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How to write effectively (and 5 ways figurative language can help)

By | b2b, business advice, editing, Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

You need to write effectively.

What do we mean by that?

Quite simply, effective writing is successful writing. It helps you achieve your goals. Whether you’re writing your thesis, pitching your first novel, or selling a product, your words need to captivate your reader and keep them engaged to the end. Otherwise, your message will be lost along with your audience. That’s where figurative language comes in. It brings colour to your writing, strengthens your argument, and paints unforgettable images in your reader’s mind. When used correctly, figurative language is memorable, persuasive, and impactful. It is the difference between telling a customer what they need, and persuading them to part with their cash.

For many of us, writing for an audience of some type is an everyday occurrence. Yet many people lack the confidence to use figurative language effectively in their writing. This month we delve into figurative language, defining it, giving examples, and exploring how it can help you to write effectively.

What is figurative language?

Figurative language uses words to create meanings and mental images that are more powerful than mere statements of fact. Figurative language is non-literal, so the words used have a different meaning to their everyday, literal definitions.

What does figurative language do?

It makes a piece of writing more interesting, dramatic, or memorable. It helps the writer to communicate their message as clearly as possible. Think of figurative language as the toolkit that writers use to build imagery – the pictures and sensations that a reader experiences in their mind. These pictures and sensations are the holy grail of effective writing. They tip the balance between stating your argument, and convincing your audience that you’re right. Figurative language achieves these effects in several ways:

  • Creating vivid images
  • Putting new or complex ideas into a familiar, understandable context
  • Giving words pace, musicality and rhythm.

Figurative language types

There are several types of figurative language available to writers – the following types are commonly used by writers to breathe life into their prose.

  • metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies one thing as another.

The agency was a colossus of the marketing industry.

  • simile compares two unalike objects introducing this comparison with connecting words such as “like” or “as”.

His eyes were as black as coal

  • Personification gives human qualities and forms to animals, inanimate objects, and ideas.

The shadows danced in the candlelight.

  • Hyperbole uses exaggeration intentionally to emphasise a point.

I’ve told you a thousand times!

  • Onomatopoeia is when a word or phrase mimics the sound of the object or action it refers to.

Crack of the whip

  • Alliteration layers sound upon the literal meaning of words to create an effect. It uses repeated sounds or letters to create imagery, mood, or emphasis.

The wild wind wailed a maudlin melody.

  • A Pun is a play on words. It uses the homonyms or different meanings of a word to create humour.

The past glared at the future perfect: it was a tense situation.

  • Idioms are non-literal phrases that are commonly used by speakers of the same language. Every language has its own unique idioms. The below phrase is a common English idiom which means that it is raining heavily.

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Using figurative language to write effectively

Knowing your similes from your idioms is all well and good, but it won’t help you pass your assignment or make that sale. You need to put your knowledge into practice. Here are five ways that you can use figurative language to produce high-impact writing that captivates your reader.

 

  1. Use sensory descriptions to immerse your reader

Your reader will be more engaged in your writing if you immerse them in your scenario. In other words, make them feel as though they are actually there with you. To do this, you’ll need to provide sensory descriptions – smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and textures. Figurative language offers a helping hand that makes your sensory descriptions more evocative. The below example uses alliteration and simile to describe the taste of a particular scotch whisky.

Talisker Skye has a smoky sweetness with maritime notes and a spicy edge,

rugged in beauty like a Hebridean island.

– Talisker Distillery, www.malts.com

 

  1. Persuade your audience

Whether you’re proposing a theory or selling a product, you need to persuade your reader that your ideas are right. Obviously, you’ll need to provide evidence to support your claims, but figurative language can make your argument more persuasive. The example below uses a metaphor that compares racism to a disease. Think about how the phrase makes you feel. It creates a feeling of disgust, of something being damaging, harmful and repellent. This emphasises how damaging racism can be, and the importance of eliminating it.

Racism is a disease that must be eradicated.

  1. Create emphasis and impact

Figurative language can be useful when you need to make an impact. It adds an extra layer of intensity to your statement. The sentence below is a commonly-used example of hyperbole that deliberately uses exaggeration to emphasise how hungry the person is. It is more effective than simply saying “I’m hungry”.

I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.

 

  1. Make your material relatable

There’s no doubt that some subjects lack popular appeal. Thankfully, figurative language invokes commonly-shared experiences to make even the driest material relatable. The following quote uses personification to describe the writing and editing process:

The goal of text generation is to throw confused, wide-eyed words on a page; the goal of text revision is to scrub the words clean so that they sound nice and can go out in public.

– Paul J. Silvia

Anyone who has bathed an unruly child can relate to the image that Paul J. Silvia creates. The description perfectly captures the process of writing and editing, even for an audience less familiar with the subject.

 

  1. Add clarity

We know that figurative language can help paint a picture in a reader’s mind, and sometimes that picture can help to add clarity to an idea or description. The example sentence uses a simile to compare the surface of a lake to a mirror, making it explicitly clear that the water is motionless.

The lake was perfectly still and smooth, like a mirror.

 

And finally…

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas about how to use figurative language in your writing. If you’re looking for more in-depth help and advice, contact Wordsmiths by email or WhatsApp. Our editing service can help bring your writing to life, keeping your readers engaged in your message. To find out more about our editing services, check out our website. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get more tips on writing and editing. Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to receive our latest news and blog first.

