PSLE Composition Writing: 5 figures of speech to make your writing sing [With examples]

Writing a piece of composition essay is easy.

But to craft an intriguing story that garners applause from your readers, that's no easy feat.

Especially when your reader is a teacher who has to mark their way through a mountain of essays that look and sound almost the same! 

To stand out, you need to make your writing sing by sprinkling in some figures of speech.

To help you get started, here are 5 types of figures of speech you can easily weave into your essay that’ll let you bag an easy A.

  • Idiom
  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Hyperbole
  • Onomatopoeia

#1 Idioms

Since the beginning, every culture that has its own language, has a collection of well-known sayings. These homegrown phrases, or idioms, are often used by members of a community to convey abstract ideas in a simple manner.

For example, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

Unless you come from a family of chicken farmers, chances are you know the speaker isn’t referring to anything remotely maths, chickens, or eggs. It’s a figure of speech.

Sprinkle in an idiom here and there does wonder for your writing. With a funny turn-of-phrase, idioms can turn dull descriptions into stirring sentences. But be sure to use them sparingly. Overseasoning makes your writing cliche and awkward. There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Examples of Idiom

  • Bull in a china shop
  • Head in the clouds
  • Wild goose chase
  • Boil the ocean
  • By the skin of your teeth

#2 Similes

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things using “like” or “as”. While seemingly unrelated, the two tend to share at least one literal or figurative quality. Unlike metaphors, similies soften the connection with “as” or “like”  and highlight the fact that it’s just a comparison.

eg. “Fast as a cheetah” or “Drink like a fish” 

Do note that some similes (like the two above) are overused and would likely not earn you extra points. So be sure to put your thinking hat on and come up with creative similes that fit the situation.

When used correctly, similes conjure up vivid imagery in your readers’ minds and keep their eyes glued to the page. 

Simply pick a key personality trait or characteristic and consider who or what is often known for possessing that particular trait or characteristic. If you’re looking to describe a noisy classroom, you can say “the classroom was noisy like a marketplace”. Similes are especially effective when used to describe people, actions, and places.

Examples of Simile

  • The earth was hard like iron
  • His words were sweet like honey
  • Her room was as clean as a whistle
  • Reading his mind was easy as pie
  • She’s cool as a cucumber under pressure

#3 Metaphors

Like similes, metaphors are a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a figurative way by comparing two different things. However, the devil is in the details. Instead of simply comparing, a metaphor states that one thing is actually the other.

For example, when describing a lazy classmate, a simile simply whispers “John is lazy as a sloth”, while a metaphor proclaims “John IS a sloth”.

Metaphors have been the favourites of novelists and authors throughout the ages. It’s a powerful instrument in a writer’s toolkit. Used correctly, a metaphor evokes responses on an instinctive and emotional level. More importantly, it allows you to convey ideas through showing instead of telling.

Examples of Metaphor

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
- As You Like It, William Shakespeare

“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
- Fault In Our Stars, John Green

“Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.”
- Kill the Dead, Richard Kadrey

#4 Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses exaggeration to drive home a message. Simply put, you make a point by blowing your words out of proportion. Just like with other types of figurative language mentioned above, it’s not to be taken literally. 

Hyperbole is often used to emphasise the intensity of a situation, or the emotions your characters are feeling. 

In order to use hyperbole effectively, you’ve to first identify ideas in your writing you can emphasise with it. Next, consider what exactly you wish to exaggerate. Lastly, come up with an out-of-this-world comparison that’ll pack the horsepower of a jet engine into one hyperbolic statement.

A useful trick for creating memorable hyperboles is to be super specific. Instead of saying a box is heavy, say it weighs a ton. Instead of a concert singer, say Justin Bieber.

On top of that, hyperbole is also great for breaking up the monotony with humour. After all, who can keep a straight face when your character is told that he has a brain the size of a pea?

Examples of Hyperbole

  • I’m so hungry I could eat a horse
  • She was as big as a whale
  • He ran like greased lightning
  • The room was a thousand degrees
  • I’m so angry, I could eat a hat

#5 Onomatopoeia

Don’t let this scary-sounding word make you squeak.

Simply put, Onomatopoeia is a figure of speech that associates a word with a sound. Also known as a sound word.

Think the “crackling” of a dancing flame, the “crash” of a ceramic plate breaking, the loud “thud” of someone rapping at your bedroom door. Reading is not merely an exercise for the eyes. By using sound words, your readers are able to visualise the scene more clearly. Let’s compare the two examples below.

eg. “Dark clouds loomed overhead as rain fell on our pinewood roof.”

eg. "Dark clouds loomed overhead as raindrops pattered against our pinewood roof.”

Which could you see (hear) better? By adding the word “pattered”, you could hear the metronomic rain that pulls you right into the scene. If you’re hoping to write in a way that engages the five senses, check out our blog post on creative writing. 

Examples of Onomatopoeia

  • Bacon sizzling in the pan
  • The alarm started ringing
  • The engine roared to life
  • The buzzing of a honey bee

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