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Following is an example of student writing in which figures of speech are overworked and actually impede rather than enhance the clarity of images.

Cool water flows through the rocky banks of the creek and into a wide pond. Reeds and cattails surrounding the bank embrace the pond like a mother's enfolding arms reaching out to caress her sleeping child. Like a beaming, proud mother's eye, the sun drenches the scene with its loving warmth. Just beneath the sparkling surface of the water, minnows shoot from rock to rock like silver darts thrust like scattershot by some unseen hand.

Analysis:

The descriptive images in the paragraph above are obscured by unfortunate and unnecessary comparisons. Note the figures of speech in the highlighted words and phrases in the copy of the same paragraph below:

Cool water flows through the rocky banks of the creek and into a wide pond. Reeds and cattails surrounding the bank embrace the pond like a mother's enfolding arms reaching out to caress her sleeping child. Like a beaming, proud mother's eye, the sun drenches the scene with its loving warmth. Just beneath the sparkling surface of the water, minnows shoot from rock to rock like silver darts thrust like scattershot by some unseen hand.

The simile: like a mother's enfolding arms reaching out to caress her sleeping child No further clarity of image is provided in the second sentence by the last phrase. In fact, the simile of the "mother and child" is so powerful emotionally as to shift the entire focus from a description of nature to one of the most sentimental images in the world--the tenderness of a mother for a helpless infant.

The writer gets so carried away in her enthusiasm for the "mother and child" motif even though there is no detail of the creek scene that suggests a parallel for "the sleeping child." What is the best solution for correcting the unfortunate misdirection of the closing phrase? Answer: Drop the entire phrase from the sentence....
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