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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Take Your Writing From Good to Great: Figurative Language Sets Writers Apart

Figurative language is what separates the adequate from the inspired when it comes to writing. The words and phrases that use imagination and creativity to describe, emphasize, or explain pump life into the dead body of your writing.

I'd been working on straight-forward articles for some magazines, but when I finished the first drafts, I was dissatisfied. They were boring and adequate - just no-frills explanations. To make them interesting, I added fresh figurative language to surprise and entertain the reader. I had built my body ala Dr. Frankenstein and now I had to dress it up - give it some eyebrows, lipstick, and a nice purse.

Some examples of figurative language:

Metaphors - a literal comparison. "Horseradish flavor is a pistol-whip to the face."

Similes - a comparison using like or as in the phrasing: "I felt like a 24-hour grocery store at the Apocalypse, understocked and trying to keep the customers from rioting."

Hyperbole - an exaggeration for effect. "Open the windows when grinding horseradish or the EPA may show up at your door with a hazmat squad.

Understatement - Mark Twain- "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." I would say so if he's alive to comment. Or "I found having the knife plunged into my chest slightly annoying."

Onomatopoeia - Creating words to mimic sounds like the comics or the old Batman and Robin from the 70s. Pow, bang, splat, ruff, meow. Hmmm. Huh? Grrrr.

By Tricia Grissom


roller coaster teacher said...

I just found this blog in random "next blog" style - how cool! I will check it often.

When I "force" my 7th and 8th graders to use figurative language for fiction or nonfiction writing, the writing becomes automatically more interesting to read, the writer's "voice" more evident - it's nearly foolproof!

zeldadg said...

Welcome to the blog. I'm still trying to get my college students to use figurative language! Glad to see someone is working on the next generation.

roller coaster teacher said...

Thanks for responding and checking out my blog!

I think I have used figurative language in my own writing life, even though I don't remember being taught it during high school or college (as English literature major). Then, when I started teaching 4 years ago, I saw "figurative language" on my school district's curriculum map and used a reference book to find out what it was and how to teach it!