Metaphors can be found in many types of writing

March 07, 2013|Lisa Prejean

A few weekends ago, I served as a judge for a creative writing and poetry contest. The judging sheet was very specific and contained sections to evaluate the entry on appearance of the work, the mechanics that were employed, and the creative voice used.

To rate appearance, judges were asked to consider font, type size and spacing, among other things.

The mechanics section of the evaluation sheet asked judges to consider how the writer used capitalization, punctuation, spelling and grammar. This was the easiest part of the judging because it was cut and dry. Either a word was spelled correctly or it was spelled incorrectly. A sentence was grammatically correct or it was incorrect.

The next part of judging — creative voice — was much more involved. Thankfully, there were guidelines for the judges to follow.

The use of figurative language was one of the creative voice areas to be evaluated. Figurative language, according to "The Norton Introduction to Poetry," is essentially anything that represents something in terms of some other thing in hopes that the second thing will be familiar to the reader.

For example, Shakespeare compared the world to a stage because he knew that most people could relate to that concept. When he wrote the metaphor, "All the world's a stage," he knew that most of us would make the connection between actors on a stage and people "acting" through certain scenes of their lives.

It is interesting to find metaphors in the works of famous writers. However, it is exciting to find metaphors in a student's work. Sometimes the student doesn't even know that a metaphor was used. For example, a student might write that a person is a brick wall. If so, that would be considered a metaphor. Most people can relate to the image of a brick wall — strong, immovable, solid.

Here are some other forms of figurative language. Try to find some examples of these in today's newspaper.

n  Simile — a comparison using like or as: "as pretty as a picture ...."

n Onomatopoeia — a word that sounds like what it describes: buzz, splat, hiss.

n Alliteration — repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words used together: "I nodded, nearly napping," from "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe.

n Oxymoron — a word or phrase that connects two opposing concepts: a tiny giant.

Figurative language adds color and vitality to writing. By learning how to identify it in the works of others, students can learn how to use it in their own writing.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail'. Send email to

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