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How to Use Figurative Language in Descriptive Writing

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

Read about four types of figurative language that are easy for most students to use and will help them write more effective descriptive essays.

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    Use Figurative Language to Be More Descriptive

    Descriptive writing requires students to paint pictures with words. They must use written language to make their readers see, hear, and even feel what it is they are writing about. This can be a difficult task to complete successfully, which is why figurative language is a necessity when writing descriptively.

    There are several types of figurative language that can be easily accessed by students.

    Simile

    This is a form of figurative language that most students are familiar with. Similes compare two unlike objects using “like” or “as.”

    Example: Her eyes sparkled like diamonds.

    Metaphor

    This is another type of figurative language that many students have had experience with. It is also a comparison between two unlike things, but unlike similes, metaphors do not require the use of like or as.

    Example: Life is a journey.

    Personification

    Personification gives human qualities and/or characteristics to an inanimate object.

    Example: The flowers danced in the breeze.

    Alliteration

    Alliteration uses repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning and within words. It can be used to create rhythm, call attention to certain words, and create mood.

    Example: Tall trees tower over the mountain trail.

    You can also point out to your students that tongue twisters are alliterations.

    Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

    There are other forms of figurative language, but these four are common and most students have experience with them. This makes it easier for students to use them in their descriptive writing.

    To make sure your students use figurative language in their writing, you will probably have to require its use. There are several ways this can be done. You can give students the list above and tell them they must use three of the four types listed. You can require two similes, one metaphor, and one personification. What you require depends on what you are looking for in their descriptive writing.

    To make grading easier, have students highlight each time they use a form of figurative language. This way you can go straight to the figurative language contained in their descriptive writing and see if they have used it appropriately and effectively.