The Truth About Oxymorons

“I am a deeply superficial person.”

Andy Warhol / Painter

In my opinion, there is no oxymoron I enjoy more than “Alone together.” Though, my appeal toward young adult literature may be to blame for this one.

Oxymorons are one of my favorite literary devices beside similes, metaphors, personification, and alliteration. Despite their opposite nature, a negative and positive put together, I find oxymorons to be fun. Some are obvious and others are used precisely, delicately, and are not as easily noticed.

Criminal justice, awfully pretty, virtual reality, and more are just naming a few.

In a previous post, I discussed the weaknesses clich├ęs and idioms provide in writing. If you missed the article, click here. Now, I am acknowledging another creative writing question that might arise when talking about oxymorons. Oxymorons are contradictory phrases that are essentially meaningless, yet, are bizarrely descriptive.

Oxymorons offer a sense of emphasis and can pique interest. In the example of “Alone together” it is emphasizing seclusion and isolation with one other person, most often a lover. There is wonder in being with someone else when the rest of the world seems out of reach and that nothing else exists, matters.

“Deafening silence” resembles the ear-pounding sound that a quiet, vacant room can project especially when you are by yourself or with the person who you wish was around or would break the silence.

As for “Awfully pretty” it draws upon the immense beauty someone or something has that catches another’s eye.

While oxymorons are a unique literary device, why do authors use them instead of writing exactly what the oxymoron is portraying?

There is a loophole in the logic oxymorons convey which can disrupt the rhythm and flow of the story as a reader may have to pause and consider what the writer was attempting to communicate.

Oxymorons can be a precise explanation rather than trailing on for a sentence to convey the same idea. They can provide a dramatic comparison or create a striking visualization.

Oxymorons are also interchangeable and can adapt to each author’s own style, voice, and piece of writing. Swapping one word in an oxymoron pair can effectively shock and excite a reader, preventing from falling into a predictable trap within your writing.

Utilize the infographic below to help create more unique, appealing oxymorons that are not as widely used. Be creative with your oxymoron pairings and even come up with your own versions not listed on the infographic.


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