I always forget what synecdoche means because it sounds so fancy.
And because it sounds so fancy we should first cover how to pronounce the literary device:
Now, here’s what it is:
Synecdoche is when a part of a noun is used to refer to the whole thing, or vice versa.
As you strengthen your writing skills, you start to notice things you didn’t see before.
When you look back at work you published years ago, you might find that:
- A word that originally felt perfect now seems inaccurate
- An example now seems too plain
- A supporting argument now seems off-topic
You might realize that you didn’t choose the right language to communicate your message. The more precise you can get, the more your reader will understand your point of view at that time.
Synecdoche helps a reader understand your sensibilities, the feelings behind the words you write.
Instead of selecting the most obvious choice, you paint a detailed picture for your reader that makes your writing memorable.
One of the most common examples of synecdoche is using the word “wheels” to represent a car: “Have you seen Doug’s new wheels?”
Here are some other ones:
- “Threads” for clothing
- “Steel” for weapons
- “Sun salutations,” “down dog,” or “savasana” for yoga
These descriptive alternatives are subtle ways to shape your writing voice.
Synecdoche and metonymy
Synecdoche is a form of metonymy (mitt-on-uh-mee), just like simile is a form of metaphor.
Metonymy is when a specific term becomes shorthand for a general noun.
Some examples of metonymy include:
- “Hollywood” for the American film industry
- “The press” for journalists
- “Suits” for businesspeople
Synecdoche and metonymy will typically emerge after you’ve written a rough outline or draft to pepper your text with your personality.
Don’t accept the first words you write
You draft to figure out what you’re trying to say, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept the first words you write.
They very well might be the right words for your content — just don’t assume they are.
After you’ve clarified your thoughts, craft the exact experience you want your reader to have with your writing.