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What Is Circumlocution? Definition and Examples

Wouldn’t or not it’s nice if each time we sat down to write down, we knew precisely what to say and the best way to say it? Sadly, there are occasions when our brains want a number of tries earlier than they’ll arrange our phrases clearly and succinctly. Generally our first, second, and even third drafts are filled with pointless phrases, sentences, and tangents. This extreme use of language is named circumlocution. It’s a approach of “writing round” a phrase, phrase, or matter. More often than not it’s unintentional. Nevertheless, circumlocution will not be at all times a adverse factor. If used skillfully, it may be an asset as a literary gadget that makes writing extra descriptive or purposely elusive, or obscure.

What’s circumlocution?

The definition of circumlocution is a approach of writing one thing utilizing extra phrases than are vital. It’s the reverse of concision. A author may use circumlocution to be intentionally obscure or to create vivid imagery.

For instance, all through the Harry Potter collection, Lord Voldemort is known as He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named. This title refers back to the antagonist, introducing an air of hazard and foreboding with out having to elaborate.

3 causes to make use of circumlocution

To create particular imagery:
Writers could use circumlocution to create lengthy, flowery, descriptive passages. These passages don’t at all times get straight to the purpose, however they’re filled with vivid imagery and element that deliver texture to the narrative.

Circumlocution is just like amplification, through which a author ornaments a sentence with a purpose to emphasize or exaggerate sure factors. Amplification is one other form of descriptive writing. Nevertheless, it differs from circumlocution by being extra direct and particular.

To keep away from the topic:
This sort of elusiveness can illustrate when a personality doesn’t need to confront a topic head on; they may use circumlocution to take up area and distance themselves from the subject. This happens typically in politically charged writing. For instance, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the pigs who run the farm steal meals from the opposite animals:

In the meanwhile it has been discovered essential to make a readjustment of rations.

This can be a circuitous approach of claiming, “We’ve stolen meals,” and it’s a very circuitous approach for Orwell to say, “These in energy are stealing from us.” Many examples of circumlocution will be present in political rhetoric.

To create ambiguity:
If a personality will get in bother for telling the reality, then they may use circumlocution to create a deceptive assertion. For instance, if a personality doesn’t need to outright mislead his mom, he may inform her that he was simply stepping exterior for a breath of recent air moderately than admit he snuck out.

An excessive amount of circumlocution

An excessive amount of circumlocution will tire out your reader. The easiest way to keep away from inadvertent circumlocution is easy: Edit! It’s simpler to identify circumlocution if the concept is already on the web page. It may also be useful to learn the primary and second drafts out loud. When writing that appears easy on the web page sounds difficult when spoken aloud, it’s in all probability an occasion of circumlocution.

Phrase selection: It may be straightforward to unintentionally use circumlocution if you happen to don’t know the phrase you might be searching for. Take into consideration the best way we use Google to seek for phrases we are able to’t keep in mind. You may kind “machine that blows snow off the sidewalk” whereas searching for a snowblower. That’s circumlocution! We do the identical factor whereas writing. Having a dictionary or thesaurus close by may help you establish the correct phrase.

Pause your writing: The usual recommendation given to writers is that “all writing is rewriting”—that means that almost all first drafts are revised and rewritten many occasions earlier than a closing model is full. And in that spirit, generally it’s greatest to simply get phrases out and cope with them later. However that doesn’t work for everybody. If, as an example, you might be engaged on an essay inside a restricted time-frame—equivalent to throughout a take a look at or on a deadline—then your first draft is perhaps all you’ve got. In that case, take a second to consider what you might be actually attempting to say. Fantastic-tuning your message will make it easier to keep away from circumlocution and make your writing stronger.

Phrases just like circumlocution


Periphrasis and circumlocution are synonyms and can be utilized interchangeably.


Verbosity is a approach of talking that makes use of extra phrases. With circumlocution, a author or speaker makes use of too many phrases to get to some extent. With verbosity, a speaker makes use of extra phrases with no goal. In different phrases, there isn’t a level to verbosity apart from the speaker listening to themself converse.


Innuendo is an elusive or indirect comment; it’s a approach of claiming one thing with out saying it outright. Typically, innuendo is used to counsel one thing sexual or disparaging. It’s one type of euphemism, or an expression that softens uncomfortable matters. Innuendo is just like circumlocution in that it doesn’t describe the factor immediately. Nevertheless, it isn’t essentially difficult or extreme.


Equivocation is a rhetorical approach of talking that’s purposely obscure with the intention of complicated or deceptive the listener or making the argument so ambiguous that listeners suppose they’re in settlement. Circumlocution is a roundabout approach of talking that may be complicated, but it surely doesn’t intentionally cover meanings with a purpose to advance an argument.


Tautology is saying the identical factor twice. For instance, calling one thing a “vital requirement” is a tautology as a result of all necessities are vital. Tautologies are just like circumlocution in that they use extra phrases than are vital. The distinction is that tautologies sometimes use just one or two further phrases and categorical the identical concept twice. Circumlocution typically makes use of many extra phrases and doesn’t essentially repeat itself.

Examples of circumlocution in literature

“On the flats, the solar conspired with the salt to make a fuel of brightness and warmth pouring in all instructions, its mirrored rays bouncing up from the hammered-white floor and burning the backs of my thighs proper by way of my leathers.”

—Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers

The narrator in The Flamethrowers makes use of circumlocution to explain the warmth whereas driving her bike by way of the Utah desert. On this case circumlocution is used to create vivid imagery, amplifying the impact of the warmth on her legs.

“‘Our current religious bother is actually higher than our financial bother.’

. . .

‘However what Mr. Loop means, Brother Walker, is a person wants just a little meat and taters to maintain his morale up.’”

—Ken Kesey, Generally a Nice Notion

On this change at an unofficial city assembly, the Reverend Brother Walker means that the townspeople have misplaced their religion in God, whereas a number of the different males suppose that cash is the city’s predominant downside. The boys use circumlocution to speak round one another, not desirous to offend one another but not solely agreeing.

“I stated it appeared to me that marriages labored in the identical approach that tales are stated to do, by way of the suspension of disbelief. It wasn’t, in different phrases, perfection that sustained them a lot because the avoidance of sure realities.”

–Rachel Cusk, Transit

The primary character of Transit makes use of circumlocution to explain her emotions towards marriage. She will not be being forthright in saying that she and her earlier accomplice believed various things. As an alternative, she leans on analogies and longer phrases, like “the avoidance of sure realities,” to make her level. On this occasion the writer makes use of circumlocution to melt the in any other case harsh language.

Circumlocution FAQs

What’s circumlocution?

Circumlocution is a approach of writing that makes use of extra phrases than are vital.

What’s an instance of a sentence that makes use of circumlocution?

An instance of circumlocution in a sentence is: “Some know him as a Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a Knight of the Most Historical and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, a member of the Privy Council of the UK, and a Private Aide-de-Camp to the sovereign.” This can be a way more difficult approach of claiming, “Some know him as Prince William.”

When is circumlocution used?

Circumlocution is utilized in writing to create ambiguity, evoke elusiveness, or create vivid imagery.

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