What Is Personification in Writing?
  • 3-minute read
  • 5th June 2023

What Is Personification in Writing?

Personification is when you assign human traits to something nonhuman. In writing, it’s a literary technique using figurative language to bring the text to life. If you’d like to learn more about personification and how you can use it in your work, check out our guide below.

Personification as a Writing Technique

Personification is a form of metaphor. A metaphor describes one thing as being like something else by stating that it literally is that thing (e.g., This student is a star).

With personification, you describe nonhuman things using words we’d typically reserve for writing about people. For example:

The cover was speaking to me, so I bought the book without even reading the blurb.

You might hear expressions like this all the time without even giving them a second thought, but technically, a book’s cover can’t speak. In this sentence, the writer uses personification to apply the human ability of speech to an inanimate object.

Different Ways to Use Personification

Personification is a fun technique because its possibilities are virtually limitless. It can take many forms, including being used with an adjective:

Black and white photos are more forgiving than full color.

The angry waves crashed against the shore.

… a verb:

The puppy’s big brown eyes pleaded with me.

That ice cream is calling my name.

… or a noun:

The wind’s howling kept me up all night.

Don’t give in to your heart’s desires.

Using the Word Personification

You can also use the word itself, personification, to personify something. Meta, right? Stating that something is the personification of something else means that someone or something embodies an entire concept:

He was the personification of evil.

The cottage we stayed at was the personification of small town charm.

As you can see, personification takes on a broader meaning here because you can apply it to both humans and nonhumans.

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Famous Examples of Personification

Artists have used personification in literature, poetry, and music throughout history. Take this example from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart:

Death, in approaching him, had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim.

Here, death is personified; it stalked its victim. Or take this example from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief.

Here, Romeo personifies both the sun and the moon by directing the sun to kill the moon and describing the moon as having human feelings, such as envy and grief.

Summary: Personification in Writing

Personification is a powerful technique in writing, and once you get the hang of using it, you’ll likely find that it’s a fun and limitless way to add life and feeling to your work.

We hope you give it a try! And once you do, make sure you send a copy of your work our way. We’d love to see what you come up with, and we’ll ensure your writing is free of any errors. Try it out today at no cost.

Personification FAQs

What is personification?

Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to something nonhuman. The term can also mean the embodiment of a trait.

How do you use personification?

You can apply personification by describing objects or animals using words reserved for describing human qualities or actions.


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