Just a Little Exaggeration

Do you ever exaggerate when telling a story or writing a post? Do you add an embellishment here or there for the sake of the narrative, to help your readers relate, or to gain their sympathy?

When someone exaggerates, they are representing something (or someone) as being larger, greater, better, or worse than it (or he or she) really is.

Don’t most good storytellers exaggerate a little? They embellish their tales, perhaps in order to heighten the story’s interest or to make the deeds described within seem just a bit more dramatic, heroic, or comedic.

And, of course, comedians make use of exaggeration, amplification, and hyperbole to enhance the humor of their jokes and funny stories.

An exaggeration occurs when the most fundamental aspects of a statement are true, but only to a certain degree. It’s just “stretching the truth” a little, right?

For example, when a mother scolds her child and says, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times…” is that simply an exaggeration or is it a lie? After all, she may have told her kid that a lot, but certainly not a million times.

How about “I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse”? Or “You could have knocked me over with a feather”? Are these common idioms examples of exaggeration, hyperbole, or lies? Do we recognize and accept them because of how obvious it is that these are “exaggerations for effect”?

A fine line

But isn’t stretching the truth also lying and being dishonest? I think we can all agree that there is a fine line between exaggeration and lying. But if that’s the case, where does it fall and under what circumstances should it not be crossed?

I’ve heard some suggest that the difference between an exaggeration and a lie is that the former doesn’t cause any harm, whereas the latter does. Others say the difference between the two is that an exaggeration could be seen as a matter of interpretation of facts. A lie, though, is a deception with the intention to mislead.

It is, indeed, a slippery slope when trying to distinguish between a benign exaggeration and an outright lie.

As a blogger and a storyteller, what are your feelings about exaggeration? Do you equate adding embellishments to your posts to lying? When, if ever, is stretching the truth permissible?

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18 thoughts on “Just a Little Exaggeration

  1. Frank Hubeny September 11, 2017 / 8:30 am

    I try not to exaggerate, however, what makes it wrong for us is our intuition not our reason. We rationalize our position after we have decided something is wrong, not before.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Marilyn Armstrong September 11, 2017 / 8:33 am

    I don’t exaggerate much. I’m not sure I do at all. But I do focus on whatever piece of the experience I’m writing about, leaving out extraneous material to focus on a particular point. Is that “not” true? I don’t think so. All writing is focused if it is going to reach the reader.

    I used to teach tech writing. Part of the assignment was ALWAYS the length of the piece. I needed my students to understand that material that is intended to teach cannot ramble around. You can’t write about how to use a telephone and wander into a long rap on how to find phone numbers in books or online. You need to know what people need to know and how much — given the type of material — they might be willing to read. The unread stories are inherently ineffective.

    I think we need to be careful about what we define as “lying.” Staying on point isn’t lying, even if it leaves out other items that some people might consider important. You can’t write anything if you have to include EVERYTHING.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango September 11, 2017 / 9:18 am

      I personally don’t equate exaggeration with lying. And yes, in order to stay on point and keep your word count reasonable (I try to keep most of my posts to no more than 400-500 words), you have to leave out extraneous details. And, as you said, you need to catch the reader, so if a small amount of exaggeration does that, why not?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sue Vincent September 11, 2017 / 10:33 am

    Fiction or humour I’ll exaggerate to the max… a piece of factual writing will be factual, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Where all of those meet, then I can have fun. Exaggeration to capture a mood or moment and transmit that feeling, that’s fine. Exaggeration when it is obviously no more than that is fine. It is all about context and the moral filter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Fandango September 11, 2017 / 10:37 am

      Yes, I agree that context is critical. When I post serious stuff about, say, politics, I remain true to the facts that inform my opinions. No fake news from Fandango!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Suze September 11, 2017 / 12:06 pm

    I’m with Sue..after I thought about my (extremely short and to the point) response, I thought..well only if I am trying to be humorous. I never exaggerate on political or religious posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ron. September 11, 2017 / 2:20 pm

    This is, without any doubt, the finest blog post on the subject of exaggeration I have ever encountered. It may be the finest post on that–or any other–subject ever written.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango September 11, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      That was, without a doubt, the most awesome comment anyone has ever made on any blog anywhere.

      Like

  6. cagedunn September 11, 2017 / 3:26 pm

    My tag-line: fibber, fabricator, and teller-of-tall-tales – that may just say it all. But I don’t exaggerate. I don’t … well, not too much. However, I don’t appreciate a person saying they’re honest, or never lie, or being holier-than-thou by making similar statements when they turn a blind eye to the bad things and don’t respond to them in a human (deliberate word choice) way, or when they leave some part of the conversation out because it might hurt someone’s feelings, or show them in a bad light, or it doesn’t matter if they don’t know the whole thing. That’s making choices for another person. That is a lie, because: Lying is a deliberate moment when the choice is made to make the statement that doesn’t tell the whole story.
    Fiction is fictional, relating a story for a purpose – and the moral or theme is a human truth, even if it has to be exaggerated so it can hit a person between the eyes (for effect, of course!).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. lam0beaner September 11, 2017 / 6:40 pm

    Since I function from a place of wrong and right, I don’t exaggerate on a memory, or a retelling of days events. But if I jest I will exaggerate a lot over the place to bring a smile.

    Liked by 1 person

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