Examples of Elision in Literature

Definition of Elision

Elision refers to the omission of a sound and syllable when pronouncing or writing a word. For example, the word “important” is pronounced as “impordant”. The vowel sound from the second syllable is left out. This simplifies the pronunciation of the word.

In writing, the apostrophe is often used to indicate a missing letter such as converting from ‘do not’ to don’t. Lastly, elision rounds off words or contractions by abolishing unnecessary sounds and letter that are usually pronounced or written. This is intended to facilitate communication, make it more effective and even lyrical. But not at the cost of accuracy. The adequate context will ensure that even when some parts are omitted, the intended word is comprehended.

Difference between Elision and Contraction

Elision retains the basic element of a word but leaves behind some sounds. Contractions are different because they actually develop completely new words from a shortened form. Elision smoothes pronunciation. Speech and writing are made more efficient by contractions. Elision involves sound deletion in words. Contractions blend whole words together. Basically, elision cuts off letters from words in the process of speech, whereas contraction combines two or more words by dropping letters and replacing them with apostrophes to form faster speaking coined phrases.

Examples of Elision in Literature


“Bleak House” by Charles Dickens

“London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth…”

The opening paragraph of the novel contains several examples of elision. The most prominent case is the word “Michaelmas,” which elides the “Saint” portion of “Saint Michaelmas.” This omission streamlines the term. Additionally, the word “lately” elides the “e” at the end; the full spelling is “lately.” And the term “Lord Chancellor” also elides the “the” that would be expected between “the” and “Lord.”

These small omissions of sounds and single letters exemplify how elision allows writing to flow smoothly. Removing the extra letters in these words condenses the terms without altering the meanings. It creates efficient, succinct prose through subtle yet important elisions. This paragraph demonstrates how slight abbreviations like leaving out “Saint,” “e,” or “the” can craft crisp, readable opening lines using the technique of elision.


“Measure for Measure” by Shakespeare

“The sense of death is most in apprehension; And the poor beetle, that we tread upon, In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great As when a giant dies.”

This excerpt utilizes elision in the words “apprehension” and “corporal.” The term “apprehension” elides the repetition of “prehension” by omitting the “pre” in the middle of the word. This condenses the length. Similarly, “corporal” elides the full spelling of “corporate” by dropping the final “e.”

Both elisions smooth out the meter and rhythm of the lines by abbreviating unneeded syllables within the words. Removing the double “prehension” in “apprehension” crafts a more efficient utterance. Eliding the final vowel in “corporate” to make “corporal” likewise eliminates an unnecessary syllable to maintain the poetic flow.

Thus, through small but tactful omissions of sounds and letters within words, the use of elision shapes lyrical prose, streamlines complex terms, and allows efficient, natural expression. The excerpt demonstrates how diminutive changes create substantial impact by altering the pulse of the language.


“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

The writer employs elision in the repeated last line “And miles to go before I sleep.” The first utterance of this phrase contains the full spelling and punctuation – “before I sleep.” However, the repetition that closes the stanza elides the comma after “before,” simplifying the phrase to “before I sleep.”

This subtle yet impactful omission of a comma smooths out the rhythmic pattern of the poem by removing an unnecessary pause. It allows the lines to flow directly into the repetition, gathering momentum through the elision. The comma breaks the building intensity on first reading “before I sleep,” but removing it on repetition creates fluid continuation rather than separation.

Thus through eliding a small punctuation mark, Frost crafts cohesion and sustains the lyrical quality of the verse. The elision evolves the language from staunch pause to flowing elaboration, demonstrating the capacity of small omissions to shape cadence and tone. This exemplifies the rhetorical function of elision in refinement of poetry through targeted diminution of letters or marks.


“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens

“Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard…”

The opening passage of the novel uses elision several times to abbreviate words and smooth out the prose. The first prominent example is the word “towards” which elides the letter “s” that typically concludes this word. Writing it as “towards” allows the sentence to flow more rhythmically. Additionally, when the narrator refers to the “churchyard”, the word elides the article “the” that would typically appear before it.

By omitting the “s” in “towards” and “the” in “the churchyard,” Dickens crafts more melodic phrasing through these subtle yet effective elisions. The elided words contain the same meanings while shedding superfluous letters that could interrupt the cadence. This displays how slight changes form crucial impacts – the paragraph exemplifies how strategic word choice and elision build lyrical, efficient narration. The small omissions fertilize the seeds of resounding prose.


“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”

The famous soliloquy employs elision for dramatic emphasis. The phrase “Is this a dagger which I see” elides the word “that” between “dagger” and “which.” By omitting the word “that,” Shakespeare tightens the language to intensify the shocking image of the imagined dagger. The elision creates momentum and urgency, implying frenzied disorientation.

Additionally, when Lady Macbeth states “Come, let me clutch thee,” the word “thee” elides the letter “e” at the end. The standard spelling is “thee,” but removing the final vowel streamlines the term to match Lady Macbeth’s strident tone. These small elisions – of both a full word and a single letter – exemplify the capacity of omissions to infuse writing with volatile emotion. It demonstrates how tiny changes can profoundly alter the psychological resonance of language through subtle, cerebral elision.


“Wild Nights – Wild Nights!” by Emily Dickinson

“Rowing in Eden – Ah, the sea! Might I but moor – Tonight -”

The line provides an example of elision in the abbreviated word “moor.” The full spelling of this word is “moorings” but Dickinson elides the letters “ings” to create the shortened version “moor.” This elision allows the poem to flow more smoothly in rhythm and meter by reducing the syllables within that word. The elided form “moor” contains only one syllable while “moorings” has two. Cutting the extra syllable keeps the succinct, steady pace of the verse.

Additionally, the elision of those letters creates a more open sound that parallels the expansiveness of the sea and night described. The truncated word “moor” invokes a sense of vastness rather than the more closed, concrete image of “moorings.” Thus through intentionally eliminating select letters, Dickinson sculpts a lyrical compression that interplays sound, imagery and deeper meaning. This small example of elision carries great significance in crafting the poem’s resonance.

Examples of Elision in Literature
Examples of Elision in Literature

Function of Elision in writing

It streamlines the words and sentences to make them more concise and readable. Elision allows the writers to shorten words and phrases in that way that convey the full meaning while using the fewer letters. This makes the text more scannable and efficient. It also makes the rhymes and rhythms to work better in poetry. The main functions of elision in writing are, to smooth out the sounds of language, and reduce unnecessary letters that do not change the meaning of the word. Writers use only as many letters as needed to communicate their message clearly.

Related Terms


Syncope refers to the omission of letters from the middle of a word, as in the word “fo’c’s’le” (forecastle). Like elision, it makes words shorter and easier to say or write. However, elision often occurs at the end of words, while syncope happens in the middle. Syncope streamlines terms and makes them less cumbersome.


A contraction is a shortened form of one or two words, with an apostrophe taking the place of the omitted letters, like “can’t” and “won’t.” Contractions function very similarly to elisions in that they shorten words by removing letters. However, contractions combine two words into one shortened form, while elisions focus on abbreviating a single word. Still, both serve the overall function of smoothing out speech and prose.

The key difference between elision and these terms is where in the word letters are omitted. They all make writing and speaking more fluid by removing extraneous letters.

Read also: Literary Devices that Start with E

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