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How to Use Figurative Language In Your Writing

Let us admit that we use figurative language in everyday discourse. After all, figures of speech provide a language with a more lively and colorful aspect. For instance, metaphors are frequently employed in ordinary conversation to transition from one topic to another. Besides, several authors hire figurative language to enrich and personalize their writing. Thus, we can say that figurative language refers to the use of phrases that cause your readers’ imaginations to run wild. Alliteration, metaphors, simile, onomatopoeia, and exaggeration are a few examples of figurative language techniques. If you wish to incorporate metaphors in your essay, you will need to learn how to use figurative language in your writing. 

What is a Figurative Language?

It is defined as every time you extend the literal meaning of words for impact, whether to seem creative, make a joke, or express more clearly and expressively. A figurative language is a typical approach in narrative writing in which the author attempts to connect emotionally with his reader.

The literal language employs the exact meaning of the terms and phrases without creativity or embellishment. Thus, it is, basically, the inverse of figurative language. For instance, if a sportsman is doing well, figuratively, you can say  “He is on fire.” However, if we adapt its literal meaning, it would mean that his clothes have caught fire which hopefully does not. 

Moreover, in specific circumstances, such as professional communication, academic papers, or legal documents, literal language serves a function. To put it frankly, literal writing can be uninteresting in other settings.

On the contrary, metaphorical language makes writing and speeches more interesting and entertaining. Your reader or listener must think about the words more carefully. It is more as if they have to decode a mystery that indicates that they are actively engaged.

Besides that, figurative language can also be used to assist clarify complicated topics. For instance, scientists may employ it to describe more complex parts of their study that a public audience may not comprehend.

Types of Figurative Language

Language has developed dramatically from its inception in early human history. Mankind has learned over time to utilize words not merely to describe thoughts and feelings, but also to break from commonly accepted meanings and convey more sophisticated meanings. 

With that being said, let us first learn what are the different types of figurative language before we learn how to use them in our writing.


A simile is used to compare two carrying things using “like” and “as”. The purpose of using simile is to draw the attention of the listener or reader to the comparison. Besides, they are great in helping the writer make their writing more exciting and memorable without compromising on its clarity.

For instance, “The very mystery of him excited her curiosity like a door that had neither lock nor key.” It is an example from “Gone with the Wind”.

More examples of similes are given as follows.

  • Her jacket was as soft as the butter.
  • He is as keen as his grandfather.
  • The kid climbed the tree like a monkey in terror.


Similar to a Simile, we use a metaphor to compare two different things. However, the main difference between the two is that we do not need words like “as” and “like in the case of metaphor.

Besides, metaphors do not usually acknowledge that it is a comparison. Therefore, most people mistake a metaphor for reality which makes them more figurative than a simile.

For instance, “The sun was a toddler insistently refusing to go to bed: It was past seven-thirty and still light.”  It is an example from the book “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

Here are a few more examples of Metaphors.

  • The classroom felt like a zoo.
  • Hassan is a night owl.
  • Josh is a chicken.


For unrealistic scenarios, we use hyperbole to add emphasis, humor, or effect for the sake of exaggeration. For instance, you can say that I have a million things to do when you are busy. Or if you are bored, you can say that I have nothing to do. Both of these are unrealistic and true at the same time.

For instance, “I have heard all things in the heaven and in the Earth. I heard many things in Hell. How then, am I mad?”

The above sentence is an example from “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Some more examples are as below.

  • He was running like a greased lightning.
  • My maths teacher is older than the hills.
  • I am gonna die if they ask me to dance.


An allusion is used to provide a concise reference to a person, place, event, thing, or poetic work that you assume your reader already knows about. Therefore, the writer does not feel to give more explanation about it.

For instance, “The camera has its own kind of consciousness; in the lens, the Garden of Eden itself would become ever so slightly too perfect.”

Above example references back to Timebends, A Life by Arthur Miller.

More examples of Alussion are below.

  • The garden of our old house was a perfect Eden.
  • Chocolate is his Achilles heel.


We use personification to give a human sense or characteristics to abstract or non-human objects or things. The characteristics can be physical attributes such as “the eye of the needle”, actions such as “the leaf is dancing in the wind”, or emotional such as “a single lonely sock”.

For instance, “Life moves pretty fast. If you do not stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It is an example from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by John Hughes.

Here are a few more examples.

  • The sun is smiling down at us; it is so peaceful.
  • The light is dancing on the surface of the river.
  • The wind was howling yesterday night.


An idiom is one of the most common figurative languages. It is basically an expression that illustrates a non-literal meaning that is connected to a phrase or a group of words. Thus, the meaning of the expression is not the same as its literal meaning.

For instance, “The professor told Sara to break the ice”. The meaning of this particular idiom “break the ice” is to start first.

A few more examples are as below.

  • She suggested Ali stop judging the book by its cover.
  • The news was already up in the air.
  • Lying to my father cost me an arm and a leg.

Why Do You Need to Use Figurative Language in Your Writing?

Figurative language may convert commonplace descriptions into vivid events, increase the emotional impact of passages, and elevate writing to the level of poetry. Besides that, it can also assist the reader to appreciate the underlying significance of a situation or recognize a literary topic more thoroughly.

