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FIGURES OF SPEECH

Why do we need Figures of Speech?

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, instead of using plain boring facts, spice your writing up and jolt your readers.

Figures of speech present ordinary things in new or unusual ways. They communicate
ideas that go beyond the words’ usual, literal meanings.

20 Types of Figures of Speech

1. Alliteration

The repetition of an initial consonant sound.

Example: Six silly swans went swimming in the sea.

*It’s important to note that not every word in the sentence has to begin with the same letter in
order for it to be considered alliteration. In the above example, only 5 out of 8 words begin with
an “s”.

2. Anaphora

In writing or speech, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to
achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora.

Example: O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

*The repetition of the phrase “O Lord,” attempts to create a spiritual sentiment. This is
anaphora

3. Antithesis

Antithesis, which literally means “opposite,” is a rhetorical device in which two opposite
ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect.

Example: Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for mankind.
*The use of contrasting ideas, “a small step” and “a giant step,” in the sentence above
emphasizes the significance of one of the biggest landmarks of human history.

4. Apostrophe

Directly addressing a nonexistent person or an inanimate object as though it were a living


being.

Example: Death Be Not Proud by John Donne

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee


Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”

*Here, Donne speaks to death, an abstract idea, as if it were a person capable of comprehending
his feelings.

5. Assonance: Identity or similarity in sound between internal vowels in neighboring words.


Example: How now, brown cow?

6. Chiasmus

A verbal pattern in which the second half of an expression is balanced against the first but
with the parts reversed.

Example: The famous chef said people should live to eat, not eat to live.

7. Euphemism

Euphemism is an idiomatic expression, which loses its literal meanings and refers to
something else, in order to hide its unpleasantness.

Euphemism is frequently used in everyday life. Let us look at some common euphemism
Examples:

 You are becoming a little thin on top (bald).


 Our teacher is in the family way (pregnant).
 He is a little tipsy (drunk).
 We do not hire mentally challenged (stupid) people.
 He is a special child (disabled or learning challenged)

8. Hyperbole

An extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or
heightened effect.
Example: I have a ton of things to do when I get home.

9. Irony

The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. Also, a statement or
situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea.

Example: "Oh, I love spending big bucks," said my dad, a notorious penny pincher.

10. Litotes

A figure of speech that employs an understatement by using double negatives or, in other
words, a positive statement expressed by negating its opposite expressions.

Example: using the expression “not too bad” for “very good” is an understatement, as well as a
double negative statement that confirms a positive idea by negating the opposite (meaning it’s
good, by saying it’s not bad). Similarly, saying “She is not a beauty queen,” means she is ugly, or
saying “I am not as young as I used to be,” in order to avoid saying I am old. Litotes, therefore,
is an intentional use of understatement that renders an ironic effect.

11. Metaphor

A figure of speech that makes an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two
things that are unrelated, but which share some common characteristics. In other words, a
resemblance of two contradictory or different objects is made based on a single or some common
characteristics.

Example: It is going to be clear skies from now on.

*This implies that clear skies are not a threat and life is going to be without hardships

12. Metonymy

A figure of speech that replaces the name of a thing with the name of something else that
is closely associated. We can come across examples of metonymy both from literature and in
everyday life.

Example: “The Oval Office was busy in work.”

*The Oval Office is a metonymy, as it stands for people who work in the office.

13. Onomatopoeia

The use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer
to.
Example: "Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled
over the tracks."

14. Oxymoron

Two opposite ideas are joined to create an effect. The common oxymoron phrase is a
combination of an adjective proceeded by a noun with contrasting meanings.

Example:

 There was a love-hate relationship between the two neighboring states.


 The professor was giving a lecture on virtual reality.
 Paid volunteers were working for the company.

15. Paradox

A statement that appears to contradict itself.

Example: "This is the beginning of the end," said Eeyore, always the pessimist.

16. Personification

A figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human


qualities or abilities.

Example: That kitchen knife will take a bite out of your hand if you don't handle it safely.

17. Pun

A play on words that produces a humorous effect by using a word that suggests two or
more meanings, or by exploiting similar sounding words that have different meanings.

Example: Jessie looked up from her breakfast and said, "A boiled egg every morning is hard to
beat."

18. Simile

A stated comparison (usually formed with "like" or "as") between two fundamentally
dissimilar things that have certain qualities in common.

Example: Roberto was white as a sheet after he walked out of the horror movie.

19. Synecdoche

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that refers to a part of something is


substituted to stand in for the whole, or vice versa.
Example: Tina is learning her ABC's in preschool.

20. Understatement

A figure of speech employed by writers or speakers to intentionally make a situation


seem less important than it really is.

Example:

 “It rained a bit more than usual.” – Describing an area being flooded by heavy rainfall.
 “It was O.K.” – Said by the student who got the highest score on the test.
 “It is a bit nippy today.” – Describing the temperature, which is 5 degrees below freezing.