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Personification: Definition, How It Works & Examples In Writing

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Personification is one of the best literary devices writers can use to develop emotional depth in almost all content types.

It can breathe life into otherwise drab writing and allows the author to demonstrate their personal style.

Once you get into the habit of incorporating personification into your work, it will become instinctual.

Below is everything you need to know about this literary device, examples of personification, and when to use it in your writing.

What Is Personification?

Personification is a literary device that describes non-human objects as having human characteristics.

For example, stars can dance. Skies can weep.

Personification helps writers create unique moments that remain in the reader’s mind long after they finish a blog post or story.

It can also serve as a great entry point for writers looking for things to write about by generating ideas.

Also Known As:

  • Prosopopoeia

Simple Definition: How To Explain Personification to a Child

When thinking about personification, it’s helpful to think of the word person.

Personification describes objects, plants, ideas, and more as if they were doing something a human would do.

In real life, for example, stars can’t dance, but through this personification, they can.

Why Is Personification Used?

Writers use personification to bring an invigorating voice to their work that engages readers.

Stories from real life can also take on a more poetic meaning when personification is used effectively.

Types of Personification

This literary device can be used in many contexts to create a dramatic effect within any written work.

  • The Personification of Objects: Personifying objects occurs when non-living things are described as doing something a human might. Personifying objects can be particularly useful when you’re describing household settings such as offices or rooms in homes.
  • The Personification of Concepts: Concepts such as love, hate, sadness, and others can also be personified. Personifying concepts helps make abstract ideas feel real and palpable.
  • The Personification of Landscapes: The landscape is frequently personified in pastoral writing. This personification occurs when features such as mountains, bodies of water, and even plants exhibit human traits. We commonly see this in terms of weather, particularly when it’s extreme.
  • The Personification of Animals: Not to be confused with anthropomorphism, the personification of animals occurs on a subtle scale. Animals aren’t characters when they are personified, but they do exhibit human characteristics. This tactic is often used when adding vivid detail to your writing. These detailed descriptions allow readers to visualize these moments in their minds.

How Do You Identify Personification?

Identifying personification takes practice, but once you get used to keeping an eye out for it, you’ll notice it more and more.

When you’re reading, try to find examples of non-human things doing something a human would do.

Ask yourself: “Can this actually happen in real life?”

If the answer is no, you’ve likely stumbled onto a literary device.

How Do You Use Personification in a Sentence?

Using personification can feel strange at first.

But once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature.

Consider the following examples as you begin crafting your own sentences with personification.

You can also check out other tips for writing and begin the process.

  • Example 1: Shadows tiptoed across the cold cement floors.
  • Example 2: The ice groaned as we walked across the frozen lake.
  • Example 3: The last bit of his pride limped after him.

One helpful trick for trying out personification in a low-stakes environment is to write a list of objects (for example, a tree, knife, or moon) and cover them up.

In the next column, write a verb.

It should be something that a person would do.

You might end up with trees laughing, knives whistling, and the moon sighing sadly.

These won’t be perfect, but they’re a fantastic way to get the juices flowing.

What Is the Most Popular Example of Personification?

The good news is, you’re probably more well-versed in personification than you know.

The literary device appears frequently in children’s fiction, songs, and television.

Nursery rhymes also heavily rely on personification.

Remember “Hey, Diddle diddle”? That rhyme is full of personification.

For example, in the jingle, the dish runs away with the spoon.

You might also recognize personification in one of the most famous poems. Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” features a spooky raven pestering a man by saying “Nevermore.”

The poem offers many instances of personification, from souls burning to lampshades throwing shadows.

This tactic creates an unusual atmosphere that lends itself to the feeling of sorrow at the poem’s core.

Other Famous Examples of Personification

Once you begin paying attention, personification is everywhere.

It’s used by almost all writer types.

The following examples personify concepts, food, landscapes, and more.

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

In this famous poem, Dickinson uses personification to make death into an actual being.

He waits, and they ride together in a carriage.

“Blackberrying” by Sylvia Plath

Plath uses personification to make the blackberries she’s picking feel human.

She explains that they must love her and that the berries themselves arrange themselves neatly in the jar she carries.

The poem also features a personified hill.

Like a human, it has a face and looks out over the ocean.

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

This famous short story describes characters during the war in Vietnam.

They carry essential supplies, but O’Brien also describes the things they carry that go beyond objects.

This choice demonstrates the weight of not only their supplies but also the metaphorical weight that these things carry.

The platoon leader, for instance, carries the weight of responsibility for his men.

Other Modern Examples of Personification

Personification is everywhere, even today.

It’s one of the most commonly utilized literary devices, and for good reason–it lets writers make interesting thematic moves that entice readers.

