Developing Conversations: Exemplifying and emphasising a point

It’s one thing to master the vocabulary and grammar of a language, but another to engage people with your use of words. Persuasive language can be one way of doing this – but we’re not always looking to persuade someone else, sometimes we just want to express our own thoughts, passions, and inform others, with no intention of swaying or changing their opinions.

Written by Chris Stibbards for

As humans, we like to hear someone being enthusiastic, especially about the things we also like and it is a big part of finding common ground and building connections. Nothing is worse when you ask somebody about your favourite movie and they merely say:

‘It was good.’

Even when someone agrees with you and holds the same opinion, it can be deflating if they lack enthusiasm, or don’t have a lot to say.

I’m going to be talking about two quick methods to enhance your English and expand what you have to say to make it much more interesting: exemplification and extreme adjectives.


Exemplification (giving an example) is often used in persuasive language in the form of evidence, but sometimes we use it outside of persuasive language. Examples help build a mental picture for the person listening and can bring complicated concepts to life. You can look out for a few key phrases that might indicate exemplification:

“For instance, …”

“For example, …” (note, in written English, sometimes this is written as ‘e.g.’)

“Especially when…”

“Specifically when…”

“When I…”

Telling a story, anecdote, or being especially descriptive in your examples can make your stories and use of language much more interesting. 

After all, which of the following sounds more appealing?

‘The city of Valencia is located by the sea, and there are lots of villages around it. There are shops and restaurants, a beach where the weather is always good, and there is the possibility to go fishing and many different types of fish in the sea.’
‘When I lived in the city of Valencia, I used to love visiting the nearby villages and shops, eating at all the wonderful restaurants, and visiting the perpetually sunny beach. For instance, I loved fishing there, and even caught a huge sea bass once, amongst other fish!’

Both provide roughly the same information, in exactly the same number of words, but making it personal and providing examples, such as in the second sentence, can really bring a scene you are trying to describe to life.

Examples can be your own personal experience, a friend’s experience that they’ve told you about, or something more general.

Enhancing your adjectives

There are 171, 476 full entries for words in the full Oxford English Dictionary, and that doesn’t include over 47,000 words that are now no longer used. That’s a huge number of words, and it’s unlikely that anybody knows them all – and even more absurd to think anybody remembers all of them. This number might seem daunting and a little scary – but we often have hundreds of words for the same, or very similar thing. It is thought that the 1000 most common words make up more than half of all conversation in English (up to 80%, depending on the research!). 

Whilst you may be able to hold a casual conversation with just the first thousand words, English is full of all sorts of synonyms which make the language much more interesting and vibrant. Whilst speakers of other languages may criticise English speakers in their lack of excitement, manner, and enthusiasm sometimes, we more than make up for it with the variety of our language, our tendency to use a wide range of vocabulary in expressing ourselves, and perhaps exaggerating a little.

This is where extreme adjectives come in. 

After all, why say something is good, when you can choose from a whole list of slightly more extreme examples: excellent, awesome, remarkable, sensational, marvellous, fabulous, brilliant, wonderful, terrific, tremendous, ace, outstanding, superb, exquisite, wicked, or even ‘the cat’s pyjamas’? (and this isn’t even all of them…)

The best part is, there are a huge number of extreme adjectives for all sorts of common adjectives:

Bad: Awful, disastrous, atrocious, lousy, dreadful, abominable.
Pretty: Beautiful, gorgeous, stunning, bewitching.
Big: Colossal, gigantic, huge, immense, massive, enormous, monumental.
Ugly: Grotesque, hideous, horrid, repugnant, revolting.
Tired: Exhausted, drained, beat, worn out.
Silly: Preposterous, ridiculous, ludicrous, idiotic, nonsensical, crazy, witless.
Tasty: Delicious, delectable, yummy, scrumptious, mouth-watering.

And if you really want to drive the point home, you can use the word “absolutely” before any of these extreme adjectives to make it even more emphatic. (Note: don’t use absolutely before an adjective that isn’t extreme; ‘absolutely bad’, or ‘absolutely good’, for example, don’t sound quite right.)

So next time someone asks you what you think of their cooking, don’t tell them:

“It was good. It was cooked very well, and I liked the potatoes.”

Instead, tell them:

“Thank you. It was delectable. Absolutely outstanding cooking, and I haven’t had a meal like that in a long time! Especially those potatoes, they were so crispy, they reminded me of those my family used to make.”

You might just get invited back 😆 

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