Spice Up Your Writing: Similes and Personification

Similes

Although not as strong as metaphors, similes are great ways to follow that time-tested literary maxim: show, don’t tell. They’re easily identified by the words like or as.

Definition

A simile compares two unlike things that have one thing in common.

Examples

Her heart fluttered like a butterfly.

His excitement soared as high as the moon.

Cautions

  • Don’t use a simile that’s a cliché. Clichés are ineffective.

Cliché: Cindy was as busy as a bee.

Cindy was as busy as a hamster running on her exercise wheel.

  • Don’t use a simile where no comparison exists.

Bob flexed his biceps like spaghetti.

Be Original

The first similes that come to mind are usually cliché because we hear them all the time. Go ahead and write them in the first draft, if you need to, and then in your revision work on creating a fresh image, that is, something original.

Personification

Personification is a figure of speech that’s easy to use, helps create mood, and makes our writing more vivid.

Definition

Personification is a literary device that gives human attributes to non-human things.

Examples

Flames danced in the fireplace.

Darkness slipped into my room.

Cautions

  • Don’t overdo personification.
  • Use personification strategically, in places where you can create atmosphere and mood.
  • Keep your personifications fresh/original. In other words, be creative with them.

More on figures of speech next week.