How to use linguistic devices in your writing

  • The word linguistic means ‘relating to language’.
  • Linguistic devices can be used to influence the response of the reader, or to help communicate an idea or point of view.
  • There are many devices to use, including simile, metaphor, allusion and hyperbole.
  • Linguistic devices are also known as language devices, linguistic techniques or figurative devices.
Learn how to use figurative devices effectively in your writing

Why use linguistic devices?

Linguistic devices are words or phrases that convey a meaning which is different to the literal one. A well-chosen linguistic device can help make your writing more effective and powerful. They can be used in fiction or non-fiction texts, and can:

  • add something special or original to your writing
  • give more information using fewer words
  • persuade or engage your reader
  • communicate your ideas in a precise way
  • help the reader visualise a scene

Making comparisons

Writers often make comparisons in their writing. There are a variety of ways to do this:

  • Metaphor - a direct comparison, usually between two unlike things - ‘His scars were a map on his skin’.

  • Simile - a phrase that compares two different things by using a word such as ‘like’ or ‘as’ - ‘The rainforests are like the lungs of the planet’.

  • Personification - a type of metaphor where something non-human is given human emotions - ‘The storm raged all night’.

By using a simile a writer can compare two different things, such as 'the rainforests are like the lungs of the planet'.

Useful tips

  • A few carefully chosen devices are better than using a device in every sentence.

  • Match the device carefully to the reader. Think about who you are writing for and then select a device that is appealing and appropriate.

  • Remember that devices might not be suitable for some types of writing, such as scientific reports.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with devices in your writing - play around and see what works. This may give you more confidence when reading - you are more likely to spot and understand why a device is being used by another writer.