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

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 leaves your readers asking 'What's next?!' That's no easy feat. Especially when your reader is a teacher tasked with marking hundreds of essays that look and sound (almost) the same!

So, if you wish to stand out and make your writing sing, you need to sprinkle in some figures of speech.

For starters, here are 5 types of figures of speech you can easily weave into your essay to bag an easy A.

  • Hyperbole
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Idiom
  • Simile
  • Metaphor

#1 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 below, 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. 

To use hyperbole effectively, you must first identify ideas you like to emphasise. Next, consider which characteristics 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

#2 Onomatopoeia

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

Onomatopoeia is a figure of speech that associates a word with a sound.

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, you immerse your readers in the story more effectively. 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

#3 Idiom

Since the dawn of time, 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.

eg. 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.

However, use them sparingly. Overseasoning your writing can make it sound 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

#4 Simile

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things using 'like' or 'as'. Unlike metaphors, similies soften the connection with 'as' or 'like' and highlight the fact that it’s simply a comparison.

eg. Fast as a cheetah.

eg. 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

#5 Metaphor

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 detail. 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 well-loved by novelists and authors throughout the ages. It’s a powerful instrument in a writer’s toolkit, allowing you to convey ideas through showing instead of telling.

Most importantly, use it well, and you can evoke powerful emotions in your readers!

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

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