The goal of every writer is to convey their ideas on paper to the reader. Authors can use literal language and plain sentences to tell a story or explain an idea, but often, the use of figurative language is more effective in evoking emotions and images. Writers of fiction and poetry, particularly make use of figurative language and figures of speech in order to engage the senses to provide a more immersive experience. One of the senses that is easiest for authors to tap into is the sense of sound by use of onomatopoeia.
Onomatopoeia is the use of a word or words that are indicative of a sound that the source of the sound produces. It is used primarily because describing sounds with words can be difficult for an author. For example, if an author is writing a story and someone fires a gun, they are faced with the problem of explaining to the reader how the gun sounded. An author could choose to say the gun sounded loud, but that does nothing to give the reader a better picture of the action. Instead, the author could use simile or metaphors like, “the gun sounded like thunder,” to describe the action, but for more variety and for a more efficient way to provide an image, he could make use of onomatopoeia. For example, instead of using a simile comparing the gun to thunder, the author could say that the gun made a “bang.” The word “bang” mimics the sound a gun produces, providing an instant, unmistakable auditory image in the reader’s mind.
Onomatopoeia is particularly effective in poetry. Poetry relies on rhythm and meter and is often recited, creating the perfect medium for an effective use of onomatopoeia. Poetry has its roots in aural tradition making the use of words that evoke sounds particularly appropriate. Onomatopoeia words are often single syllable words that can affect the rhythm and meter of a poem, dramatically, increasing their use for emphasizing a particular point or evoking a certain emotion that the author is trying to evoke.
Onomatopoeia is also used frequently in comic books and comic strips where space is limited and words must be used to their fullest effect to maximize their effectiveness in telling a story and conveying meaning and context to the reader.
Onomatopoeia is a powerful device that authors can use to create a more immersive atmosphere by engaging the sense of sound, a concept that is often difficult to convey with words. Like all figures of speech, its use can help to better explain events, give a more vivid description of people, places, and ideas, and provide the reader with a better understanding of the writer’s intent and meaning.