Figures of Speech: 40 Ways to Improve your Writing
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Figures of Speech: 40 Ways to Improve your Writing

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Figures of Speech

Figures of Speech: 40 Ways to Improve your Writing

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Figurative speech plays an important role in our ability to communicate with one another. It helps create compelling narratives, and evoke emotion in readers.

With this in mind, this periodic table graphic by Visual Communication Guy groups the 40 different figures of speech into two distinct categories—schemes and tropes.

What’s the difference between the two, and how can they help improve your writing?

Types of Schemes

In linguistics, a scheme is language that plays with sentence structure to make a sentence smoother, or even more persuasive, using syntax, word order, or sounds.

Here are four different ways that schemes fiddle with sentence structure.

Balance

This is especially important when trying to make a sentence smoother. A good example of balance is parallelism, which is when you use the same grammatical form in at least two parts of a sentence.

  • Not parallelism: “She likes reading, writing, and to paint on the weekends.”
  • Parallelism: “She likes reading, writing, and painting on the weekends.”

Word Order

Changing the position of words can have an impact on the way a sentence is understood. For instance, anastrophe is the deliberate reordering of words in a sentence to either emphasize a certain point, or distinguish a character as different.

  • An example of anastrophe: “The greatest teacher, failure is.” -Yoda

Omission and/or Inclusion

Omissions and inclusions are useful in order to build suspense or add emotional expression to text. For example, an ellipsis is a form of punctuation that uses three dots (…) to either replace a word in a sentence or indicate a break in speech or an incomplete thought.

  • Example of an ellipsis: “I was thinking of calling her Susie. Well, at least I was until…never mind. Forget I said anything.”

Repetition

Similar to the other types of schemes, repetition allows you to emphasize a certain point you want the reader to pay attention to, but it’s also used to create rhymes and poetry.

A well-known literary device, alliteration uses the same consonant sound at the start of each word in a sentence. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same letter, so long as the sound is the same.

  • A popular example is this nursery rhyme: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  • Another example: Phillip’s feet. (different letter, but same sound)

Types of Tropes

While schemes play around with the mechanics of a sentence, tropes stray from the literal or typical meanings to evoke emotion, and keep a reader engaged and interested.

Tropes help create an alternative sense of reality, using these five strategies.

Reference

These are literary devices that help paint a deeper picture of a concept, using a reference to something related, but different.

Metaphors and similes are common examples of references, but a lesser-known type of reference is a synecdoche, which is when a small part of something is used in reference to the thing as a whole.

  • An example of a synecdoche: “Check out my new wheels.” (where wheels refer to a car)

Wordplay & Puns

This type of literary device plays with sounds or meaning to add depth to a sentence. For instance, a syllepsis uses one word to create parallels between two separate thoughts, while an onomatopoeia is a figure of speech that uses words (either real or made-up) or even letters to describe a sound.

  • An example of a syllepsis: “When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes.” – E.B. White
  • An example of an onomatopoeia: “Ding-dong” (the sound of a doorbell)

Substitutions

This is when someone replaces a word or thought with something else. For instance, anthimeria is the use of a word in a grammatical form it’s not generally used in, while periphrasis is when someone intentionally elaborates on a point, instead of expressing it succinctly.

  • An anthimeria: “I could use a good sleep.” (Sleep is normally a verb, but here it’s used as a noun)
  • Example of a periphrasis: Instead of saying, “It’s cold outside.” you say, “The temperature of the atmosphere when I exited my home this morning was quite chilly and exceptionally uncomfortable.”

Overstatement and/or Understatement

These are intentionally exaggerated, or downplayed situations that aren’t meant to be taken literally. A hyperbole is an example of an overstatement, while litotes are the opposite—deliberate understatements.

  • An example of a hyperbole: I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.
  • While a litotes looks like this: It’s not rocket science.

Inversions

This type of literary technique uses contradictory ideas and indirect questions for dramatic effect, or to emphasize a point. For instance, an oxymoron is when two contradictory words are used back-to-back.

  • An example of an oxymoron: Act natural

Using Figures of Speech to Craft Content

First, let’s just address it…Yes, I did use alliteration in the above header, and yes, now I’m using an ellipsis in this sentence.

Because let’s face it—in the age of information overload, writing articles that are interesting and compelling to readers is a top priority for online content creators. And using figurative language is a good way to keep readers attention.

So, if you’re a content creator yourself (or simply looking to beef up your knowledge on linguistics), hopefully this graphic has helped you on that journey.

