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Write Better Speeches and Letters With These Literary Devices and Figures Of Speech



When you want to improve the impact of your speeches, letters, and other writing, it’s time to start deploying literary devices! English is a rich language full of poetic language and literary devices. Mastering these advanced literary techniques will improve your ability to reach your audience and create the desired effect.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common rhetorical techniques used to spice up writing and speeches – but we’ll also talk about some of the less well-known literary devices that can help you get better at writing!

The Five Most Common Literary Devices

These are so commonplace that you probably already use them daily, although you might need to learn their names or how to use them to the best effect.

1 – Metaphors

A metaphor is simply a comparison between two things that seem unrelated but have something in common. That commonality is what creates the metaphor. For example, the common phrase “the black sheep of the family.” This indicates someone fundamentally unlike the other family members, in the same way, that a sheep with black wool would be unlike its white-wooled herd.

It’s important to note that a metaphor does not use “like” or “as.” For those, you use:

2 – Similes

Similes are very similar to metaphors, except they use “like” or “as” to link the two topics. For example, “I run as fast as the wind!” This is another extremely common literary device and a great way to inspire your audience’s imagination.

However, running “as fast as the wind” is also an example of:

3 – Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration for the sake of drama or otherwise adding emotional impact. Keeping that same example, no human being can run as fast as the wind. However, saying so still conveys the sense that the person can still run very, very fast. This can also be a good way to make grandiose claims without being too specific.

4 – Understatement

Understatement is the opposite of hyperbole. That is, deliberately minimizing the significance of an object or activity. “I was kicked out of my apartment, which was quite annoying.” Becoming homeless is far worse than merely annoying, but saying it this way creates a feeling of irony. It can also indicate the speaker has a sense of humor and is deliberately not complaining about something they could complain about.

5 – Personification

Personification means assigning human qualities to a non-human thing, which can help your audience empathize with that thing. “My car was coughing and wheezing” is an example of personification (and also hyperbole), which compares a broken-down car to a sickly person, emphasizing its poor functionality.

Alliteration: Repeating the same initial consonant sound several times, such as “Sally sells seashells” or “Donnie dreams darkly.” This is a highly poetic form, and the repeated sound attracts people’s attention.

Assonance: This is similar to alliteration, except it focuses on repeating vowel sounds that are close together. This can create flowing, almost melodic effects and is excellent for speeches. The famous line by William Blake begins, “Tiger, tiger, burning bright,” for example. The repeated vowel sounds create a sonorous sonic flow.

Juxtaposition: This involves placing two ideas that are opposites, or at least in opposition, close to each other. For example, Charles Dickens’ “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” The seeming contradiction creates curiosity in the audience as you expand on why both thoughts in a juxtaposition are true.

Anthimeria: Using a word in a non-standard grammatical form, such as turning a noun into a verb, or vice-versa, such as “I’m supposed to be a grown-up, but I’m bad at adulting.” Turning a noun into a verb is sometimes also called “verbing, ” which is an anthimeria. If the word seems odd, it’s extremely old and has been used since the 1500s!

Rhetorical Questions: Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked without the expectation of receiving an answer. Typically, the speaker will answer a rhetorical question as part of their speech, but sometimes, the question is left unanswered so the audience can ponder it. “Crime is rampant in this city – so why doesn’t somebody do something?”

Tripling: People seem to remember things better when they come in threes, so structuring your writing or speech to use triplets can be an effective communication technique. For example, “A government of the people, for the people, by the people.”

Keep practicing these literary devices, and your writing and speech improve quickly!


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