Online Tropes


Through analyzing online writing, one begins to understand that there is a certain code or protocol for conveying information. Idiomatic expressions, figures of speech and other similar rhetorical devices are called tropes. Authors may use tropes to express more than one meaning, using language to provide a particular reading to a specific reader, or they may vary their language simply to keep the reader's interest. Since there are many different types of tropes, only a small number have been compiled here. This wiki page will attempt to convey a general sense of what a trope is and how it is used in an online setting. For many more types of tropes and other rhetorical devices visit the site list below.




As opposed to a simile, metaphors do not utilize the words 'like' or 'as' to compare or contribute traits from one thing to another. Metaphors





The phenomenon that occurs when two contradictory words are joined together to form a new idea, separate from what is expressed when either word is used by itself. For more information, click here.


Virtual reality, living dead, act naturally…For a complete list of examples, click here.




Puns, also known as paronomasia, are a type of word play in which the user takes advantage of a word's multiple meanings. Puns are used in online writing for humor or to make rhetorical statement.



The above comic depicts a word play on the word "nazi" being a homonym for the words "not see."

Lame Pun Raccoon


Here the pun works by playing on the use of the word "clean" to describe someone who has not used drugs or alcohol. The pun is working on the similarity between the lexicon for drug addiction and daily hygiene. The comic plays on the reader's expectations for a certain type of language. The surprise in the pun using the incorrect frame of reference causes the humorous effect.



Memes are shorthand for a cultural idea. They are the ideas and concepts that spread from person to person What makes a meme a meme, is the way it proliferates and evolves. Much like advertising, a good meme is one that holds up to different perspectives and maintains its idea through time.


If we look at memes using a broad definition, actions and rituals that are central to a culture could be considered memes. For instance, the shaving of body hair could be an example of a meme. In our natural state, we grow body hair. Shaving makes a statement about our cultural values and the way we think of hair. In America, it is almost considered a political statement to either let one's beard grow long, or for women to not shave their legs.

Internet memes are different in the fact that they are transmissions that occur on the internet and reflect the culture that exists online.
Rage Faces
Rage faces, according to, were started on the website 4chan and went more mainstream through the page F7u12 (to represent the comic caption fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu). Each rage face is used to convey a certain emotion or concept to the reader. For instance, the "okay guy" is used to express a person who has been wronged in some way, yet instead of fighting back, accepts it.
Memes in these two instances, both broad and specific, are used to construct culture and to express ideas within this culture. For more on how rage faces are used to either construct narratives or express ideas visit the subreddit F7u12




Hyperbole - occurs anytime someone utilizes exaggeration in writing or speech to make a statement about something. For instance, we often use expressions such as "best (insert term here) ever!" or "I'm freezing." In both cases, we're exaggerating. It wasn't really the best (insert term here) ever and we weren't really freezing. The proliferation of the internet and digital writing has resulted in a variety of new hyperboles. Many of these are acronyms that express some sort of action. These acronyms appear very frequently, and it has almost become second nature to use them in the realm of digital writing.


(Laughing out loud)

(Rolling on the floor laughing)

(Laughing my ass off)

(Oh my god)

Click here for an extended list of internet acronyms including many hyperboles.




To underestimate, with purpose to gain response or attention. In digital writing Litotes are used as an attention grabbing technique as seen in the examples.


In digital writing, authors commonly use examples of Litotes to title an article. On the the author titles an article ‘Poisoning customers not a good career move” Of course is not a good career move but it gains attention.


An story reported by Ian Steward titled Couples Violent Break-up starts with “its not a good break up’ when in reality it was a horrible break up. she attacked him with a screw driver and claw hammer while he was sleep. The author uses litotes to gain attention.