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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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)
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.
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.
Visualized: The Biggest Ponzi Schemes in Modern History
Learn the stories behind some of the world’s biggest Ponzi schemes in this illustrative infographic timeline.
The Biggest Ponzi Schemes in Modern History
Some things simply sound too good to be true, but when money is involved, our judgement can become clouded.
This is often the case with Ponzi schemes, a type of financial fraud that lures investors by promising abnormally high returns. Money brought in by new members is used to pay the scheme’s founders, as well as its earlier investors.
The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, an Italian who became infamous in the 1920s for claiming he could double his clients’ money within 90 days. Since then, numerous Ponzi schemes have been orchestrated around the globe.
To help you learn more about these sophisticated crimes, this infographic examines some of the biggest Ponzi schemes in modern history.
Ponzi Schemes in the 20th Century
The 1990s saw a number of large Ponzi schemes worth upwards of $500 million.
|Country||Date Ended||Name of Scheme and Founder||Value (USD)|
|Belgium||1991||Moneytron, Jean-Pierre Van Rossem||$860M|
|Romania||1994||Caritas, Ioan Stoica||$1B - $5B|
|Russia||1994||MMM, Sergei Mavrodi||$10B|
|U.S.||1997||Great Ministries International, Geral Payne||$500M|
In many cases, these schemes thrived by taking advantage of the unsuspecting public who often lacked any knowledge of investing. Caritas, for example, was a Ponzi scheme based in Romania that marketed itself as a “self-help game” for the poor.
The scheme was initially very successful, tricking millions of people into making deposits by offering the chance to earn an 800% return after three months. This was not sustainable, and Caritas was eventually unable to distribute further winnings.
Caritas operated for only two years, but its “success” was undeniable. In 1993, it was estimated that a third of the country’s money was circulating through the scheme.
Ponzi Schemes in the 21st Century
The American public has fallen victim to numerous multi-billion dollar Ponzi schemes since the beginning of the 21st century.
|Country||Date Ended||Name of Scheme and Founder||Value (USD)|
|U.S.||2003||Mutual Benefits Company, Joel Steinger||$1B|
|U.S.||2003||Petters Group Worldwide, Tom Petters||$4B|
|U.S.||2008||Madoff Investment Scandal, Bernie Madoff||$65B|
|U.S.||2012||Stanford Financial Group, Allen Stanford||$7B|
Many of these schemes have made major headlines, but much less is said about the thousands of everyday Americans that were left in financial ruin.
For victims of the Madoff Investment Scandal, receiving any form of compensation has been a drawn-out process. In 2018, 10 years after the scheme was uncovered, a court-appointed trustee managed to recover $13 billion by liquidating Madoff’s firm and personal assets.
As NPR reported, investors may recover up to 60 to 70 percent of their initial investment only. For victims who had to delay retirement or drastically alter their lifestyles, this compensation likely provides little solace.
Do the Crime, Pay the Time
Running a Ponzi scheme is likely to land you in jail for a long time, at least in the U.S.
In 2009, for example, 71-year-old Bernie Madoff pled guilty to 11 federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. That’s 135 years longer than the average U.S. murder conviction.
Outside of the U.S., it’s a much different story. Weaker regulation and enforcement, particularly in developing countries, means a number of schemes are ongoing today.
Sergei Mavrodi, known for running the Russian Ponzi scheme MMM, started a new organization named MMM Global after being released from prison in 2011. Although he died in March 2018, his self-described “social financial network” has established a base in several Southeast Asian and African countries.
If you or someone you know is worried about falling victim to a Ponzi scheme, this checklist from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may be a useful resource.
The Top 100 Companies of the World: The U.S. vs Everyone Else
Where are the top 100 companies of the world located? We highlight the U.S. share of the top companies by market capitalization .
The Top 100 Companies of the World: U.S. vs Everyone
When it comes to breaking down the top 100 companies of the world, the United States still commands the largest slice of the pie.
Throughout the 20th century and before globalization reached its current peaks, American companies made the country an economic powerhouse and the source of a majority of global market value.
But even as countries like China have made headway with multi-billion dollar companies of their own, and the market’s most important sectors have shifted, the U.S. has managed to stay on top.
How do the top 100 companies of the world stack up? This visualization pulls from PwC’s annual ranking of the world’s largest companies, using market capitalization data from May 2021.
Where are the World’s Largest Companies Located?
The world’s top 100 companies account for a massive $31.7 trillion in market cap, but that wealth is not distributed evenly.
Between companies, there’s a wide range of market caps. For example, the difference between the world’s largest company (Apple) and the 100th largest (Anheuser-Busch) is $1.9 trillion.
And between countries, that divide becomes even more stark. Of the 16 countries with companies making the top 100 ranking, the U.S. accounts for 65% of the total market cap value.
|Location||# of Companies||Market Capitalization (May 2021)|
|🇺🇸 United States||59||$20.55T|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||1||$1.92T|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||1||$0.43T|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||3||$0.43T|
Compared to the U.S., other once-prominent markets like Japan, France, and the UK have seen their share of the world’s top 100 companies falter over the years. In fact, all of Europe accounts for just $3.46 trillion or 11% of the total market cap value of the list.
