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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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Maps

The Largest Earthquakes in the New York Area (1970-2024)

The earthquake that shook buildings across New York in April 2024 was the third-largest quake in the Northeast U.S. over the past 50 years.

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Map of earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater recorded in the northeastern U.S. since 1970.

The Largest Earthquakes in the New York Area

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The 4.8 magnitude earthquake that shook buildings across New York on Friday, April 5th, 2024 was the third-largest quake in the U.S. Northeast area over the past 50 years.

In this map, we illustrate earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or greater recorded in the Northeastern U.S. since 1970, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Shallow Quakes and Older Buildings

The earthquake that struck the U.S. Northeast in April 2024 was felt by millions of people from Washington, D.C., to north of Boston. It even caused a full ground stop at Newark Airport.

The quake, occurring just 5 km beneath the Earth’s surface, was considered shallow, which is what contributed to more intense shaking at the surface.

According to the USGS, rocks in the eastern U.S. are significantly older, denser, and harder than those on the western side, compressed by time. This makes them more efficient conduits for seismic energy. Additionally, buildings in the Northeast tend to be older and may not adhere to the latest earthquake codes.

Despite disrupting work and school life, the earthquake was considered minor, according to the Michigan Technological University magnitude scale:

MagnitudeEarthquake EffectsEstimated Number
Each Year
2.5 or lessUsually not felt, but can be
recorded by seismograph.
Millions
2.5 to 5.4Often felt, but only causes
minor damage.
500,000
5.5 to 6.0Slight damage to buildings
and other structures.
350
6.1 to 6.9May cause a lot of damage
in very populated areas.
100
7.0 to 7.9Major earthquake.
Serious damage.
10-15
8.0 or greaterGreat earthquake. Can totally
destroy communities near the
epicenter.
One every year
or two

The largest earthquake felt in the area over the past 50 years was a 5.3 magnitude quake that occurred in Au Sable Forks, New York, in 2002. It damaged houses and cracked roads in a remote corner of the Adirondack Mountains, but caused no injuries.

DateMagnitudeLocationState
April 20, 20025.3Au Sable ForksNew York
October 7, 19835.1NewcombNew York
April 5, 20244.8Whitehouse StationNew Jersey
October 16, 20124.7Hollis CenterMaine
January 16, 19944.6Sinking SpringPennsylvania
January 19, 19824.5SanborntonNew Hampshire
September 25, 19984.5AdamsvillePennsylvania
June 9, 19754.2AltonaNew York
May 29, 19834.2PeruMaine
April 23, 19844.2ConestogaPennsylvania
January 16, 19944.2Sinking SpringPennsylvania
November 3, 19754Long LakeNew York
June 17, 19914WorcesterNew York

The largest earthquake in U.S. history, however, was the 1964 Good Friday quake in Alaska, measuring 9.2 magnitude and killing 131 people.

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