Some writers use idioms to “add color” to their writing, while others are adamant about keeping their text as simple as possible. While idioms can certainly clutter your work with unnecessary detail, they may also introduce powerful imagery into your text. Since “knowledge is power,” let’s take a look at the best way to accomplish this.
First, what is an idiom? An idiom is an expression with a figurative meaning that differs from the literal meaning. We hear idioms every day – both in conversation and in the media. Used correctly, idioms can amplify messages in a way that draws readers in and helps to awaken their senses. But, how?
Idioms help us “think outside the box”
Incorporating idioms into your writing is an effective way to make your work more creative. This is because an idiom can be used as an artistic expression. For example, if you’re working on an article related to financial planning you could say: “You should save your money.” Or, you could use an idiom such as “A penny saved is a penny earned.” The idiom livens up the text and prompts readers to think beyond the facts, and about saving money in a different way. By not spending money, you’re really saving money. (Go figure!)
Another example of a creative idiom that helps to expand our frame of reference is to “bite off more than you can chew.” When using this phrase in a sentence, you are essentially telling someone that perhaps they’ve taken on a bigger task than they can handle; however, the idiom gives the sentence more charm – while also providing a dynamic visual. It conveys your message well and makes it more interesting for your readers.
Idioms help us find our “sense of humor”
Idioms can also add humor to your writing in places where you may otherwise seem brash. For example, rather than writing about a character who is not smart – or at least not thinking straight – you could say “the lights are on, but nobody’s home” or he’s “not playing with a full deck.” These idioms tend to be softer and somewhat less insulting.
Similarly, “when pigs fly” is a more dynamic way to say that something is highly unlikely to occur. And rather than say that someone is not very good at something, you could say, “Don’t give up your day job.”
Idioms “dress [our writing] to impress”
There are quite a few idioms that can take dull writing and make it more impressive, which used in the right context will serve writers well. For example, using “add insult to injury” sounds just a bit more impressive than telling someone that they are making a situation worse by their mockery. Instead of telling someone that they have no manners, you can say they have “not a spark of decency.”Are you trying to convey that you agree with someone? Perhaps you could say that you “see eye to eye.” Does this happen very rarely? Maybe it happens “once in a blue moon?”
When you’re writing, keep a list of idioms handy so you can draw from that list and incorporate these sayings into your writing where appropriate. Be careful not to “go overboard”. Too many idioms can be a distraction. Also, be sure that you know the correct meaning of the idiom before you use it in your writing. Not using it in the right context can confuse readers and turn some of them off to your work.
Trust me, it is easier than you think to incorporate idioms into your writing. Once you get familiar with a list of common idioms, you’ll discover that you already know many of them – and getting them on paper will be “a piece of cake”.