Colorful Language

Perhaps the most important element of language style is the ability to use figures of speech in order to turn a memorable phrase. A figure of speech varies from the ordinary meaning of words to make a description unique, vivid, and memorable. While the following certainly is not an exhaustive list, here are seven figures of speech, which can be used to make the language in your speech more vivid and memorable.

Similes and Metaphors

A simile or metaphor is a comparison between seemingly different things.  A simile is a comparison that includes the words like or as: “Education is like an open door.” A metaphor makes that comparison without the use of like or as: “Education is an open door.” The difference lies in a simple word, but they function in much the same way.


Personification is the attribution of human qualities to inanimate things. “The tree stood guard over the entrance to the driveway.” Obviously, it would be impossible for a tree to literally guard anything, but literal meaning seldom has much to do with figures of speech or vivid language.


Parallelism occurs when two or more words, phrases, clauses, or sentences have the same grammatical pattern. “In a public speaking course, students should learn to think with their minds, to speak with their tongues, and to inspire with their souls.” The grammatical pattern in this sentence represents parallel structure.


Antithesis is a two-part parallel structure in which the second part contrasts in meaning with the first part. The most famous use of antithesis in American oratory occurred in John Kennedy’s first inaugural address when Kennedy urged his audience, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”


Repetition is the repeating of certain keywords or phrases throughout a speech to add impact. The most famous example of repetition in American oratory is the dream sequence in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the March on Washington. In this speech, Dr. King repeats the phrases “I have a dream,” “One hundred years later,” and “We will not be satisfied” several times throughout the speech to add impact.


Alliteration involves repeating the initial consonant sounds in close or adjoining words. “Courage and confidence,”“pride and power,” and “she sells seashells by the seashore” are all examples of alliteration.

Are you passionate about public speaking or communications? UMHB’s Department of Communication and Media Studies seeks to produce graduates who can think critically, reason morally, write and speak with precision and impact, and present performances in a variety of media to audiences of all types. We invite you to visit our website for more info, or stop by for a visit!