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Misc

Iconic Infographic Map Compares the World’s Mountains and Rivers

This iconic infographic map is an early and ambitious attempt to compare the world’s tallest mountains and longest rivers.

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Today, highly detailed maps of our planet’s surface are just a click away.

In times past, however, access to information was much more limited. It wasn’t until the 1800s that comparison diagrams and maps became widely accessible, and people found new ways to learn about the world around them.

The image above, published by J.H. Colton in 1849, is believed to be the first edition of the iconic mountains and rivers infographic map. This comparison chart concept would see a number of iterations over the years as it appeared in Colton’s world atlases.

Inspiring a Classic Infographic Map

A seminal example of this style of infographic was produced by Alexander von Humboldt in 1805. The diagram below is packed with information and shows geographical features in a way that was extremely novel at the time.

Alexander von Humboldt mountain diagram

In 1817, the brothers William and Daniel Lizars produced the first comparative chart of the world’s mountains and rivers. Breaking up individual natural features into components for comparison was a very innovative approach at that time, and it was this early French language prototype that lead to the Colton’s versions we’re familiar with today.

Digging into the Details

As is obvious, even at first glance, there is a ton of detail packed into this infographic map.

Firstly, rivers are artificially straightened and neatly arranged in rows for easy comparison. Lakes, mountain ranges, and cities are all labeled along the way. This unique comparison brings cities like New Orleans and Cairo side by side.

detailed view of longest rivers visualization

Of course, this visualization was based on the best available data at the time. Today, the Nile is widely considered to be the world’s longest river, followed by the Amazon and Yangtze.

Over on the mountain side, there are more details to take in. The visualization includes volcanic activity, notes on vegetation, and even the altitude of selected cities and towns.

detailed view of tallest mountains visualization

Above are a few of South America’s high-altitude population centers, including La Paz, which is the highest-elevation capital city in the world.

In the legend, many of the mountains are simply named “peak”. While this generic labeling might seem like a throwback to a time when the world was still being explored, it’s worth noting that today’s second tallest mountain is still simply referred to as K2.

What details do you notice while exploring this iconic infographic map?

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Demographics

Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

This map shows which counties in the U.S. have seen the most growth, and which places have seen their populations dwindle in the last 10 years.

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A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.

If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.

Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?

This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.

Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020

To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:

A county’s base population → plus births → minus deaths → plus migration = new population estimate

 
From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenix, ScottsdaleArizona+753,898
#2Harris CountyHoustonTexas+630,711
#3Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+363,323
#4King CountySeattleWashington+335,884
#5Tarrant CountyFort Worth, ArlingtonTexas+305,180
#6Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+303,982
#7Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+287,626
#8Collin CountyPlanoTexas+284,967
#9Travis CountyAustinTexas+270,111
#10Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+264,446

Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.

Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500$53,310 below the national average.

Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Cook CountyChicagoIllinois-90,693
#2Wayne CountyDetroitMichigan-74,224
#3Cuyahoga CountyClevelandOhio-50,220
#4Genesee CountyFlintMichigan-20,165
#5Suffolk CountyLong IslandNew York-20,064
#6Caddo ParishShreveportLouisiana-18,173
#7Westmoreland CountyMurrysvillePennsylvania-17,942
#8Hinds CountyJacksonMississippi-17,751
#9Kanawha CountyCharlestonWest Virginia-16,672
#10Cambria CountyJohnstownPennsylvania-14,786

The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).

For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.

U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)

While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.

For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.

The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.

population changes in u.s. counties (%)

Pandemic Population Changes

More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.

Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2020–2021)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenixArizona+58,246
#2Collin CountyPlanoTexas+36,313
#3Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+35,631
#4Fort Bend CountySugar LandTexas+29,895
#5Williamson CountyGeorgetownTexas+27,760
#6Denton CountyDentonTexas+27,747
#7Polk CountyLakelandFlorida+24,287
#8Montgomery CountyThe WoodlandsTexas+23,948
#9Lee CountyFort MyersFlorida+23,297
#10Utah CountyProvoUtah+21,843
#11Pinal CountySan Tan ValleyArizona+19,974
#12Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+19,090
#13Pasco CountyNew Port RicheyFlorida+18,322
#14Wake CountyRaleighNorth Carolina+16,651
#15St. Johns CountySt. AugustineFlorida+15,550
#16Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+14,814
#17Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+14,184
#18Ada CountyBoiseIdaho+13,947
#19Osceola CountyKissimmeeFlorida+12,427
#20St. Lucie CountyFort PierceFlorida+12,304

Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.

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