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Figurative Language and Literary Devices

Sounds fancy!

Figurative language means using figures of speech, or literary devices, such as metaphors, similes, and hyperbole, oh my! Dressing up your writing with these can add clarity and make a drab sentence more colorful, impactful, and effective.

That's a good thing, right?

Well, yes and no. Glam it up, but don't overdo it! It's like the old adage, 'everything within moderation.' For instance, you may want to curtail the gazillion hyperboles you're dying to fling onto the page. (See what I did there?) The same holds true for our writing buddies, onomatopoeia and alliteration. Bam, pow, they're freaking fun and fabulous. (I'm on a roll, somebody stop me) Okay, when writing a novel, think of those two like extras on a movie set or athletes hanging out on the bench. In other words, use them sparingly. For reals!

And, yes, believe it or not, you can clog up a worthy story with boatloads of metaphors, no matter how original or how you might think they glimmer and glisten. They will dull the shine of your story, as will repetitive metaphors, those you include ad nauseam. Watch out, throwing in the dreaded, dead metaphor can be as bad as cluttering your manuscript with clichés. Learn to spot these as you write and edit your WIP, because too much, is well, too much.

Using figurative language to cleverly craft suggestive comparisons, sounds peachy, however, working in scores of similes into scenes is a big no-no too. Most readers will find them tiresome, after a while, like the visitor who overstayed their welcome. Just like the hackneyed metaphor, they too will detract from your prose. The same goes for dropping in numerous oxymorons, love bombing your prose with repetitive personification, and filling up your story with juxtapositions left, right, and center.

You must remember to keep track of how often you employ figurative language. As an author, you run the risk of losing readers who may find literary device overuse, jarring, stale, and distracting, temporarily taking them away from your story.


Now that you've got the low-down on some of the more popular literary devices, keep them in mind as you draft that WIP. Avoid over-using them and add your own spin so your writing sparkles instead of sounding humdrum!


Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.



Wordy is the get-in-the-know hotspot for writers. From grammar to publishing find info, tips, and inspiration to take your WIP (Work In Progress) to the next level.


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I co-founded and managed a successful author and writer group on Long Island for five years. During events with publishers and authors I learned what matters, what agents are looking for, and the benefits and pitfalls of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

I've gained a lot of tips and tidings on my writing journey and want to share what I know.

Besides my passion for writing, I'm a fitness enthusiast, and I love coffee, chocolate, and animals. I'm mom to two amazing young men, and I live on Long Island with my husband, four zany cats, and the sweetest dog ever.

Whether you're new to writing, ready to query, or about to submit your manuscript,  welcome, you've come to the right place.

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