November 9th, 2020 Writing

Figurative Language and 8 Most Common Uses in Creative Writing

Figurative language

What is figurative language?

A figurative language is a technique used by creative writers to express a meaning that is other than the literal meaning of the expression in order to imply a different idea or thought.

When someone says it’s a million degrees outside then it does not mean that it is really a million degrees outside. Instead, the writer is trying to convey the idea that it is uncomfortably hot outside. This is an example of figurative language.

Figurative language is used to amplify or exaggerate the writing. In other words, writers use words to create a non-literal meaning to make n important point. It makes writing more impactful.

“After spending a day working in the garage, his face was as black as charcoal.”
“Karla’s kids were jumping around like monkeys”
“He stood on the stage like a lion”

Why use figurative language?

It is used to better express an idea or to make a point. Some ideas a difficult to communicate as they could be abstract or complex. Figurative language helps readers form mental images of what the author is trying to convey.

8 most common uses of figurative language

  1. Simile
  2. Metaphor
  3. Personification
  4. Idiom
  5. Allusion
  6. Onomatopoeia
  7. Oxymoron
  8. Pun


A simile is a figure of speech expressed by comparing one thing with another thing of a different type to better convey a thought. A simile uses the words “like” and “as” to make the comparison.

She went up the stage and stood as brave as a lion.


A metaphor like a simile also makes a comparison with another thing but in a more direct way than a simile.

The snow in our city is a white blanket.


Personification is when you give human-like qualities to something that is non-human, like a thing, object or an animal. In other words, you represent something like a person.

The wind howled at me as I rushed for work in the morning and the trees danced at its command.


Idioms are phrases that provide figurative, non-literal meaning to the writing. They should not be taken literally.

The homework today was a piece of cake.
The design of the new website is still up in the air.
I had a long day at work and really need to hit the hay now.


An allusion is an indirect reference to something. It does not describe the thing it refers to, instead, expects the reader to have enough knowledge to understand what the allusion is referring to.

The boy on the holiday was acting like a Romeo.


Onomatopoeia is a literary device used when you need to mimic a sound. It is a word that looks like the sound it’s trying to express.

slam, splash, boom, bam, gurgle, mumble etc


An oxymoron is a figure of speech with words that contradict each other.

True lies.
Awfully good.


A pun is a way of adding humour in your writing by mixing up words with multiple meanings.

I tried to catch some fog. I mist.
A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

More reading

10 most common literary devices
Figurative language & examples

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