Examples of Personification for Kids

Personification is great for kids because it helps them see the world in new and exciting ways.

One of the most popular examples of personification for kids is the nursery rhyme “Hey, Diddle, Diddle” from Mother Goose.

In the poem, all manner of animals and objects are described as behaving like humans.

Dishes and spoons run away together, and little dogs laugh at the whole ordeal.

Examples of Personification in Literature and Writing

Shakespeare heavily relied on personification in nearly all of his plays and poetry.

Because the majority of his work was developed for the theater of the time, which had limited theatrical effects, personification helped his audience picture abstract concepts like love, dear, and grief.

Examples of Personification for Poems and Speech

Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech incorporates many literary devices, including personification.

He frequently uses heat to describe the state of injustice in America to help his audience feel the oppressive environment Black Americans faced during the Civil Rights Movement.

Notable Writers Who Used Personification

Personification is employed by beginner writers as well as those who have advanced far in their careers.

Many notable writers used personification to make their work stronger.

1. Jane Austen

The author of Pride and Prejudice and other beloved novels featuring strong female characters frequently used personification.

Because her protagonists are women writers, their use of personification demonstrates why they might love writing in the first place–it allowed them a freedom that society at the time did not.

2. John Steinbeck

As the author of The Grapes of Wrath and many other popular works, John Steinbeck frequently used personification, particularly concerning the land. In his most famous work, set in the Dust Bowl, he described the weather using personification to stress the harsh nature of the environment.

Similarly, in Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck writes about sycamore leaves whispering.

3. Edgar Allen Poe

As mentioned earlier, Poe was a big fan of personification.

By giving creatures, buildings, and other objects human-like qualities, he was able to create a spooky atmosphere where anything was possible.

His characters never feel entirely alone, even though they often physically are.

One of his most famous examples of personification is when he writes about death as a living entity, creating a greater sense of terror for the readers.

What Is the Opposite of Personification?

The complete opposite of personification is the literal description of something that makes no metaphorical literary movements.

However, there is also a literary device known as reverse personification.

This device allows writers to attribute non-human traits to people and characters.

Personification vs. Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is another device that differs greatly from personification.

At first glance, these tools might seem to be the same.

Both give non-human beings or objects human characteristics.

Anthropomorphism, however, focuses mostly on animals but can also be used in the portrayal of gods or objects.

Anthropomorphism can be found in works like Charlotte’s Web or Animal Farm, where animals are the main characters that learn and grow like people.

Personification is used more minimally, creating an emotional feel by creating strong imagery.

Other Related Literary Devices To Know

Personification is an important literary device, but there are many more literary techniques you should learn about and incorporate into your work to become a stronger writer.

  • Allusion: An allusion is a covert reference to something outside the text.
  • Diction: Diction focuses on words and phrases used within a text.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration occurs when the same letter or sound is used at the beginning of adjacent or connected words. Unlike assonance, alliteration uses consonants, not vowels.
  • Allegory: Allegories are stories with moral or political hiding meanings you can interpret and learn a lesson from.
  • Colloquialism: This device refers to informal words used in casual conversation, such as slang or regional phrases.

Writing Tools To Help You Out

Memorizing the many literary devices can feel daunting, but there are several resources to make it easier.

Once you have a handle on them, your writing will improve as you continue to incorporate these techniques into your writing.

These writing tools will save you time (and money) while you learn.

1. Writing Helpers

If you need help developing content for your blog or other creative content, consider using helpers for writing content.

Writing helpers are available to assist you in several areas of writing and can even help you learn how to write a blog post.

2. AI Writing Software

If you’re looking to produce content for your blog without much effort, consider utilizing writing software powered by AI.

As technology develops, creating content utilizing computers can set the stage for writing projects.

3. Grammar Checkers

Is grammar not your strong suit?

No worries.

There are many tools to check your grammar available to help ensure your work is polished and ready to publish.

4. Content Creators

Do you have a unique idea for a blog but don’t have a lot of time to produce content?

Content creators can help you develop ideas and create strong content to engage your audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about personification?

Here are two common questions about this literary device.

Does Grammarly catch personification examples?

Grammarly can give you advice on how to make your content more engaging, but you have to purchase the paid version to get more specific help.

The free version will point out where you could make your writing stronger, but it won’t help you identify personification.

Is personification a figure of speech?


Personification isn’t literal and provides a striking visual effect, which makes it a figure of speech.

Wrapping Up

Whether creating content for your blog or working on personal creative works, using personification and other literary devices will strengthen your writing.

Because it generates such powerful imagery, builds deeper thematic resonance, and engages readers, personification is an essential tool for writers at any stage of their careers.

Now that you know what personification is, try experimenting with it and enhancing your writing or copy.

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