in any context.

Literary devices give the reader insight into whatever the author is talking about. Knowledge of common literary devices will help you analyze an author’s technique and give a new layer of understanding to the text itself. Imagine, for example, during an exam you come to a reading passage that is a poem about flowers in bloom. You take the poem at its literal meaning and completely miss that it is a metaphor for childbirth. You have totally missed the author’s meaning, and therefore any questions about the poem on the exam.

While there are dozens of types of literary devices, the 5 basic branches are metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, and symbolism. If you understand how these literary devices work, you’ll be able to get a grasp on most other types.

Authors Technique Simile StudySmarterFig. 2 - A simile is like a metaphor, but less direct

Metaphor

A metaphor is perhaps the most commonly used literary device. A metaphor does not use the words “like” or “as” to make a comparison, it simply makes a direct comparison between two things.

Metaphors create imagery for the reader, which is much more effective than literal language. Think, for example, how much more impactful it is to say “It’s a furnace in here!” when you could instead say, “It’s hot in here!” The image of a furnace carries with it the connotations of burning, red-hot, unbearable heat whereas hot simply means hot.

Simile

This figure of speech is used to compare two seemingly unrelated things to show how they are similar in a particular way. A simile is a subset of metaphor, but is different because it is not a direct comparison.

You can tell a simile apart from a metaphor by the use of the words “like,” and “as.” If an author uses these words as part of a literary technique to compare two things, then it is a simile. If the comparison is direct, then it is a metaphor.

Similies are a useful literary device because there can be any number of insightful connotations that help convey meaning without the use of words.

Consider the following excerpt from William Shakespeare’s "Sonnet 143" (1609)

"Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch

One of her feathered creatures broke away,

Sets down her babe and makes all swift dispatch

In púrsuit of the thing she would have stay;

Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,

Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent

To follow that which flies before her face,

Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent:

So run’st thou after that which flies from thee," (1-14)

In this sonnet, Shakespeare compares himself to a baby. It's unlikely he would want a lover to think of him in a baby in all ways, but he uses the simile here to communicate how helpless he feels when she neglects him.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration to make a point. As with all other literary devices, hyperbole is not literal but rather overstates something to make a statement beyond the words themselves. To say to someone, “I’ve said this a million times before” is a hyperbolic way of saying, “I’ve said this many times,” but it also communicates a sense of frustration.

Personification

Personification is like a more complex metaphor; it compares two things, but goes one step beyond metaphor and gives human traits to something that is not human.

Consider the first few lines of John Keats’s poem, “To Autumn" (1820)

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;" (1-4)

The two things conspiring are the season autumn and the sun. Obviously neither of these objects can talk, but Keats describes them with this feature for the purpose of illustrating how picturesque the season is.

Symbolism

Symbolism is the idea that one thing can represent something else. What this means is that the color blue, for example, can represent feelings of sadness. This literary device can produce a huge impact by attaching additional meaning to things, and so is used regularly in literature.

Authors Technique Writing StudySmarterFig. 3 - Symbols are incredibly common in writing.

Other Examples of Author’s Technique

There are other ways an author's technique can manifest itself in a piece of writing. Readers may often take these details for granted, but they are actually specific choices the author made to give the text the greatest intended impact.

Timeline

The way the timeline of a story is structured will certainly have an effect on the reader or listener. Think, for example, of a story you’ve heard or read where the timeline jumps back and forth from present to past. How did this make you feel?

Perhaps it made you feel sympathy for a villain to understand more about his or her past. This was surely a conscious choice on the part of the author—they wanted you, the audience, to feel sympathy and so they chose this technique to tell their story. Very effective!

Fictional Element Choices

There are other elements of fiction writing that will have an impact on the reader, and so authors can manipulate things such as:

  • Setting

  • Plot

  • Voice

  • Characterization

Each of these choices is like a cut made into a piece of wood to create that swing set. (Remember the woodworking simile?)

Some things are obviously going to impact the way a story is received, like the plot and how the characters are developed, but other things like the setting and voice used to narrate the story will also affect the reader a great deal.

Imagine if the Batman story was told in the countryside instead of Gotham City—it would be a completely different story, wouldn’t it? The Batman storytellers have used Gotham City almost like a character in and of itself by describing it, and Batman’s relationship with it, in great detail.

Why Analyze Author Writing Techniques?

The ability to decipher and analyze authors’ writing techniques is extremely important to any student of literature, and will almost certainly be tested on placement exams.

Authors’ techniques give you clues to interpreting the author’s message behind any given text. With this skill, you’ll be able to read a wider range of texts with more awareness and even write your own with greater depth.

Author's Technique - Key Takeaways

  • Author's technique is the way authors use their writing to create a desired response from a reader.
  • The ability to understand and analyze the author's technique is a powerful way to gain insight into the meaning of a text.
  • Literary devices are figures of speech commonly used by authors and include simile, metaphor, symbolism, hyperbole, and personification
  • There are two major elements of an author’s technique that will have a large impact on the audience; rhetorical strategy and language choice.

Frequently Asked Questions about Authors Technique

Some techniques authors use include rhetorical strategies such as compare/contrast, narration, definition (and so on) as well as figurative language and specific word choice and sentence structure.

Author's technique is the way authors use their writing to create a desired response from a reader.

