Friday, December 6, 2013

Add Depth to Writing with Expressive Words

Expressive types of speech can describe characters, put the reader into settings, and heighten or clarify action. Comparisons and explanatory word choices add depth to writing. Psychologist/writing teacher extraordinaire, Margie Lawson, claims there are many rhetorical devices to use in our writing, but twenty-five top her best-ever list.

Before taking her classes, I admit to only remembering four; simile, metaphor, oxymoron, and alliteration.

How many can you name?

How many do you use in your writing?

Expressive types of speech makes your writing not just good, but excellent.

I scanned a couple of my works in progress, picked out a few sentences, and applied an expressive type of speech to make the sentence or sentences visible and memorable. I first give a definition. Here’s  my before and after sentences to spark your imagination.


Alliteration – using the same consonant sounds in a row.

Before - Her mother’s calls unsettled her.

After – Her mother’s calls drenched her with discomfort, distaste, and disappointment.


Simile - comparing one thing with something else (usually used with like or as).

Before – Her words hurt Lacey.

After - Her words sliced through Lacey like tornados shattered Texas cornfields.

Before – His going to church was rare.

After - His going to church was like moving a redneck into New York City.

Metaphor – Comparing two things by using one in place of the other.

Before – A river wound through the canyon walls.

After – A green snake writhed between canyon walls.

Before – When Victoria moved to the country, she got a cute guy, but I get an old, crippled-looking man.

After - When Victoria moved to the country, she got a cute guy, but I get Gandolf from Lord of the Rings. 

For those who read my book, “Victoria and the Ghost,” the above example comes from the sequel due out in June, 2014.

Personification – speaking of inanimate objects like they were alive.

Before – Purple wildflowers bloomed at the rocks’ edge.

After - Purple wildflowers wiggled their stiff stems and demanded space amongst the rocks.

Oxymoron – two words that mean the exact opposite

Before - She wore make-up but was still ugly.

After – She was as gorgeous as Godzilla in makeup.

Anaphora – is repeating the same words or phrases three times for emphasis.

Before – (only the original sentence) Her heart moved out of her chest, skimmed her stomach, wiggled toward her toes.

After - (same sentence but added anaphora)  Her heart moved out of her chest, skimmed her stomach, wiggled toward her toes.

  Perhaps it was his too-sad eyes.

  Perhaps it was his too-caring tone.

  Perhaps it was the way he caught her when her legs gave way.

Well, there’s my examples.
I challenge you to go through your works in progress. Use expressive types of speech to clarify, heighten sensory, and rev up action.  Make your writing superb.


  1. Janet,
    Anaphora is one type of figurative language I don't tend to use. I'll add it to my toolbox. Thanks!

  2. You're sure welcome, Linda. I didn't either until I took a 4 day class with Margie. That was 1 I've learned to love.

  3. Janet,
    Very helpful post. Thanks so much! I'll be looking through my current project to add more spice to my story.

    1. Thanks, Jean Ann, we must never stop improving. These devices add an extra layer. Good luck.

  4. I agree with all your examples except oxymoron. An oxymoron is the use of two words together that have opposite meaning, such as icy hot, living death, elderly youth. The pairing of the two opposites create oxymoron.

  5. I guess your right, Vivian. That's the real definition, isn't it? Still I like to play with it a bit. My bad. Thanks for keeping me accurate.

  6. Useful information, Janet. I never hear of the term anaphora before. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I hadn't heard about it either, but I love using it.

  7. Good points to remember. Sometimes I get lazy and take the easy way out. Will remember these.

    1. I hear you, Beverly, I do, too. It took my 2 1/2 hours to come up with these examples. Shows how hard it can be, especially to dream up fresh new ideas, not cliché.