For the GCSE English Language fiction paper, each question asks you to demonstrate a different skill.

Question 2 asks you to comment on the language techniques used by the author.

There are quite a few language techniques, but the main ones can be found in the mnemonic SOAPAIMS.  This stands for:



Alliteration (and particularly Sibilance)


Adverbs and Adjectives




Other handy techniques that do not fit neatly into this mnemonic are:




There are steps to getting the most out of these techniques. 

  1. Learn the mnemonic off by heart;
  2. Know what the definition of each word is;
  3. Be able to say an example of each one;
  4. Find them in other people’s work;
  5. Be able to explain the impact of a technique on the reader.


Ok, let’s look at them all individually.


Simile: comparing one thing with another usually including as or like as you compare.

For example: “Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Onomatopoeia: when words sound like the sound they are making.

For example: “The wheels of the coach creaked and groaned as they sank into the ruts of the road…” Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

For Example: “There was a grumbling sound and a clanking and jarring of keys.” The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle


Alliteration:  when there are lots of the same sounds in words, usually (but not always) at the beginning of words.

For example: (sibilance) “…secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens;

For example: (alliteration) “She’d lost count of the number of close calls she’d already clocked up.” The Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart


Personification: when you give inanimate objects human characteristics.

For example: “You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before you make it. You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes.” Thriller by Michael Jackson


Adjectives and adverbs: descriptive words used to enhance nouns and verbs.

For example: “The man had a face made of right angles: a jutting nose and wrinkles in angry places, deep enough to cast shadows in the dark.” The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

For example: “…the snake was level with him, and then, incredibly, miraculously, it was passing…” Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling


Imagery: a combination of features to heighten a mental image.  This often includes at least one sensory description.

For example: “And what a dazzling sight it was! The moonlight was shining and glinting on its great curving sides, turning them to crystal and silver. It looked like a tremendous silver ball lying there in the grass, silent, mysterious, and wonderful. And then all at once, little shivers of excitement started running over the skin on James’s back.” James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl



Metaphor: when a noun is used to substitute another noun saying one thing is something else.

For example: “The sun in the west was a drop of burning gold that slid near and nearer the sill of the world.” Lord of the Flies by William Golding

For example: “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!” Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare


Repetition: repeating a word or phrase for effect

For example: “There are millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering, and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we say and do.” An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley


Symbolism: when something stands for something else.

For example: “We caught the one clear glimpse of it, and then the match flickered and went out, even as the hope had gone out of our souls.” Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle


Synaesthesia: a figurative use of words and phrases that stimulates more than one of the senses.

For example: “I believe they have got a mauve Hungarian band that plays mauve Hungarian music.” An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

Looking to buy a book to help you revise GCSE English Language? You can’t go wrong with Mr Salles Guide to 100% in English Language!

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