Reading in the Station

The Periodic Table of the Figures of Speech


Figurative speech is the language we use to spice up our writing. Besides their aesthetic value , figurative expressions and axioms cast a flavour of ‘writerly professionalism’ on the written piece. It does take so much practice for students to be adept at the use of figurative language and there are no shortcuts to learn that quickly. There are however some useful tips to help them in their learning process. Periodic table of the figures of speech is an example of a very good document students can draw on to consolidate and learn different ways to use figures of speech.

Periodic table of the figures of speech is a work realized by designer Curtis Newbold. The visual features two main genres of figures of speech namely: tropes and schemes. Tropes cover expressions like personification, metaphor, irony, hyperbole..etc and schemes cover things like ellipsis, alliteration, parenthesis..etc. Curtis provides ample explanation of each of these genres and also offers some useful tips on how to use each of them.

At the root of all good writing lies an understanding of how sentences are built. In kindergarten, we learn the fundamentals of grammar and the basic concepts of how sentences are constructed. For most of our elementary and secondary training in writing, we are taught simply to improve those grammatical and mechanical skills.

A good writer, however, understands the complexities and rhetorical effects of how modifying sentence structure (known as sentence “schemes”) improves the flow, interest, and even persuasive qualities of their writing. They also have a firm understanding of the many “tropes” (things like metaphors and similes and ironies) and how the inclusion of them can improve reader engagement, understanding, and overall appeal and effectiveness of their writing.

If you can master these forty basic figures of speech in the periodic table below (broken down by category within the schemes and tropes), you’ll be on your way to becoming a fantastic writer.

This full-size graphic of Periodic table of the figures of speech is available from this link.


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