The author's technique is important to understand so that the reader is able to understand the meaning behind the text.

An example of an author's technique is Shakespeare's use of metaphor in "Sonnet 18" (1609) when he asks, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Shakespeare extends the metaphor throughout the poem to explain the beauty of his love.

Literary devices are creative writing techniques that authors use to create imagery with their writing.

Final Authors Technique Quiz

Question

What does "author's technique" mean?

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An author's technique is the way they use their writing to create a desired response from a reader.

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The reader's response is arguably the _______ of the text.

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Purpose

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There are two major elements of author's technique: ______ & _______

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Rhetorical strategies & language choice

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How does rhetorical strategy function as a technique for authors to use?

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It gives the text structure

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What type of rhetorical strategy is a historical fiction author least likely to use as the main mode for their writing?

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Illustration/ exemplification

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Question

The following is an example of an author using what type of rhetorical strategy?

Libraries are an excellent place to study. Consider, for example, the enforced peace and quiet found in libraries everywhere.

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Illustration/ exemplification

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How can knowing rhetorical strategies help a reader understand a piece of writing?

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Knowing the rhetorical strategy an author chooses to use can give you insight into their motivation for writing, which is very helpful in understanding the text. 

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Sentence structure is an example of ________ as an author's technqiue.

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Language choice

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Diction is another way of saying ________.

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Word choice

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The difference between simile and metaphor is... 

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Similes use the words "like" or "as" to compare two things, whereas metaphors make a direct comparison.

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Which literary device is missing from the list:

Simile

Metaphor

Hyperbole

Symbolism

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Personification

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Which literary device communicates that one thing can represent something else?

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Symbolism

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Which literary device is used here?
The wind is a bully today!

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Personification

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Which of the following is not an example of fictional element choice?

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Statistics

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Why do author's choose one technique over another?

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Every choice an author makes about how to write affects how the audience will receive the text. Different author techniques will produce different pieces of writing, and so authors make intentional decisions about how they choose to communicate their message.

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What does language choice mean?

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Language choice refers to the choice of words and style of expression an author uses, whether in speech or writing.

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Language choice is also referred to as ________. 

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Diction

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Language choice is a key element of rhetorical analysis because... 

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it communicates more than just the literal meaning of words.

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The following is an example of which type of language choice:


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me?  (Amazing Grace, 1779)

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Abstract

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True or false: People never shift from one way of speaking to another

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True

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Is an author more likely to use a colloquialism in formal writing or informal writing?

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Informal

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Language choice carries with it both connotations as well as __________.

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Denotations

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Connotation means...

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implied or suggested meaning that is attached to a word 

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Denotation means... 

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 the literal meaning of words.

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True or false: language choice can have connotations

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True

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What is an "emotional tag" 

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An implied or suggested meaning of a word

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The following is an example of what type of language choice: 

The meteorological situation is not favorable. 

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Pedantic

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Which of the following is NOT a reason why an author might shift language choice

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To confuse the reader

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One of the most easily recognized messages an author’s language choice communicates is whether the text is _______ or _______.


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formal or informal

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The following is an example of what type of language choice:

I went to the post office to get stamps.

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Concrete

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What are rhetorical strategies? 

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Rhetorical strategies are the writing techniques that authors use to convince the audience of their purpose.

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Which one is NOT a rhetorical strategy?

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Rhetorical language

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Which of the following is NOT a rhetorical mode?

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Organization

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Which of the following is NOT a rhetorical appeal?

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Bathos

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"Getting through the school day felt like surviving the Hunger Games."


What type of rhetorical device is used in this sentence? 

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Allusion

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Why might an author use short sentences (6 words or fewer) when writing?

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Short sentences emphasize a main point. 

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"Getting through the school day felt like surviving the Hunger Games."


What is the purpose of the simile in this sentence? 

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To highlight the difficulty of completing the school day.

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"The student was titanium—nothing broke her spirit."


What rhetorical device is used in this sentence?

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Metaphor

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"The student was titanium—nothing broke her spirit."


What is the purpose of the metaphor in this sentence?

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To reveal her strong determination. 

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In an essay on immigration, an author recounts the personal experience of a refugee claiming asylum in the United States. What rhetorical mode is the author using in this example? 

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Narration

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If an author includes extended details about a neighborhood in an essay on gentrification, what mode of writing are they using?

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Description

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In an essay on carbon capture technologies, the writer explains the process of how the technology works to capture carbon from the atmosphere. Which rhetorical mode is the author using in this example?  

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Exposition

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"I support abolishing daylight saving's time because research shows it will decrease the number of accidents."


 What type of rhetorical appeal is found in this sentence?

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Logical appeal

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"I do not support government regulation of business time because it violates free-market principles."


What type of rhetorical appeal is found in this sentence?

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Ethical appeal

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What are the four rhetorical appeals?


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Ethos, kairos, logos, and pathos 


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Rhetorical modes are important because you can determine the author’s _ from the structure they chose. 


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purpose


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What is allusion?


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A reference to a person, place, or thing of cultural significance. 


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What is diction?


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Word choice

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What is syntax?


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Syntax is the structure of a sentence 


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True or false. Parallelism is a common stylistic choice where an author repeats a phrase in successive sentences. 


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True 

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