Figures of Speech

        . . . Part of the Special Effects of Writing


CONTENTS


A figure of speech is a change from the ordinary manner of expression, using words in other than their literal sense to enhance the way a thought is expressed.

 The following are the more common figures of Speech you can use to achieve some interesting "effects" in your writing:

 

Alliteration: the same sound is repeated noticeably at the beginning of words placed close together
 

      Examples--
       

      "World Wide Web"

      "Find four furry foxes"

     

    Recommendation: Use alliteration sparingly. Too much can wear on the reader.

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Allusion: casual reference to a famous historical or literary figure or event.

 

      e.g., " . . . a turn of phrase even Shakespeare would appreciate."

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Apostrophe: direct address of an absent or dead person or personified thing.

 

  • Invocation: an apostrophe to a god or muse.
     
      • Examples--
         

        "God help me!"

        "Ambition, you're a cruel master!"

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Irony: using words to mean the opposite of what is said.

 

  • Sarcasm: cutting, sneering or taunting irony.
  •  

        Examples--
         

        "He's handsome if you like rodents."

 

  • Hyperbole: exaggeration not meant to be taken literally.
  •  

        Examples--
         

        "I waited forever for him."

        "I destroyed that test!"

        "The world ended the day my father died."

 

  • Understatement: the representation of something as significantly less than it actually is.

 

        e.g. "That was some sprinkle." (in reference to the four inches of rain which fell an hour before)

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Metaphor: an implied comparison between things, events, or actions which are fundamentally unlike.
 

  • Metonymy: substituting a word--which is suggested by it or which is closely associated with it--for another word
     
    • Examples--
       

      "He hit the bottle soon after his wife died." 

      "She counted heads."

      "The White House denied the allegations."
       

         

  • Synecdoche: using a part for the whole or the whole for a part
     
      • e.g. "The pen is mightier than the sword"
         

         

  •  Personification: representing a thing, quality, or idea as a person

 

      • Examples--
         
      • "The book just begged to be read."
      • "The ocean screamed its fury"
      • "Fear lived with us in Vietnam."
    • Recommendations:
       

    • The comparison should be more evocative and appealing than the literal, plain statement of the thought.
    • Use sparingly. Too much of this and you call attention to yourself as the author instead of leaving your reader immersed in your story

Onomatopoeia: using words to imitate the sound they represent
 

        Examples--
         

        "I heard the hiss of steam down in the access tunnel."

        "The clock in the living room cuckooed the hour."

        "The clang of the cymbals echoed across the square."

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Parallelism (aka "Balance"): Expressing two ideas of equal importance through similar phrasing.

     

  • Antithesis: parallelism in grammatical pattern but strong contrast in meaning.
     
      • Examples--

         

        "Give me liberty or give me death!"

        "That isn't the truth, it's a lie."

        "You seem so wise, yet how foolish you are."

      • Recommendation: Don't use too much of this; it can easily wear on the reader.

     

  • Paradox: a statement that seems self-contradictory. The effect of this is to jolt the reader into paying attention.
     
      • Examples-- 

         

        "He who loses his life for My sake will save it."

        "One day is sometimes better than a whole year."

         

  • Oxymoron: a paradoxical statement in which two contradictory terms or words are brought together.
      • Examples--

         

        "The quiet was deafening."

        "He was clearly misunderstood."

        "They were alone together."

         

  • Anaphora: repetition of the same word or words at the beginning or successive clauses, verses, or sentences,
  •  

          e.g., "He came as conqueror. He came as ally. He came as a stranger. He came as brother."

         

  • Climax: The arrangement of a series of ideas or events in ascending order of importance, interest, or effectiveness. Stresses the relative importance of ideas or events.
  •  

  • Anticlimax: the use of climax up to the end of a series of thoughts and then the insertion of some unimportant idea in the last, most important position. Useful in humorous writing.

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Simile: an explicit comparison between things, events, or actions which are fundamentally unlike. .

  •  Typically involves the words "like" or "as"
     
      • Examples:
         

        "His arguments withered like grapevines in the fall."

        "He was cold as an arctic wind."

        "Crooked as a dog's hind leg."

        "Casual dress, like casual speech, tends to be loose, relaxed and colorful"

  • Recommendations:
  • The comparison should be more evocative and appealing than the literal, plain statement of the though

    Use sparingly. Too much of this and you call attention to yourself as the author instead of leaving your reader immersed in your story

    If a simile seems too awkward, convert it into a metaphor to see if it works better; but note that not every simile can be turned into a metaphor.

 

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Last Updated:

Sunday, January 20, 2008