A figure of speech is a non-literal use of a word or phrases that is different from it’s normal meaning or usage. These figures of speech use one image or idea to enhance or explain another by the use of comparison and connections. Poets often utilize this form of language manipulation as a fresh way to express a thought or situation and to capture the reader’s attention. There are numerous figures of speech. The following ten are among the most frequently used in poetry and literary writing.
EUPHEMISM: A mild, indirect, or vague term used to substitute a harsh, blunt, or offensive term. Eg. “passed away” instead of “died.”
SIMILE: A direct comparison between dissimilar things using the word “like” or “as.” Eg. Langston Hughes writes that a “deferred dream dries up ‘like’ a raisin in the sun.”
METAPHOR: A comparison between otherwise dissimilar things WITHOUT using the words “like or as.” Eg. The rush hour traffic bled out of the city’s major arteries. (Be sure to avoid the error of a mixed metaphor.)
IRONY: The use of words to suggest the opposite of the usual meaning.
ALLITERATION: Using words that contain the same letter or sound at the beginning of, adjacent or closely connected words. Eg. The sharp sounds of shots shattered the morning. Use this technique sparingly!
HYPERBOLE/OVERSTATEMENT: Deliberate exaggeration for emphasis. Eg. If I don’t get this paper in on time, my professor is going to kill me.
UNDERSTATEMENT: Deliberate restraint for emphasis. Eg. It gets a little warm when the temperature reaches 105 degrees.
OXYMORON: When apparently contradictory terms are used in conjunction with each other. Eg. Cruel kindness to love him with a faithless devotion.
PERSONIFICATION: The assignment of a human trait to a non-human thing. Eg. The book begged to be read.
ONOMATOPOEIA: The formation of a word from the sound associated with what is named. Eg. Buzz saw, sizzle, shush.