Writing Exercise: Understatement, Sarcasm, & Litotes

Photo by Muneeb Syed on Unsplash

Final writing exercise for Figurative Language for this year. We haven’t scratched the surface in how to enhance your writing using the imagery of words to paint pictures and engage readers. Today we will tackle three related ways of shifting what you write to mean something else entirely.

I’m going to start with sarcasm, because, if you have spent any time as a writer, you likely have a more solid grip on sarcasm than a regular paycheck. Sarcasm is meant to mock, and often means the opposite of what is written. This makes it challenging to work into a narrative because the reader needs to understand that you mean the opposite of what you wrote. It should only be used lightly in middle grade, when children start understanding sarcasm and shouldn’t be used in chapter books or early reading materials at all.

Sarcasm comes it multiple types: self-depreciating, deadpan, brooding, and juvenile.

Find out more here, since I know everyone likes links: https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-sarcasm.html

Litotes use negative terms to affirm. “You’re not wrong.” is very popular right now, and I find myself often using it on Facebook posts. Litotes are bad English, with two negatives making a positive. A high school English teacher will call out litotes appearing in non-fiction essays and ask students to rewrite for clarity. Their decision isn’t the worst but does leaves an interesting literary device out in the cold. 

And last and certainly least, understatement. Instead of blowing out of proportion or giving a factual account, the narrator or character of a fiction piece will downplay a description of a situation.  An example would be someone discovering their best friend becomes a werewolf during the full moons and describes the situation as “she needs to shave sometimes.

WRITING EXERCISE: You know the drill, write a paragraph giving two examples of each type of figurative language: Sarcasm, Litotes, and Understatement – for a total of three paragraphs. My attempts are built into the above posting. Comment below and let me know if you want to exercise more figurative language types.

Writing Exercise Series of Figurative Language
Metaphor and Simile (6/22/21)
Synecdoche and Symbolism (7/27/21)
Personification and Oxymoron (8/24/21)
Understatement, Sarcasm, & Litotes (9/28/2021)

Series inspired by: “Figurative Language: Why and How You Should Use it” by Zara Altair. ProWritingAid 6/11/201