Tag Archives: understatement

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter U




is for Understatement




Understatement is when something important is minimized in order to draw attention to it.

In Chicken or Egg: A Love Story, Paula is convinced she must kill Daniel before he kills her. It’s not until the two of them get together and begin to talk that they realize there is more to the story than Nigel is telling either of them. At one point, Nigel squirrels Paula away in a secluded cabin owned by his company. Because the cabin used to be Daniel’s before Nigel used time travel to essentially steal the company and all its holdings, Daniel also decides to hole up at the cabin until he can figure out a way to dodge Paula. The two of them wind up at the cabin together and go for a walk in the woods and Daniel says,

“So, I’m curious…You seem like a nice enough girl; what makes you wake up one day and decide you want to kill someone like me?”

Here, the nonchalance of Daniel’s question is the understatement. That he can so calmly ask a question like that of Paula, that he can find humour in a situation like this, underplays the danger which  serves to underscore the “which came first” element implied by the title of the work.

Do you every use understatement in your conversational day to day speech? In your dialogue when you write? Do you find it a helpful literary device or is understatement the bane of your existence? Weigh in  with your opinion in the comments section below.