Close Reading Key Terms & Devices

Close reading is a specific type of analysis that is often required in English literature classes. Close reading asks you to pay attention to the specific language choices a writer makes (lower-level below) and try to understand how those choices result in shaping the tone and mood of a text (mid-level below) as well as contribute to larger motifs and themes a text is exploring (upper-level below). 


Lower-Level (LIDDS)

  • Language - a specific set of vocabulary (e.g., technical, colloquial, academic) 
  • Imagery – descriptive wording that allows the reader to envision a scene 
  • Details - information that is not sensory (e.g., a character’s thoughts or personality type)
  • Diction - a specific word choice, especially one made for effect 
  • Syntax - the arrangement and appearance of words on the page, as well as the grammatical structures that the words form and the punctuation used



  • Tone - modulation of voice to indicate a particular feeling or attitude 
  • Mood - an atmospheric feeling or an affective environment or mode 



  • Motif - a recurring element: an action, feature, place, object, and the like. A motif is often (but not always) concrete, i.e., something one can see, touch, hear, or otherwise directly perceive 
  • Theme - a key idea, message, or takeaway traceable throughout the text


LIDDS → Tone/Mood → Theme/Motif


In summary…

  • LIDDS serve as the raw material of tone and mood
  • Tone and mood shape the production of meaning on the level of the sentence and paragraph
  • LIDDS, tone, and mood help a piece of writing establish motif(s) and develop its theme(s)
  • Motif and theme are often the primary devices used by a text to communicate its central idea


A PDF handout of this writing guide by Zach Grobe