New Year's resolutions for your business. A desk with a blank notepad lying on it.

6 New Year’s resolutions for your businesses – and how to stick to them

By | b2b, business advice, editing | No Comments

The new year is an opportunity to make positive changes. That’s why January often brings a surge of gym memberships and diet foods. While it’s great to develop your personal life, shouldn’t you be making New Year’s resolutions for your business too? After all, the end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on your business’ progress over the last 12 months. It’s a chance to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and devise a business development plan. So, we’ve listed six of our favourite New Year’s resolutions for business owners, starting with some quick pointers on how to keep them going when the initial enthusiasm wears off.

Making resolutions that stick

Most people struggle to maintain their New Year’s resolutions beyond February, so here are some tried and tested ways to help you stick to your business goals.

Stay accountable

Make your resolutions public. The expectations of others will add momentum to your business goals, making them more likely to succeed. Also, sharing your goals publicly creates shared accountability and encourages shared ideas – this is important if reaching your goals will require a team effort.

Remind yourself why you’re doing this

Every project and every team will go through tough periods, when reaching your goal seems further away than ever. To combat this, regularly remind yourself and your team WHY you are trying to achieve it. Doing so will keep you focussed and motivated.

Base your ideas in reality

Avoid setting yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The most successful projects are realised through a succession of manageable goals, which leave you positioned to make larger changes. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Which brings us onto our next point…

Break it down

Your goal may have a lot of complex components. If so, break it down into manageable steps. Set a clear plan with clearly defined stages and milestones, and focus on one step at a time. This will help you track your progress, adapt to any changes, and prevent your team becoming overwhelmed. It also means you can celebrate each milestone along the way, helping to keep everyone’s enthusiasm stoked up.

New Year’s resolutions for businesses 

So, which New Year’s resolutions should you make to enjoy business success in 2020? Here are six of our favourites.

1. Make time for yourself

When you run a business, it’s hard to prioritise yourself. Many small business owners feel overwhelmed by trying to do ALL. OF. THE. THINGS. And, when it comes to a choice between personal time and work, the former always loses out. However, as any mental health professional will tell you, an unhealthy work-life balance will eventually take its toll. If you don’t make time to rest and recharge, your energy levels, productivity, and health will suffer in the long term. Stephen Covey once said, “don’t prioritise your schedule, schedule your priorities”, and that’s what you need to do. Prioritise “you” time by writing it into your schedule. Make YOU the priority, because if you don’t, no one else will.

2. Start a business blog

Anyone who tells you that blogging is dead is lying to you. Creating original content on a business blog remains a fantastic way to engage with consumers, build your brand, and grow your business. Blogging gives businesses the chance to share their expertise and passion, and showcase their products or services. What’s more, all that original content can be broken down and used in social media posts, email campaigns, and marketing material. It’s also a great way to improve your SEO and keep the Google bots happy.

3. Out with the old, in with the new

If something isn’t working, change it. Is there a piece of equipment that’s interfering with your productivity? Replace it. Likewise, if your business lacks a particular skill set, now is the time to address this. That may involve taking on a new employee, or buying in the expertise of an external company. It could even be that the information on your website, social media, or marketing material is tired and out of date, and no longer reflects your key business message. Indeed, many of our newest customers at Wordsmiths are small businesses who want to boost their brand by re-vamping their written content. Whatever you need to change, let 2020 be the year that you stop making do. The financial outlay will be worth every penny when you realise your business goals.

4. Be a community player

There is no better way to build goodwill for your business than giving back to your local community. Even if you run an online business with a far-flung customer base, there will be many organisations in your local community who could benefit from your help and support. That support could take the form of donating your products or expertise, or it may just be a simple matter of giving a little time and supporting fundraising drives. So, find a local group whose mission matters to you, and get stuck in.

5. Communicate more effectively

Through customer service, digital media, and keeping staff informed of new developments, effective communication underpins business success. Conversely, poor communication can undermine consumer confidence and damage your brand’s reputation. Just imagine how your business would be affected if you didn’t reply to customer queries, or had a website full of typos and outdated information. For things to run smoothly, all of your stakeholders – staff, consumers, and suppliers – need to receive the right information at the right time.

6. Delegate more things, more often

As we mentioned earlier, small business owners are often used to doing everything by themselves, but that leads to a negative work-life balance. Delegation – whether internal or outsourcing – is fundamental to restoring this balance. Admittedly, handing the reigns to someone else can be difficult, especially if you’re a micro-manager. But remember, delegation can benefit your business. It gives you the chance to focus on your areas of strength, as well as bringing in fresh ideas from other people. If you’re struggling to decide which tasks to delegate, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which tasks overwhelm you?
  • Are there any tasks that you dread?
  • Could any tasks be done more quickly by someone else?

The answers will give you clear picture of which jobs you should hand over.

And finally…

If your business New Year’s resolutions include outsourcing editing, updating your written digital content, or starting that business blog – contact Wordsmiths. We work with print and digital media, offering everything from a final check for accuracy to a comprehensive rewriting service. If you want to read more from us, follow Wordsmiths on Instagram and Facebook, or subscribe to via email to receive our latest news and blogs first.