Violations of Figures of Speech
Carelessness in our choice of words impairs the effectiveness of what we have to say. In our effort to improve our writing, we must carefully select words that are exact, appropriate, and expressive. We should do our best to avoid the following violations of effectiveness: (1) needless repetition, (2) exaggeration, (3) trite expressions, (4) hackneyed quotations, and (5) overuse of figurative language.
1) Needless repetition.
Conciseness, the use of one expressive word in place of several words, makes our writing more effective. We should avoid tautology, which consists in repeating needless meaning in other words; and redundancy, which consists in using excess words.
Such expressions as in plain sight and clearly visible, his own individuality and personality, and azure blue illustrate what we mean by tautology.
Phrases such as advance forward, return back, join together, repeat again, finally at last, and rest up are examples of redundancy.
Good writing dictates that we must express ourselves concisely and clearly to benefit our readers.
The careless use of excess words, as well as needless exaggeration of all other types, reduces rather than improves the effectiveness of our writing. Many of us overuse the words very and most, as well as many modifying words such as adorable, awful, deadly, elegant, exquisite, fascinating, ghastly, gorgeous, grand, great, horrible, lovely, magnificent, splendid, stupendous, superb, terrible, weird, beautifully, gorgeously, horribly, magnificently, powerfully, splendidly, terribly, and wonderfully. We should use these words only sparingly when they express exactly what we mean.
Our writing sounds weak and awkward when we use such expressions as "I was literally scared to death," "I have a million things to do today!" or "I was so embarrassed, I thought I might die." Such expressions usually savor of insincerity, and they lack in accuracy and force. Basically, they are ineffective.
3) Trite expressions
Within the boundaries of correct English usage we should aim to develop individuality in our own writing style. We cannot do so if we lazily allow ourselves to continue to use trite expressions, such as along this line, last but not least, green with envy, silence reigned supreme, back to the drawing board, since the dawn of man, and many others. If we think clearly and choose words with exactness and force, we will have clear, meaningful writing.
4) Hackneyed quotations
Quotations and proverbs that have become timeworn by overuse impair the effectiveness of our writing. We should avoid such threadbare expressions as the following:
EX. method in his madness
EX. he that runs may read
EX. What's in a name?
EX. sermons in stones
EX. the straight and narrow way
EX. far from the madding crowd
EX. the last rose of summer
EX. There's no place like home
EX. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
EX. plain living and high thinking
EX. Better late than never
5) Overuse of figurative language.
Figures of speech are valuable to add effectiveness of what we have to say. They should never be far-fetched, forced, or inappropriate. Use them instinctively, rather than as a result of invention. They should not call attention to themselves as a literary device, but should naturally and unobtrusively contribute their share to the force, vividness, and attractiveness of our expression. They are a means, not an end in themselves. Do not abuse such figures as hyperbole, apostrophe, epigram, irony, and euphemism. Be on our guard against overworked figurative expressions such as the grim reaper, the table groaned, brave as a lion, ran like a frightened deer, as sick as a dog, and as black as ink. We should make our own figures rather than accept them ready-made.
Always make sure figures of speech do not interfere with other more important words in your sentences. The purpose of using a figure of speech is to add vividness and clearness to your writing, not hamper or hinder it. Once you have cultivated your imagination and learn to observe comparisons, you will notice that with careful observation figures of speech suggest themselves to you naturally.
For instance, if you want to describe a car speeding out of control toward you at night, you can create a vivid impression by comparing it to some monster, like a dragon, whose fiery eyes glare at you through the darkness. If a simile sounds to awkward or slightly ridiculous, all you need to do is remove the formal comparison and use an implied comparison, or a metaphor.
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