Can Literary Devices Be Used In Argumentative Essays?

Literary devices can be used effectively in argumentative essays to make the arguments more persuasive and engaging. These essays aim to persuade readers to agree with the writer’s point of view on a topic. Argumentative essays rely primarily on the logic and evidence to make their case. In these essay, the literary devices can also be used judiciously to enhance the writer’s argument.

Steps to outline the argumentative essay

1- Introduction

In this part, the writer uses the vivid and descriptive image or a thought-provoking question to grab the reader’s attention and involve them into the essay. He provides some context and background information on the topic including any relevant facts, statistics or quotes from experts.

2- Literary Devices Used in the Essay

Different literary devices are used to strengthen the writer’s point of view. These devices include analogy, juxtaposition, evidence, anecdote, figurative language, hyperbole, formatting techniques etc. Each literary technique has its own importance in these essays.

3- Body Paragraphs

This part of argumentative essay uses data and research to support your claims, such as the impact of dams on local ecosystems, displacement of indigenous communities, or the effects of dams on water quality. It also include quotes from experts, community leaders or affected individuals to add weight and credibility to your argument. Moreover, the comparisons are made to illustrate the points, such as comparing the dam to a cancer that is spreading or a ticking time bomb that must be defused.

Use of Literary Devices In Argumentative Essays

Here are some tips on incorporating literary devices into an argumentative essay.

1- Analogy

Analogies play an important role in argumentative essays by explaining complex or abstract ideas and viewpoints through easy-to-understand comparisons. It helps to simplify complicated concepts by drawing parallels to something familiar that the audience readily grasps. This literary device enables the readers to view things from a fresh perspective. It also helps to establish an unexpected common ground between two seemingly unrelated things

Techniques to use Analogy:

  • Introduce an unfamiliar, complex concept first
  • Use transitional phrases like “similarly”, “in the same way” to draw the analogy
  • Compare shared traits between the difficult idea and a more commonplace example
  • Highlight similarities between their natures, processes, functions etc.
  • Ensure the two things being compared have enough common attributes

Example Use:

  • Comparing functioning of the economy to the mechanics of a complex machine
  • Comparing creative works protected by copyright to physical property
  • Showing how immune response is similar to military defense

2- Rhetorical Questions

Posing a rhetorical question allows you to frame your argument as a question, laying it out for readers to consider. This engages the reader and prompts them to actively think about your perspective.

For instance, if your essay argues for more stringent gun control laws, you could ask: “How many more mass shootings must occur before we reform our gun policies?” This compelling question underscores your argument and demands the reader’s attention.

Use rhetorical questions sparingly – one or two per essay is sufficient. Too many rhetorical questions may seem like a manipulative ploy.

3- Anecdotes

A brief anecdote or story can provide a compelling real-world example to illustrate your argument. However, keep anecdotes concise – one or two sentences is ideal. Extensive anecdotes can seem tangential or divert focus from your thesis.

For example, if your essay argues that we need more diversity in children’s literature, you could briefly share an anecdote about a child excited to finally see a main character that looks like her. This offers a concrete instance of your broader point about representation mattering.

4- Figurative Language

Figurative language is used creatively in argumentative essays to articulate viewpoints in a more compelling, persuasive manner. Here are some tips for effective usage:


  • Paint vivid word pictures to bring arguments to life
  • Convey complex ideas in a memorable way through symbols and imaginative comparisons
  • Enable readers to visualize abstract arguments more clearly
  • Intensify the emotion behind an argument


  • Use alliteration and rhyme for rhetorical flair
  • Incorporate poignant metaphors and evocative similes
  • Leverage personification to make inanimate concepts relatable
  • Include rhetorical questions for dramatic effect
  • Use hyperbole judiciously to accentuate important points


  • “The winds of change are blowing, demanding an ethical overhaul of laws steeped in injustice.” (metaphor + alliteration)

5- Formatting Techniques

These techniques include strategic formatting, which provides visual representation of evidence and makes arguments clearer to follow and emphasizes key data. Here are some tips on using them effectively in argumentative essay:


  • Visually represent data and evidence
  • Draw attention to key points
  • Break up dense text and improve readability
  • Strengthen flow and structure of essay


  • Use section headings and sub-headings to organize arguments
  • Embed relevant, high-quality graphs, charts and infographics
  • Include pull quotes from experts that support claims
  • Use bullet points, numbered lists, and tables for clarity
  • Properly cite sources, references using footnotes or endnotes
  • Be consistent with formatting choices throughout the essay


  • Sectioning the essay into an introduction, body structured by themes, conclusion

6- Allusions

These are references to famous real-world examples, historical events, pop culture or literary works, which make arguments more relatable to readers. Allusions help to establish common ground. They make readers to connect the essay arguments to broader social contexts and enduring struggles for justice. This underscores the relevance and universality of the issue at hand. Allusions can be used effectively in argumentative essays to draw powerful contextual connections that reinforce the essay’s central arguments:


  • Highlight similarities between the current issue and well-known historical/cultural references
  • Allow readers to view the argument through the lens of an enduring struggle
  • Establish significance of the issue by linking it to major past events
  • Evoke emotions by reminding readers of a common cause rooted in the past


