10+ Ambiguity Examples That’ll Make Your Writing Irresistible

by Sam Driver


Are you an aspiring writer eager to make your writing more enticing by harnessing the power of ambiguity examples? 

You’ve landed on the right page! 

Exploring examples is a fantastic way to understand how to wield the double-edged sword of ambiguity and make your writing irresistible. 

We’ll delve into ambiguous writing and highlight techniques and strategies you can use immediately to make your writing engaging. 


Let’s begin!

What is Ambiguity?

Ambiguity may seem like a puzzle to many aspiring writers

Yet, when used effectively, ambiguity is a different way to add depth and dimension to your narrative, infusing it with an irresistible air of intrigue. 

Let’s explore its meaning, the different kinds of ambiguity, and how it contrasts with vagueness.

Ambiguity Definition

Ambiguity refers to any word, phrase, or sentence having multiple meanings and interpretations.

It’s a form of complexity arising in the different meaning of natural language and enhancing the richness of the narrative.

Kinds of Ambiguity

The two most common kinds are semantic and syntactic ambiguity…

Semantic Ambiguity

Semantic, or lexical ambiguity, arises when an ambiguous word or phrase can have different meanings. 

Consider the word “light”. 

It could refer to brightness, low weight, or even a specific color category. 

Syntactic Ambiguity

Syntactic ambiguity occurs when the structure or sentence order leads to multiple interpretations. 

An example is, “I saw the man with the telescope.” 

Here, the ambiguity lies in the double meaning of who has the telescope — is it the observer or the observed?

Ambiguity and Vagueness?

Ambiguity shouldn’t be confused with vagueness. 

Vagueness implies a lack of specificity or clarity, leading to a blurred meaning. 

Ambiguous meaning is more about interpretation, e.g. multiple precise meanings that arise from the same word, phrase, or sentence.

Ambiguity is a Double-Edged Sword

When used skillfully, an ambiguous statement can ignite curiosity, draw readers in, and add a layer of mystique to your writing. 

It lets your readers engage and form their interpretations of the intended meaning, making the reading experience much more interactive and personal.

However, it does come with its share of pitfalls, chief among them the potential for confusion and misunderstanding. 

If your writing is too ambiguous, it might lead to a lack of clarity, leaving your readers perplexed and frustrated.

15 Ambiguity Examples That’ll Amplify Your Writing

Writers work hard to harness the power of this device to incite curiosity and engagement, and they edit fiendishly to avoid confusion or misinterpretation. 

With that said, let’s dive into some riveting ambiguity examples from various writing spheres.

Ambiguity Examples From Literature

The first stop is literature, where ambiguity often adds a layer of complexity and intrigue.

1. “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” contains the line:

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” 

This is a lexical ambiguity, as “fair” and “foul” can have different meanings. 

It can be interpreted as appearances can be deceiving, or what seems good might be bad, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and intrigue.

2. “1984” by George Orwell

George Orwell’s “1984” includes the phrase “War is Peace,” an example of syntactic ambiguity. 

The sentence structure allows multiple interpretations — does it mean that war brings peace, or is it a critique of propaganda where war is falsely equated to peace?

3. “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” features the line:

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” 

This instance of semantic ambiguity in literature arises from the word “person”. 

It could mean that Alice has grown or changed physically, or it could imply an emotional or psychological change.

4. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway

In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” the old man says:

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact.” 

This sentence creates a syntactic or structural ambiguity. 

It leaves readers wondering if being lucky is associated with a new day or if being exact is a preferable state irrespective of the day.

5. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” features the phrase: 

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything.” 

This ambiguous sentence might suggest that sharing information can lead to misunderstandings, or it may imply the character’s desire to protect personal feelings and experiences.

Ambiguity Examples From the Media

Headlines from the media offer many examples where ambiguity either makes us chuckle or ponder their true intent.

6. “Prostitutes Appeal to the Pope”

This headline is a classic example of semantic or lexical ambiguity. 

It could imply that prostitutes are making an appeal or plea to the Pope, or it could suggest that they are appealing or attractive to him.

7. “Kids Make Nutritious Snacks”

This is humorous syntactic ambiguity at its finest. 

It could mean kids are preparing nutritious snacks or kids themselves are being made into nutritious snacks!

