What is hyperbole?
Hyperbole is exaggeration. In spoken speech, it can be common and one way in which it can be conveyed is with words such as all, always, never, everyone, and millions. Some examples are:
- Everyone has a mobile phone
- You always say that
- Millions of companies are struggling
This use of language can be common and the exaggeration is probably used more as a figure of speech. However, the exaggeration can have consequences, especially when considering the truth and credibility of a statement.
Why should you avoid using hyperbole in academic writing?
As stated before, academic writing is about precision and writing in a way that is as close to the truth as can be determined by the evidence. Exaggeration often moves away from truth. For example, saying everyone only requires one example of someone not having a mobile phone (I do not – I know, crazy!) for it not to be true. The second statement is also clearly not true as people tend to have a range of vocabulary beyond a single sentence. The third requires evidence for millions of companies rather than just a number of companies, which would make the sentence more neutral and require less evidential support.
What should be clear is that exaggeration, taken literally, is often far removed from truth and that is why words such as always are best avoided in academic writing.
How can we avoid using hyperbole?
Delete the word and replace with a more accurate or neutral term for which you have evidence. For example, the above sentences could change to:
- The people I know have a mobile phone
- You often say that in this situation
- A number of companies are struggling