Tuesday Technique: Litotes


I became overly infatuated with the term litotes back in my Latin days, and I fancied myself rather avant garde for making it “new” again. Unfortunately, I was simply being a stereotypical college kid, since this literary device is not uncommon (bonus points if you see what I did there).

Litotes is a classical style device, but it’s one that we all use even today. Put simply, it’s just emphasizing a point by denying its opposite. The trick is that it has to be a deliberate understatement with subtle nuance.

Some examples:

  • I am not unwell.
  • She was not unfamiliar with the expression.
  • He’s not stupid.

See—simple. But in the right places, litotes can add something unique (at least, not boring).

Have some famous examples? Leave them here.

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