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Essential Things to Know About Paradoxes

When it comes to using literary devices, the paradox is one of the most confusing and difficult to use. It is often used in literature, however its definition is somewhat difficult to pinpoint.

In layman’s terms a paradox is a statement, situation, or proposition that might seem illogical or even impossible at first. However, upon closer inspection the paradox contains the truth. Here are a few things writers should know about paradoxes.

How do you write a Paradox?

Writing a paradox could be a bit tricky at first, however, you will slowly get the hang of it. The first thing you should remember about writing a paradox, is that you start with contradictory or even absurd statements that upon closer inspection rings true. For example, there’s the phrase “The only constant is change”.

When you first read the phrase, it is instantly contradictory. How could change be a constant? Change is the act or instance of making or becoming something different. Constant on the other hand is a situation or state of being that does not change at all. However, upon close inspection, you will see that there is a grain of truth in the phrase. Life is a chaotic affair, and nothing is ever constant, except for the fact that it is constantly changing.

By utilizing a paradox in your writing, you’ll make your writing more clever and multifaceted. If you want to fine tune your knowledge of paradoxes, here are other great examples that you should take to heart.

Examples of Paradoxes in Common Phrases

· I’m a compulsive liar.

· Save money by spending it.

· This is the beginning of the end.

· Deep down, you’re really shallow.

· Impossible is not a word in my vocabulary.

· You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

· The louder you are, the less they hear.

Examples of Paradoxes in Movie Dialogues

· The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club. The second rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club- Fight Club

· You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.- No Country For Old Men

· To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.-The Importance of Being Earnest

· I had to come to prison to be a crook.-The Shawshank Redemption

· “Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.-Scarface

· I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.- The Godfather

· If everyone is special, no one is.- The Incredibles

Examples of famous Paradoxes

· What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young. –George Bernard Shaw

· I can resist anything but temptation.- Oscar Wilde

· Men work together whether they work together or apart.- by Robert Frost

· Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.- Frank Herbert

· Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.- Rita Mae Brownd

· Is man merely a mistake of God’s? Or God merely a mistake of man? — Friedrich Nietzsche

· Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.- Mahatma Gandhi

· Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none- Albert Einstein

· I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.- Plato

Difference between a Paradox and an Oxymoron

If you are going to use a paradox in your writing, it is important that you know the difference between a paradox and an oxymoron. What is an oxymoron? It is also a literary device that shares similarities with a paradox. Like a paradox, the oxymoron reflects apparent contradictions in phrases and ideas.

The key difference between the two is that a paradox has a far larger scope. A paradox utilizes a statement or a group of sentences to make a contradiction, and yet deliver a core truth. An oxymoron on the other hand is just a combination of two words that contradict one another, nothing more, and nothing less.


If you are thinking of using paradoxes in your writing, it is important that you know their key concepts, and how to efficiently use them. With this article, you’ll know exactly what a paradox is, and what it could add to your writing.

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Flynn Hannan

Flynn Hannan

Bibliophile , Senior Indie Editor at Writers Republic