Therefore, figurative language, in the hands of a gifted writer, is one of the techniques that elevate ordinary writing to the level of literature.

So, why settle for uninteresting writing when creative writing methods using figurative language might help you express yourself better, write more effectively, and convey your message easily? 

Here are a few reasons why you should also start using figurative language in your writing.

Make Your Writing More Interesting

Let us face it: simple, literal writing may be tedious. However, adding a few well-chosen idioms or similes to your paper makes it more entertaining and fascinating. 

Evokes Emotions

Figurative language, in addition to making your article more interesting, makes it more emotive. This implies that it can elicit an emotional response, allowing you to connect with your audience more effectively.

Make Your Writing More Persuasive

The best thing about figurative language is that it may help you make a convincing point in an argumentative essay. They can help you explain complex thoughts more clearly than literal words.

How to Use Figurative Language In Your Writing

Figurative language is an excellent technique for making your writing more fascinating and intriguing for your audience. Not only does it adds depth and subtlety to your writing, but it also strengthens your ideas.  

However, several students do not understand how to apply figurative language effectively while writing essays or in their general writing.

Therefore, we will look at some of the greatest methods to employ figurative language in your writing in this article. To get you begun, we will look at a few particular instances of how to utilize appropriate figurative language in writing. Hence, if you want to spice up your writing, keep on reading!

To Reveal Character Traits

You can use figurative language to reveal the characteristics of a character in your paper. For instance, you can use hyperbole to showcase the traits of your characters in your narrative essay. You can reveal how your character thinks, feels, behaves, or acts in a particular situation.

So, you can use hyperbole to make sure that an exaggerated speech thoroughly explains how your character reacts in a specific situation. For example, “I called you a thousand times in the morning.” It shows that the character in your paper is young, hot-blooded, dramatic, and short-tempered.

To Describe a Situation and Setting

If you want to describe a particular situation in your essay, you can use similes, or metaphors to perfectly describe it. For instance, you can say “Life is a tiring journey!”. It shows that you are trying to say describe how the ups and downs of life make it harder and more tiring.

To Create Some Humor

In addition to making your writing more interesting and aiding in the explanation of complicated subjects, figurative language is also fantastic for making people laugh. It is frequently used by comedians and comedy writers for punchlines and hilarious parallels.

Therefore, if you ever feel like your writing seems boring and less entertaining, you can use personification or hyperbole to try and create some humor in your writing. Because hyperbole introduces exaggeration in your writing that makes sure that your paper is humorous and interesting to read for your potential readers.

For example, if you want to describe how horrible your last date was, you can do so in the following way.

“He actually was chewing his food with his mouth all open the whole night. It was indeed a disgusting experience.”

To Give More Meaning to Objects

Make your audience think rationally by providing things, creatures, or characters with symbolic meanings or more complex meanings.

For instance, animals frequently represent many facets of human character. The coyote, for instance, is frequently shown as a prankster. On the other hand, a bear is frequently depicted as a sign of power and strength.

In addition to that, colors frequently represent many thoughts or feelings. For example, white is frequently associated with purity or innocence, whereas black is associated with death or wickedness.

To Intensify Contrast

One of the most known figurative languages is an oxymoron. It may be employed to compare two opposing things. For example, in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet tale, Juliet describes her separation from Romeo as “such delicious sadness”. It shows the inner struggle over how she eventually feels about their encounters. 

Besides that, Romeo also used terms such as “brawling love” and “loving hatred,” two oxymorons that build up the emotional inconsistencies Romeo experiences as a result of falling in love with Juliet.

Tips for Using Figurative Language in Your Writing

When using metaphorical language in your writings, be careful not to alter the meaning or break the natural flow of your work. Here are five strategies for properly using figurative language in your papers.

Understand Your Objective

Before you employ figurative language in your writing, consider why you want to use it in your writing. Besides that, also consider whether it fits with the content of your paper. Before including them in your writing, consider whether they reflect the style and tone of your work.

Know the Meaning

Avoid using figures of speech in your essay simply because you read or heard them someplace. If you are unclear of the meaning, investigate and comprehend it before neutrally adjusting phrases and words in your writing.

Choose Your Words Cautiously

Figurative language is all about finding fresh and fascinating ways to use words. Thus, do not be hesitant to experiment with your words and phrases. Instead, experiment with several figures of speech unless you discover the one that best fits the setting and topic of your paper.

Use Similes and Metaphors Sparingly

A text densely packed with metaphors and similes might be difficult to comprehend. The main purpose of choosing a figurative language is to assist you to improve mood, meaning, or topic. However, you should avoid using them just because you want to or you can.

After all, metaphors and similes can add interest to your writing, they can also become trite and lose significance if you overdo them. Therefore, use them rarely and only when they have a meaningful influence on your work.

Maintain a Good Balance

When employing metaphorical language, it is critical to achieving a ratio. Too much will be complicated and difficult to comprehend. On the other hand, too little will have no effect. Thus, find a happy medium where you can successfully explain your thoughts without overpowering the reader

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