8. “Mother Helps Dog Bite Victim”

This is another syntactic ambiguity example from the media. 

Is the mother helping a victim of a dog bite, or is she assisting a dog in biting a victim?

9. “Miners Refuse to Work After Death”

The headline is an example of syntactic ambiguity. 

It might imply that the miners stopped working due to a death or that miners continue to refuse work even after they have died.

10. “Man Eating Piranha Mistakenly Sold as Pet Fish”

This headline could mean a piranha that a man is eating was sold as a pet fish, or it could mean a piranha that eats humans was sold mistakenly as a pet fish!

Ambiguity Examples From Blogs

A sign reading "New Blog Post" next to a typewriter.

In the blogosphere, writers often use ambiguity to make their points more engaging and thought-provoking.

11. “Experience Raw Nature and Cooked Meals.”

In a travel blog, you might come across this semantic ambiguity example. 

“Raw” could mean untouched, harsh, or “uncooked”.

12. “Bright Winter Layers On Sale”

In a fashion blog, this sentence could imply brightly colored winter layers are on sale, or the sale is only for winter layers suitable for bright (sunny) winter days.

13. “Your Future in the Palm of Your Hand”

This tech blog statement could mean that smartphones hold the key to future technology, or it could suggest that we control our own futures.

14. “The Secret to a Richer, Healthier Life is in Your Gut”

Here, “gut” can refer to the digestive system, which implies a healthier diet leads to a better life. 

Or it could also mean intuition, suggesting that following one’s instinct leads to a richer life.

15. “Our Summer Sizzlers Will Melt Your Winter Blues.”

“Summer sizzlers” could mean hot, summer dishes or exciting summer recipes. 

“Melt your winter blues” could imply getting rid of winter sadness with their enticing recipes, or it could suggest that the recipes are so good that they make you forget the harsh winter.

How to Master the Use of Ambiguity and Make Your Writing Irresistible

So, how can you tame the ambiguity double-edged sword and transform your writing? 

Let’s review some practical exercises to help you flex your ambiguity muscles…

  • Write two-word stories: Challenge yourself to create a narrative using just two words. Take “Flying lessons”, for instance. Are we referring to lessons on how to fly or somehow airborne lessons?
  • Craft ambiguous dialogue: Try writing a piece of dialogue where the inherent ambiguity adds depth to the conversation. For instance, “I never said she stole my money.” Depending on which word you stress, this sentence can have several different meanings.
  • Pen ambiguous titles: The title is your reader’s first encounter, so why not make it intriguing? Think of titles like “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner. It’s ambiguous and sparks interest in the readers about the possible meanings it holds within the story.
  • Use metaphors and similes: The comparison made between two unrelated things can often lead to multiple interpretations, making your writing more engaging. Consider the phrase, “Her words cut deeper than a knife.” Depending on the reader’s perspective, it can be interpreted in various ways.
  • Create moral ambiguity: Characters that are neither completely good nor bad are inherently ambiguous and tend to resonate well with readers. They mirror the complexity of real-life individuals, making your story more relatable.

As you experiment with these exercises, you’ll discover that ambiguous language can be a playful and powerful instrument in your writing toolkit. 

It encourages deeper engagement from your readers, invites them to decode meanings, and can make your narratives more compelling. 

And just like any writing technique, ambiguity demands practice and a keen awareness of its effects on your reader.

Ambiguity Examples: Ready to Make Your Writing Irresistible?

Remember, mastering this literary device is about understanding its impact on your writing and using it strategically to engage your readers. 

It’s about providing a narrative that keeps them on their toes, guessing, interpreting, and relating. 

So pick up that pen, dive into the world of ambiguity, and watch your writing transform into a captivating symphony of words.

Photo of author

Sam Driver

Sam is an Associate Editor for Smart Blogger and family man who loves to write. When he’s not goofing around with his kids, he’s honing his craft to provide lasting value to anyone who cares to listen.


Make 2-5K per month, even if you're a beginner. We're seeking writers of any skill level.
Photo of author

Written by Sam Driver

Sam is an Associate Editor for Smart Blogger and family man who loves to write. When he’s not goofing around with his kids, he’s honing his craft to provide lasting value to anyone who cares to listen.

Leave a Comment