What is the importance of figures of speech?

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Figures of speech enhance the author's creation. This is true of any genre and any form of writing. The effective use of figures of speech brings to life what would have been mere words, phrases and sentences. They express the author's intent and take the reader on a journey through what he or she experienced or imagined or witnessed at a specific period or periods in time. It brings beauty, emphasis and clarity to what could have been just a mundane and impoverished rendition.

Through the use of figures of speech, the author makes significant the insignificant, makes seem less important the overemphasised, brings colour and light, insight, understanding and clarity. Figures of speech allow us to assess, interpret and critically analyze not only the writer's attempt, but also his or her purpose.

Figures of speech are the palette from which the author works, and he or she might choose to enhance his or her creation by applying the appropriate "colors" as it were, in his or her writing. A dab of metaphor here, a stroke of personification there, what about a dramatic slash of simile or onomatopoeia there?

All of this adds flavor to writing and makes the experience of reading so much more enjoyable. We can feel what the author felt, we can see what he or she has seen, we empathize with him or her, experience his or her joy, frustration, pain and anger because we are effectively guided through the experience by figures of speech - they are our map, our guide to better understand and appreciate what the author has so unselfishly shared with us. 

Imagine if poets such as Robert Burns, in declaring his love, had not written his inspirational:

'My love is like a red red rose 

That's newly sprung in June ...'

in 1794 without using figures of speech? We would have been so much the poorer for it.     

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