My students seem to struggle with using words that have a strong impact on their audiences, words that evoke an emotional response by their vividness or clarity. My theory is that most of us have not been given permission during our school years to write from our hearts and have not been taught to use language to do anything but define our meaning. To help us break through to a more glorious use of our language, to give more visionary views of what we mean by what we write or say, I have compiled a short list of suggestions:
I. Create rhythm through parallel structures
- Arrange similar words together.
The girl was ill-bred, ill-advised and ill-mannered.
- Arrange similar phrases together.
It’s much easier to watch an action movie than a narrative movie.
- Arrange similar clauses or whole sentences together.
The coach told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and that they should do some warm-up exercises before the game. [This and other examples can be found at this link: Purdue OWL]
II. Create rhythm with repetition using same word/sets
Use the same words or phrases at the beginning or end of clauses.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” (I Have a Dream by MLK, Jr.)
III. Create rhythm with alliteration (repeating initial consonants)
“I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet/When far away an interrupted cry/Came over houses from another street”
(from Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost)
IV. Create imagery with word pictures using similes & metaphors
Similes – compare things that are essentially different but have something in common (use like or as)
- Example: My love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June, My love is like a melody that’s sweetly played in tune.
Metaphors – similar to similes but without using like or as
- Example: Politicians should darn the holes in the ragged economy before we all start to feel the cold.
Examples of similes and metaphors from Romeo and Juliet can be found here: Figurative Language written by Wm. Shakespeare