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Primary School Composition | Onomatopoeia – What’s That?

Hello Lil’ Ones! I’m Ms. Junisa. Composition is one of my favourite English components in school because this is where I can display my creativity and let my ideas come to life!

Onomatopoeia - What's that?

Today, I’m sharing with you how you can incorporate onomatopoeia (pronounced as o-nuh-ma- tuh-pee-uh) into your writing. Onomatopoeia, simply known as a sound word, is a literary device that associates a word to a sound. Certain words evoke the aural sound of the object or thing that they describe. The “crash” of a ceramic plate breaking, the “tick tock” of a clock, and the “ring” of an alarm are all examples of onomatopoeia.

Why Should You Use Onomatopoeia?

When describing a scene in your writing, you should strive to use the 5 senses to help your readers visualise it clearly. Using onomatopoeia is an effective way to include the sense of sound and when used properly, it can be a powerful literary device. Take a look at the sentence below:

He pushed the lever and the machine roared to life.

The word ‘roared’ tells us that the machine was probably a large, loud one and this enables us to see the scene clearly in our minds. Now compare that to this:

He pushed the lever and the machine turned on.

In this sentence, we do not hear what is going on and this makes the scene less vivid. Hence, I hope you can see that adding onomatopoeia in your writing allows the readers to experience the scene more fully and makes your writing more interesting.

How Do You Add Onomatopoeia Into Your Composition?

You can add a sound word whenever you are describing a scene where sounds can be heard. You do not need to use quotation marks to denote onomatopoeia as it is not considered speech.

For example:

Onomatopoeia Creative Writing & Compo

In the above example, it is easy for readers to visualise how chaotic and noisy the situation was for the character who had to deal with broken plates and burning hot dogs. When you read the paragraph, you can almost imagine the sounds of the plates crashing to the floor, the sizzling of hot dogs and the ringing of the alarm. This is because the writer has vividly described the scene with the effective use of onomatopoeia – choosing to use sound words that suggest something loud, high-pitched and even shocking.

Types of Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia can be categorised into sounds made by animals, people and things. Here are some examples of sound words for each category:

 Onomatopoeia - Creative Writing & Compo

Books With Onomatopoeia:

As you look through the inventories in your school library, you may find many books with onomatopoeia in them.

For advanced readers, they can be found in the Geronimo Stilton series and for beginner readers, the Dr. Seuss series are a good way to kick-start your reading journey.

The Geronimo Stilton series work particularly well with visual learners. When a sound word (or other impressive vocabulary) appears on the page, it stands out from the other words because it has a colourful font and design. This makes it easy and attractive for visual learners to pick up new words.

Some examples in the book to describe nature sounds are “A dry fall leaf crunches underfoot” and “A bumblebee buzzes around the backyard”.

The Dr. Seuss series are suitable for beginner readers who are still building up on phonemic and word-sound awareness. By using onomatopoeia and rhyming words, readers are able to gain momentum and find a comfortable pace for reading. Word sounds are used extensively in the Dr. Seuss series to describe sounds for animals and objects that follow the character’s adventure.Onomatopoeia - Creative Writing & Compo

A Word of Advice

Like all the other literary devices, onomatopoeia should be used when it is appropriate for the context. As mentioned earlier, it is most effective when you want to describe a scene vividly using the sense of sound. Avoid using onomatopoeia in formal writing, for instance when writing a report or formal letter, because it does not fit the formal tone.

Another important thing to remember is to use it sparingly! Not every sound in the story needs to be described, and sometimes, the scene lends itself more to senses other than hearing. For instance, if I am describing my favourite meal at lunchtime, I would focus more on how the food tastes, smells and looks, rather than the sounds I hear while I consume it.

The next time you think of a story, think of onomatopoeia and how you can make everyday objects come alive with sounds! Share in the comments section below of how you might incorporate onomatopoeia in your writing.

I’ll see you in my next blog post. Good luck!

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Ms. Junisa

Writing is Ms Junisa’s favourite way to express how she feels. She loves it so much that she went to NTU to complete her bachelor’s degree in English Literature. It was there that she truly appreciated how authors use language and their skills to make stories come alive for both you and me! And that’s exactly what we’re doing at Lil’ but Mighty – creating stories beyond our imagination.

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