Oct 12 2022

How to Use Good Figurative Language for Essays

Stefani Holloway photo Stefani Holloway Content strategist and writer
Writing Advice

Figurative language is a great way to make your essays more engaging and interesting for your readers. Not only does it add depth and nuance to your writing, but also makes your arguments more persuasive.

Original: SourceHowever, many students don't know how to use figurative language effectively when writing essays.

In this post, we'll explore some of the best ways to use figurative language in your essays. We'll also look at a few specific examples of how to use good figurative language for essays to help you get started. So if you want to add some punch to your writing, keep reading!

What is Figurative Language in Writing

Figurative language is a form of writing that uses words or expressions in a non-literal way to add interest. The terms used in figurative language are not to be taken literally. In other words, it's a literary device that adds deeper meaning to your essay and makes your writing more engaging.

Why do authors use figurative language?

Authors use figurative language to make their stories more interesting to the readers. They also use them to evoke emotional reactions so they can connect deeply with the readers and hold their attention.

Can you use figurative language in academic writing?

Yes. You can use figurative language in academic writing if you are tactical enough to use it well. Academic writing is not always flowery, and using many figures of speech may look like fluff. Therefore, you should use them sparingly.

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Importance of Figurative Language in Essays

Why resort to dull writing when you can use literary devices to help you express better, write impactfully and drive the message home? Here’s how you can take your writing to the next level by adding good figurative language for essays.

Makes essays interesting

Let's face it—plain, literal writing can be pretty boring. However, your essay becomes more enjoyable and interesting when you add a few well-chosen metaphors or similes. For instance, compare these two sentences:

Sentence 1: The wind was howling.

Sentence 2: The wind was like a wolf, howling at the moon.

While sentence 1 is not incorrect and reads fine, the second one is interesting and evocative.

Evokes emotions

In addition to making your essay more intriguing, figurative language makes it more evocative. This means that it can create an emotional reaction, which helps you connect better with your readers.

For example, if you're describing a sunset, you could say it was "red and orange." But if you want to evoke an emotional reaction, you could say, "The sunset was like a giant fireball, sinking slowly into the horizon."

Makes a persuasive argument

Finally, figurative language is also helpful when making a persuasive argument as in an argumentative essay. You can use them to communicate complicated ideas more clearly than in literal language.

For example, let's say you're trying to argue that somebody is acting selfishly. Instead of simply saying they're "selfish," you can drive your point home by saying, "She's acting like the world revolves around her!".

What are the 5 Main Types of Figurative Language

Now that you know what figurative language is and the importance of using them in essays, let’s take a look at the five main types of figurative language you can use, along with some examples.

1. Simile

A simile is a figure of speech that uses words "like" or "as" to compare two things that are not actually alike. Similes are often used in poetry and song lyrics to create imagery and help the reader visualize what the writer is saying.

For example, when you say, "My heart was like a rock tumbling down a mountainside," you are painting a vivid picture of how your heart reacted to a situation.

5 examples of a simile:

  • As sweet as sugar;
  • As strong as an ox;
  • Swam like a fish;
  • Busy as a bee;
  • Cool as a cucumber.

2. Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two, unlike things without using the words "like" or "as." For example, you might say, "Love is a rose." to mean that love is beautiful and special, but it can also have thorns that can hurt you.

Metaphors are often used to make complex ideas more relatable and easier to understand.

5 examples of a metaphor:

  • Life is a roller coaster ride;
  • All the world is a stage;
  • She lit up the room;
  • He is the apple of my eye;
  • John was a fish out of water in his new office.

3. Hyperbole

Hyperbole is an exaggeration used for emphasis or comic effect. It's often used in fiction and advertising to grab attention and make an impact.

5 examples of hyperbole:

  • I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse;
  • She slept for a thousand years;
  • It’s raining cats and dogs;
  • My work is killing me;
  • This essay is going to take years.

4. Personification

Personification is a figurative language that gives human characteristics to nonhuman objects or concepts. It makes descriptions more vivid and interesting by making them relatable to human experiences.

5 examples of personification:

  • Flowers danced in the breeze;
  • The cameras loved her;
  • London is calling;
  • The plants were begging for water;
  • Life passed me by.

