Learn how to effectively use hyperboles in your writing. We’ve got examples and tips to elevate your skills as a wordsmith.
Hyperboles aren't just a rhetorical device of extreme exaggeration. They can also have a powerful impact on readers, move the masses, or get someone to change a lifelong opinion. (Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating just a bit… but that’s sort of the point.)
In this guide, we’ll explain what hyperboles are, offer tips on how to use exaggerations effectively, and give you a few hyperbole examples to seal the deal.
What is a hyperbole, and what is it used for? 🤔
In language, whether written or spoken, hyperboles use extreme exaggeration to emphasize a point. Sometimes, when you express an idea, simply stating it doesn't convey the full extent of what you mean.
For example, saying "I'm hungry" might not sufficiently express just how hungry you are. Instead, using an exaggerated version — like "I'm starving" — might be understood literally. A hyperbole in a sentence, however, would be "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." It gets the message across, but it’s obviously extreme and isn’t intended to be taken literally.
So, why would you want to use hyperboles in your writing? When used well, they improve your writing (after all, good writing is about more than just good grammar) by adding flavor and color, but here are five more specific reasons to use them:
1. They describe a feeling ❤️🔥
One of the most common reasons people use hyperboles is to vividly convey their feelings. Our example of eating a horse emphasizes how hungry you are, but you’re not starved, and you definitely couldn't actually eat a horse.
You could also say something like "I'm as thirsty as a camel," which will immediately cause readers to imagine sweltering heat, uncomfortable sand, and the feeling of a dry mouth. Hyperboles are perfect for painting a vivid picture that shows more than it tells.
2. They emphasize a point ☝️
As a writer, every word you craft needs to have a point, and using hyperboles can help get the message across. For example, "I've told you a million times!" highlights frustration and the importance of the issue the person is trying to make, but they obviously haven’t actually said it a million times.
3. They add a humorous tone 😂
Sometimes, you'll want to create a comical and memorable image in the minds of your readers, which hyperboles are great at doing. For example, "The concrete dried faster than he spoke." This describes how someone spoke slower than fresh cement hardening and how boring it must have been listening to the person, which, depending on the context, is ideally funny.
4. They emphasize a negative outcome 😢
Occasionally, you'll want to use a hyperbole to describe a negative result of something, for example, "If I don't get this job, I'll perish," or "They laughed at me, and it was the worst day of my life!" Simply saying you were disappointed to not get the job or that you had a bad day doesn't quite express the severity of the situation.
5. They express size or quantity ⛰️
Finally, you might also want to describe to the reader just how big something is, and stating it's accurate measurements just won't cut it. Compare "I have four articles to write" to "I'm drowning in work." The latter hyperbole example definitely gives you a sense of being overwhelmed.
How to use hyperboles 🖍️
Using a figurative language hyperbole can be a powerful tool to improve your writing if you use it correctly. Below are a few things you should consider when adding hyperboles to elevate your wordsmithing skills:
- The purpose: Remember, the purpose of hyperboles is to add dramatic or comedic effects, so if you use it too often, it will be less effective. Think of it as a tool, not a constant feature.
- What you’re exaggerating: Hyperboles only make sense if applied in the proper context, so you must determine if you want to exaggerate a quantity or a feeling and if it sounds natural or forced.
- The overall tone: Sometimes, even though you might want to include a hyperbole, you might not be able to if the overall style of your writing doesn't allow it. You could instead use a traditional exaggeration. For example, "If the currency were to lose more value, there would be unfathomable consequences."
- Your audience: Similar to tone, if the audience you’re writing for is more of the business, formal, or journalistic crowd, then hyperboles won't necessarily work either.
4 hyperbole examples 📜
You can use hyperbolic language in many situations to get a laugh out or to express the severity of a predicament. So, what is an example of a hyperbole? Below are four examples you can try using in speeches or in more corporate writing:
1. In speech
You can use a rhetorical device like hyperboles in a speech to improve your storytelling, drive home a point, or keep listeners' attention.
Take the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example: “So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Of course, there are many things to fear, but it essentially highlights that fear itself is scarier than the situation causing it.
Here’s another example:
“To be a great chef, the most important ingredient for any meal is patience."
As we know, patience isn’t an actual ingredient, but it’s definitely needed to avoid making mistakes in the kitchen.
2. In advertising
If you’re writing ad copy, using hyperboles can effectively persuade consumers to buy a product. Many brands are famous for using these extreme exaggerations:
- Gillette: “The best a man can get.”
- Oscar Meyer: “It doesn’t get better than this.”
- Brilliant Brunette shampoo: “Adds amazing luster for infinite, mirror-like shine.”
Many of these examples from advertising use hyperboles to make the product seem like none other is better, and this type of confidence is reassuring for consumers.
3. In corporate writing
You can use hyperbolic language in corporate writing when giving reports or presentations. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how to do it:
- Our revenue skyrocketed when we began using these marketing strategies.
- We have industry standard level bookkeeping, and we’ll show you why in this presentation.
- I’ll give you a million reasons why you should consider investing in this product.
Not only do these examples of hyperbole grab the attention of the reader/listener, they also give a promise of great things to come.
4. In everyday use
There’s no shortage of opportunities to use hyperboles in daily conversations, but they’re still most effective when highlighting a feeling or an amount. For example:
- I have a million tasks to do before even getting started on the major assignment.
- The traffic stretched on for miles, there was no way I could get to work on time.
- I’m so tired I could sleep for a month after the day I had.
Shoot for the moon with Contra 🌝
Now that you know how to use hyperboles to liven up your writing, it’s time to put them to use. When you're ready to bring your idea to life, join Contra — a commission-free platform built for Independents, designed to help you grow your business into a successful and fulfilling venture. And to keep strengthening your skills as a writer, visit Contra's Slack community to get tips from other freelance wordsmiths like you.