The way you tell it: the benefits and drawbacks of non-literal expression in everyday life

Metaphors, metonymy, irony, hyperbole – non-literal expression is one of the primary tools for achieving economy of expression, clarity, persuasiveness, politeness and the communication of emotions.

However, the potential for misunderstanding increases dramatically in situations where participants lack shared background knowledge or have significantly different views of the world.

Jeanette Littlemore is Professor of English Language and Applied Linguistics at University of Birmingham.

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