A major reason for the U.S. dominance in market values is a shift in important industries and contributors. Of the world’s top 100 companies, 52% were based in either technology or consumer discretionary, and the current largest players like Apple, Alphabet, Tesla, and Walmart are all American-based.
The Top 100 Companies of the World: Competition From China
The biggest and most impressive competitor to the U.S. is China.
With 14 companies of its own in the world’s top 100, China accounted for $4.19 trillion or 13% of the top 100’s total market cap value. That includes two of the top 10 firms by market cap, Tencent and Alibaba.
|Company||Country||Sector||Market Cap (May 2021)|
|#2||Saudi Aramco||Saudi Arabia||Energy||$1,920B|
|#4||Amazon||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$1,558B|
|#8||Tesla||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$641B|
|#10||Berkshire Hathway||United States||Financials||$588B|
|#13||JPMorgan Chase||United States||Financials||$465B|
|#14||Johnson & Johnson||United States||Health Care||$433B|
|#15||Samsung Electronics||South Korea||Technology||$431B|
|#16||Kweichow Moutai||China||Consumer Staples||$385B|
|#17||Walmart||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$383B|
|#19||UnitedHealth Group||United States||Health Care||$352B|
|#20||LVMH Moët Hennessy||France||Consumer Discretionary||$337B|
|#21||Walt Disney Co||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$335B|
|#22||Bank of America||United States||Financials||$334B|
|#23||Procter & Gamble||United States||Consumer Staples||$333B|
|#25||Home Depot||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$329B|
|#26||Nestle SA||Switzerland||Consumer Staples||$322B|
|#28||Paypal Holdings||United States||Industrials||$284B|
|#29||Roche Holdings||Switzerland||Health Care||$283B|
|#31||ASML Holding NV||Netherlands||Technology||$255B|
|#32||Toyota Motor||Japan||Consumer Discretionary||$254B|
|#34||Verizon Communications||United States||Telecommunication||$241B|
|#35||Exxon Mobil||United States||Energy||$236B|
|#36||Netflix||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$231B|
|#38||Coca-Cola Co||United States||Consumer Staples||$227B|
|#41||Cisco Systems||United States||Telecommunication||$218B|
|#44||China Construction Bank||China||Financials||$213B|
|#45||Abbott Labs||United States||Health Care||$212B|
|#46||Novartis AG||Switzerland||Health Care||$212B|
|#47||Nike||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$209B|
|#49||Pfizer||United States||Health Care||$202B|
|#50||Chevron||United States||Oil & Gas||$202B|
|#51||China Merchants Bank||China||Financials||$196B|
|#52||PepsiCo||United States||Consumer Staples||$195B|
|#54||Merck & Co||United States||Health Care||$195B|
|#55||AbbVie||United States||Health Care||$191B|
|#59||Thermo Fisher Scientific||United States||Health Care||$180B|
|#60||Eli Lilly & Co||United States||Health Care||$179B|
|#61||Agricultural Bank of China||China||Financials||$178B|
|#64||Texas Instruments||United States||Technology||$174B|
|#65||McDonalds||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$167B|
|#66||Volkswagen AG||Germany||Consumer Discretionary||$165B|
|#67||BHP Group||Australia||Basic Materials||$163B|
|#68||Wells Fargo & Co||United States||Financials||$162B|
|#69||Tata Consultancy Services||India||Technology||$161B|
|#70||Danaher||United States||Health Care||$160B|
|#71||Novo Nordisk||Denmark||Health Care||$160B|
|#73||Wuliangye Yibin||China||Consumer Staples||$159B|
|#74||Costco Wholesale||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$156B|
|#75||T-Mobile US||United States||Telecommunication||$156B|
|#81||Royal Dutch Shell||Netherlands||Oil & Gas||$148B|
|#82||NextEra Energy||United States||Utilities||$148B|
|#83||United Parcel Service||United States||Industrials||$148B|
|#84||Union PAC||United States||Industrials||$148B|
|#85||Unilever||United Kingdom||Consumer Staples||$147B|
|#87||Linde||United Kingdom||Basic Materials||$146B|
|#88||Amgen||United States||Health Care||$144B|
|#89||Bristol Myers Squibb||United States||Health Care||$141B|
|#91||Bank of China||China||Financials||$139B|
|#92||Philip Morris||United States||Consumer Staples||$138B|
|#93||Lowe's Companies||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$136B|
|#94||Charter Communications||United States||Telecommunication||$135B|
|#96||Sony Group||Japan||Consumer Discretionary||$132B|
|#97||Astrazeneca||United Kingdom||Health Care||$131B|
|#98||Royal Bank of Canada||Canada||Financials||$131B|
|#99||Starbucks||United States||Consumer Discretionary||$129B|
Impressively, China’s rise in market value isn’t limited to well-known tech and consumer companies. The country’s second biggest contributing industry to the top 100 firms was finance, once also the most valuable sector in the U.S. (currently 4th behind tech, consumer discretionary, and health care).
Other notable countries on the list include Saudi Arabia and its state-owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco, which is the third largest company in the world. Despite only having one company in the top 100, Saudi Arabia had the third-largest share of the top 100’s total market cap value.
As Europe continues to lose ground year-over-year and the rest of Asia struggles to keep up, the top 100 companies might become increasingly concentrated in just the U.S. and China. The question is, will the imbalance of global market value start to even out, or become even bigger?
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