Tips on Writing an Allusion

Tips on Writing an Allusion
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You can create allusions by mentioning images and ideas that you’ve previously used in your work (internal allusions) or by referring to other sources (external allusions). If you understand the difference and a few main principles, creating an allusion is a simple task. Read this article on how to use an allusion in your writing at blog.

External Allusion

1. Analyze the similarities between the source material and your ideas. You may realize that some myth, story, or painting reflects your own thoughts. For example, there may be characters who experience the same challenges as yours.

2. Use an allusion instead of the general language. Here are two examples. The first sentences use the general language, while the second ones include an allusion:

  • I’m going to have problems because of this decision.
    I’m about to open up Pandora’s box with this decision.
  • This place is amazingly beautiful!
    This place is like the Garden of Eden!

Internal Allusion

1. Analyze the similarities between your idea and the things you’ve written before. The best approach is to plan internal allusions in advance. For example, if you know that some passage is the main idea of your story or argument, you can look for places where you can use such an allusion.

2. Use the same words as when you’ve expressed this idea for the first time.

Let’s say you’re writing a paper about the Civil War. Here’s an example of a possible internal allusion:

  • Generals Forrest and Sheridan were brave and charismatic.
  • Their bravery and charisma enabled the generals to use effective tactics.

As you can see, the second sentence uses the same words as the first one, helping the readers to see the connection between these two sentences.

The way you can use allusion depends on the type of writing.

Formal Essays

When writing formal papers, such as term papers or formal essays, an internal allusion can help you connect different pieces of your argument. If you allude to an earlier idea that you made, your readers can better understand your point. Sometimes, you may use direct allusions, however, subtle allusions are also useful. Here’s an example:

Initial statement:

  • Alexander the Great couldn’t win the battle because his army was unmotivated and homesick.


  • The lack of motivation and homesickness also played their role for Julius Caesar’s army.

In the example above, the author doesn’t just say that Caesar and Alexander had the same problem. Alexander isn’t even mentioned in the second sentence, however, it’s easy to see the similarities between these two statements.

We recommend that you don’t use external allusions in your formal essays. Citations are the right option, while external allusions may be considered plagiarism because you don’t give credit to the author of the initial statement. In addition, the use of external allusions looks somewhat pointless in formal papers. It makes the audience think that you just want to demonstrate how many books you read.

Creative Writing

Internal allusions in creative writing have the same purpose as in formal writing. It allows you to improve the overall coherence and helps your readers easily follow your flow of thoughts.

The main difference between creative writing and formal writing is that, in creative writing, you can use external allusions. For example, Western literature is filled with allusions to Greek mythology and the Bible so nothing stops you from doing the same thing when writing your stories. The main thing is to make sure that your audience understands your allusions and is familiar with the sources.

However, keep in mind that too many external allusions make you sound pointless and pretentious. Make sure that your allusions contribute to the meaning of your work instead of just demonstrating how many books you know. Therefore, we suggest that you clearly understand the purpose of each of your external allusions.

You can use internal allusions in both formal and creative writing, along with citations and direct references. As for the external allusions, they require you to be more careful but are still a great solution for creative writing.

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