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Whether it’s persuasive, descriptive or creative writing you have been tasked with, one phrase you’ll have to use a lot is, well, a lot. Use it too often and you’ll start to feel like you’re at an auction: there’s a lot of Dutch porcelain, a lot of beautiful glass from Wearside, a lot of first edition Cilla Black LPs and so on. More importantly you’ll be marked down for your paltry vocabulary. So let’s look at some alternatives…

First of all there are the informal or slang words – there are lots of those, there are piles of them, I mean, heaps of them, stacks of them or even masses of them, shedloads of them. Informal maybe, but okay in some contexts, like an informal letter inviting a friend to a jumble sale for instance. We’ve got shedloads of merchandise to sell, including piles of old cycling magazines (who could resist?) Then there are number words – hundreds of people have signed our petition, thousands in fact, millions even! Fine, if you’re exaggerating. Or you could go with something less precise – an untold number of hidden goodies await the lucky winner. I like those romantic old pre-decimalisation numbers: dozens of hats, scores of scarves.

If you want to emphasise the impressiveness of the amount, you could describe a wealth of old books and comics. On the other hand, if it’s the variety you want to emphasise, you could talk about a variety of sweets, or an assortment of fine chocolates or a collection of gems. If it’s the sheer size of the amount you’re playing up, then say a plethora of reasons, an abundance of cheap clothing or a glut of outlet stores. Generally speaking, you’re unhappy with an plethora or a glut, but an abundance could be a good thing.  To make it sound like the reader is discovering something, tell of a treasure trove of bargains or a hoard of old teddy bears. Or when it all gets too much, a blizzard of information, a welter of confusing regulations.

Those last two were starting to get a bit metaphorical, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Particularly in descriptive writing, you can use a metaphor to give your description character. Make shoppers in the January sales sound like crazed barbarians (they’re not far off, after all) by calling them a horde of goggle-eyed shoppers. Just be careful to call them a ‘horde’ (invading barbarians) and not a ‘hoard’ (a mass of stolen goods). Mountains, lakes, flocks, forests and torrents all good metaphors make. And that’s enough for now, I think.

Challenge

The Dictator has finally been chased from his summer palace by a horde (not a hoard) of angry citizens. You’re one of the first on the scene as the jubilant crowds break in and start the looting. Describe what they find and what happens as they enter the palace.

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