Do you want to improve your writing?
If the answer is a loud “Yes” then you know that there are certain things which are recommended in writing. Some of them are:
- Having a proper writing voice
- Having some personality
- Using emotive language
Today, we’ll look into an element of grammar that achieves all three of the recommendations in an excellent manner. What is this element of grammar? And how does it improve your writing?
The element is figures of speech, and to find out how using them improves your writing, read on.
Figures of speech – introduction
What are figures of speech? I could give you my own definition, but it’s better to get it from the professionals. From Wikipedia:
A figure of speech is a use of a word that diverges from its normal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it such as a metaphor, simile, or personification. Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation. A figure of speech is sometimes called a rhetoric or a locution.
It’s been one of the few times I’ve nodded at reading a Wikipedia definition. Some takeaway points:
- When you use a figure of speech, you say something which you don’t actually mean
- The literal meaning is quite likely to be wrong if you use a figure of speech
- You likely use them in everyday speech without realizing it
- And figures of speech can really shake up your writing and provide personality, which makes them preferable to factual writing.
This, in a nutshell, is what figures of speech are all about. You’ve seen what they are, now let’s see which of them can help you improve your – well – writing.
Types of figures of speech
- Simile – What is a simile? It’s a direct comparison between two things, and this is important, those two things must not be similar. For e.g. “He was as strong as a rock.” The simile remains a useful workhorse when you just want that the reader should understand your comparisons simply (without any complications).
- Metaphor – Many people think metaphor is the best figure of speech to use in blogging (and copywriting), and I agree. Why? Well, first things first. Metaphor is a direct comparison between two things (and once again they must not be similar). Words such as “as” and “like” are not used in metaphor (they are in simile), instead one thing is described as the other thing. For e.g. “He was a rock, wrapped in a blanket of responsibility.”
- Analogy – Analogies are a bit more complicated than either similes and metaphors, but they too can work great (provided you do them right). What are they? They are indirect complicated comparisons of two things. They are logical arguments. In this, you show two or more things, show their similarities, and then conclude that as some things about them are similar, the others are also likely to be. (Strangely enough, this reminds of Geometry and the remaining components theorem. If some things are similar, then the others are also similar). 🙂
For e.g. “Now let’s take blogging and mountain climbing. They both are difficult to do. How? Because they both take a long time. Many times, you are faced with failure, but you must go on (climb on). There will be obstacles and times of success. Success takes a long time and is not guaranteed. Thus, they both are similar.”
- Personification – This kind of thing works best in poems, but can also work in normal, everyday writing. In this an abstract object or a non living thing is given a human quality such as speaking, walking etc. For e.g. “Opportunity knocks at the door. The bus shook itself importantly.”
Why are figures of speech good to use?
Visual words are great. We human beings love emotion and we are largely indifferent to reason (although our left brain likes it). We like to say that we are “logical” – but emotion just works better.
Figures of speech are, by default, emotional. If you want to really emphasize something in your writing, then using figures of speech is a great choice. They can add personality to your writing, i.e., instead of using plain boring facts, spice your writing up and jolt your readers.
What is the effect of jolted readers?
Readers are jolted into attention. Attentive readers are the best readers, just as passive readers are the worst readers. Attentive readers read and understand your content. They respond. They act upon what you tell them. But it seems they are a dying breed. Starting a new blog? Good luck, but don’t really hope too much from your readers. They are going to be too passive.
So how to make a passive reader into an attentive reader? The answer is simple: use metaphors, similes and analogies prudently.
When you use metaphors in a way that is not too much interrupting, your writing’s clarity just gets better. (And as you all know, clarity is very important). Readers like to read metaphors and imagine the situation visually in their head. Readers like to read similes and understand things clearly. And, sometimes when it’s for the best, they’ll tolerate analogies (provided they are clearly explained).
So the takeaway: Using figures of speech will give personality to your writing, jolt a passive reader into attention, improve the clarity of your article, and make the writing much more readable.
Due to the reasons given above, the only thing I can say as a conclusion is…
…if you’re not using figures of speech in your writing, you’re missing out.
But as with all things, too much of anything is bad. If you use too many of these things, you really will get exasperated readers. Just don’t it.
Have Your Say
What’s your opinion on figures of speech? Do you think they work well? Or are they just used too much these days? Whatever you want to say, come say it in the comments.
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