5. Symbolism

Symbolism is when an object or action represents something else, usually something abstract, like an emotion or quality.

For instance, the color black often symbolizes death or darkness, while white might represent purity or innocence. In literature, authors often use symbolism to give their stories more depth and meaning.

Want to learn more about symbolism in writing? Check out this video by Reedsy.


4 Ways to Use Good Figurative Language for Essays

Figurative language can turn a simple description into a vivid work of art. However, it can be tough to know where to start if you've never used figurative language before. Here are some practical ways to add them to your essays.

Use hyperbole to reveal character traits

Hyperbole is an excellent tool to reveal the character traits of characters in your essay. You can use them to express how a particular character thinks, acts, feels, or behaves.

An exaggerated speech can show precisely how they feel about a situation. For instance, when a character says: "I tried calling you a million times!" This can reveal that the character is young, dramatic, and impatient.

Use metaphors to describe situations and settings

Similes and metaphors are the best figures of speech for describing situations or settings.

For instance, you could say, "Life is a journey" to describe the ups and downs of life's experiences. Or, you can say, "She was as angry as a hornet" to describe someone who was very angry.

Create some humor

You can use figurative language like hyperbole or personification to create a little humor in your essay. The exaggeration that comes with hyperbole can make your writing humorous and exciting to read.

For instance, when describing a disastrous date you went on, you might write: "He was chewing with his mouth open the whole time, and I was sure I saw something moving around in there. I don't think I've ever been so disgusted in my life."

By exaggerating the grossness of the situation, you add humor and a gross-out factor to your story, which will keep your readers entertained.

Use symbolism to give more meaning to objects

Make your readers think critically by giving more profound meaning to objects, animals, or characters with a symbolic meaning.

  • Animals often symbolize various aspects of human nature. For example, the coyote is often seen as a trickster figure, while the bear often symbolizes strength.
  • Colors often symbolize different ideas or emotions. For instance, white often represents purity or innocence, while black represents death or evil.

What is an example of a figurative language paragraph?

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare writes, "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun."

Shakespeare uses a simile to compare Juliet to the sun in this instance. He is saying that just as the sun brings light to the dawn, Juliet brings light into Romeo's life.

5 Tips To Use Figurative Language Effectively In Essays

When adding figurative language to your essays, you have to be tactical so they don't distort the meaning or disrupt the natural flow of your writing. Here are five tips on how to use figurative language effectively in essays.

Understand your goal

Before using any figurative language in your essay, know why you want to use them and whether they fit into the content. Also, understand whether they match the tone and style of your writing before adding them to the essay.

Use metaphors and similes sparingly

While metaphors and similes can make your essays interesting, they can become cliche and lose meaning if overused. When writing your essays, use them sparingly and only when they genuinely impact your writing.

Choose your words carefully

Figurative language is all about using words in new and interesting ways. When choosing your words and phrases, don't be afraid to experiment. Try out different figures of speech until you find the best fit for your essay context and message.

Strike a good balance

It's essential to strike a balance when using figurative language. Too much and it will become confusing and difficult to follow; too little and it will have no impact.

Find a middle ground that allows you to effectively communicate your ideas without overwhelming the reader.

Know the meaning

Finally, avoid flushing figures of speech into your essay just because you've heard them or read them somewhere. If you're unsure of the meaning, research and understand it first, and see if it fits your essay before ambiguously fixing words and phrases.

Final thoughts

Figurative language is a powerful tool that can add depth and dimension to your essays. Since they are diverse and dynamic, you must choose your words and phrases carefully to find the ones that work best for your essay.

Once you understand how to effectively use similes, metaphors, hyperbole, personification, and symbolism, you can create vivid images, emphasize important points, and set the tone for your story.

Now that you know how to add good figurative language for essays, don't hesitate to use them in your next essay writing assignment — you may be surprised by how striking and captivating your essay comes out.

At Writers Per Hour, we have expert writers who are aware of different literary devices such as figurative language and know how to use them to takes essays to the next level.

What’s more, apart from writing essays from scratch, we also provide editing and proofreading services and give your essays that final finishing touch that can help you get the grades you desire.

last edit at Nov 01 2022