Have you been told a million times not to exaggerate? Chances are you’ve heard that expression many times, particularly as a child. But is it ever acceptable to use hyperbole – the technical term for wild exaggeration or deliberate overstatement – when writing?
We all use hyperbole from time to time. Like when we say on gaining a couple of pounds, “I’m as big as a house”. Or “I’d kill for some coffee right now”, which even to me, who drinks buckets of the stuff (there’s another one), seems a little drastic.
Hyperbole has to be either witty or utterly outrageous to be effective. Has anyone ever actually “drowned in paperwork?” I doubt it. My point is it takes real talent to come up with an original yet utterly apt expression that instantly paints a vivid picture of what it is you are trying to convey.
So should we use it when writing?
I wouldn’t recommend using hyperbole in official, professional or non-fiction works, like reports or research papers, but it can be a great creative writing and communication tool – especially when you want to add character or humour to a story. And that arbiter of good grammar, Grammarly.com, agrees.
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