How to write a Epigram
In order to write an epigram,
- Think of an idea to convey.
- Portray that idea in a brief and thoughtful saying.
For example, consider the idea of happiness and just how difficult it is to find or keep it.
Happiness and its elusive nature.
Happiness is like a butterfly:
the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
This epigram is by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau takes the idea of happiness and uses the extended metaphor of a butterfly to convey its elusive nature.
For a second example, consider the idea of beauty’s ineffable nature.
Beauty as ultimately ineffable.
To define the beautiful is to misunderstand it.
In this epigram, Fernando Pessoa utilizes paradox to claim that beauty is ultimately beyond definition. Usually to define something is to understand it, but in this case, to definite beauty is to misunderstand it.
When to Use Epigram
Epigrams are useful when conciseness and wit are to be appreciated rather than deemed inappropriate. Epigrams can be used in speeches, poetry and prose, and television and movies. Oftentimes, memorable statements become quotable epigrams over time. Epigrams would not be considered appropriate when pure logic and literal thinking are necessary, such as in a philosophy paper or formal essay.