  • Briefly summarize the well-known event before drawing parallels
  • Use phrases like “much like…”, “echoing the struggle of…” to link the contexts
  • Choose references that contemporary readers will easily recognize
  • Ensure the referenced event directly relates to the essay’s theme


  • Alluding to the suffragette movement when discussing modern-day gender inequality

7- Tone

The tone whether urgent, impassioned, critical, earnest or ironic shapes how readers perceive the essay’s perspective. Tone adds flavor and mood to arguments. Here are some tips on effectively leveraging tone in argumentative essay:-


  • Convey the significance of arguments to readers
  • Establish writer’s attitude toward the opposing side
  • Build an emotional connection by resonating with readers’ feelings


  • Maintain a formal tone even when critiquing to appear objective
  • Incorporate irony/sarcasm selectively to highlight absurdities
  • Use rhetorical questions in a provocative tone to compel deeper analysis
  • Leverage an urgent/impassioned tone to underscore high stakes involved


  • “Imagine our shock when the very institutions meant to ensure public wellbeing failed in their duties.”

8- Juxtaposition

Contrasting opposing concepts, ideas or perspectives side-by-side highlights their differences in an insightful way. Juxtaposition often persuades via comparison. Here are some tips on using juxtaposition:


  • Illustrate the absurdity or weakness of a contrasting viewpoint
  • Make the differences between two perspectives more apparent
  • Emphasize key data points in support of the writer’s stance


  • Use words like “while”, “whereas”, “on the other hand” when transitioning between contrasting ideas
  • Place statistics, examples, expert views that lend credence to the writer’s claims next to opposing details
  • Structure sentences and paragraphs to objective contrast competing narratives


  • Juxtaposing rates of poverty in nations with robust social welfare versus those without to argue for the need for protective economic policies

9- Hyperbole

Intentionally exaggerated statements emphasize or intensify a point of view. Sparing, careful use of hyperbole underscores importance. Here are some tips on effective usage in argumentative essay:


  • Underscore the severity or intensity of an issue to readers
  • Spotlight the potentially disastrous implications if arguments are ignored
  • Provoke an emotional response by revealing the worst-case scenario


  • Ensure the exaggeration aligns logically with the essay’s central argument
  • Use sparingly – only 1 or 2 hyperboles in a longer essay
  • Avoid outlandish, offensive or inappropriate hyperbolic scenarios
  • Employ figurative language like metaphors and similes for vividness


  • “Incarcerating non-violent, small-scale drug offenders has flooded prisons to bursting point.”

10- Metaphors and Analogies


  • Purpose: Convey intangible arguments artfully through symbolism and imaginative comparisons with concrete concepts
  • Technique: Use vivid, emotive phrases with words like “embodies”, “personifies” when applying metaphors
  • Example: “The new policies embody a stranglehold that stifles progress.”


  • Purpose: Simplify complicated, dense arguments by drawing parallels to commonplace ideas
  • Technique: Use transitional phrases like “similarly”, “in the same vein” when drawing analogies
  • Example: “The nation’s education system functions like a complex machine with many moving, interlinked parts working in unison.”

Key Tips:

  • Ensure the metaphorical symbol or analogous concept relates directly to essay’s central arguments
  • Do not overuse comparisons – Include 1-2 strong metaphors/analogies per essay
  • Avoid far-fetched or obscure parallels that may confuse rather than clarify

11- Alliteration and Wordplay


Purpose: To create a catchy, memorable effect by repeating initial consonant sounds in words that are close together.


  • Use alliteration sparingly to emphasize key points.
  • Repeat the alliterative phrase or word multiple times in the essay to drive the point home.
  • Experiment with different alliterative phrases to find the one that best suits the argument.

Example: “Senator Smith’s solution to climate change is as breathless as a butterfly’s wings fluttering in a hurricane.”


Purpose: To use language in a creative way to convey meaning or highlight an issue.


  • Use puns, double meanings, or other linguistic tricks to create unexpected connections or highlight a point.
  • Use language that has multiple meanings or connotations to add depth to the argument.
  • Avoid overusing wordplay, as it can come across as forced or pretentious.

Example: “The opposition’s stance on the matter is as stable as a house of cards on a windy day.”

12- Imagery

Here are some tips to use imagery in an argumentative essay:

  1. Use sensory language: Incorporate sensory language that appeals to the reader’s senses, such as sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. For example, you could describe a polluted landscape as ‘bleak and barren, like a wasteland after a war’ or a proposed solution as ‘a beacon of hope, shining bright like a ray of sunlight.’
  2. Create mental images: Use descriptive language to paint a mental picture of the issue at hand. For instance, you could describe a group of people marching for a social justice cause as ‘a tidal wave of humanity, united in their quest for equality.’


In conclusion, judicial and skillful use of literary devices can make an argumentative essay more compelling, but they should complement your ideas rather than overwhelm them. Avoid excessive ornamentation and keep the focus on logic and evidence-based arguments. When used appropriately, rhetorical techniques will strengthen your persuasive power.

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