Archive for Metaphors

Visual Images Add Clarity in Your Writing – and They’re Fun!

visual images

My face is getting smaller and smaller

A quote in a recent New York Times article was the inspiration for this post. I felt the pain of a Princeton professor who rues the slow demise of humanities majors. According to the Times, many distinguished humanities professors feel their status deflating.

Using an analogy, Anthony Grafton, a Princeton history professor, said he sometimes feels “like a newspaper comic strip character whose face is getting smaller and smaller.” Can’t you just visualize it?

Business writing can be awfully dull, especially when it’s a topic that is unfamiliar to the reader. Haven’t your eyes ever glazed over when you’ve been trying to make sense of what something means?

That’s why visual images in the form of analogies and metaphors are so powerful in conveying your intentions. Read More→

Analogies and Metaphors Paint Images for Readers

[tweetmeme]“Buzz is already taking a chunk out of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services. That’ll only grow as brands and advertisers better understand what they can do with Buzz and its millions of users. Buzz is equivalent to throwing a giant super magnet into a room filled with nails.Like throwing a giant super magnet into a room filled with nails

I don’t know about Buzz challenging its rivals, but this paragraph is a lively example of how analogies and metaphors enrich our writing and paint images for our readers.  Buzz is like a giant super magnet attracting new users – a powerful visual image.

Writers often confuse analogies and metaphors.  In a story on the CBS News Opinion page “Political Analogies Are Like Toothbrushes,” the headline is an analogy comparing two dissimilar things to clarify a point or create an image. Something is like something else. Then throughout the article the writer mistakes analogies for metaphors in which one object becomes another object, i.e., “Obama is Abraham Lincoln in 1860.”

This is probably nitpicking, because my point is that analogies and metaphors can enhance our writing.

I decided to re-read a few of my past blog posts to see how I might improve them with an analogy or metaphor.  Here’s one that I think could be better (italicized words added):  “This is a golden opportunity for companies to find out what customers are looking for and to respond to their needs directly one-to-one, like a good mother responds to her child’s need for a hug.”

Here’s another blog about the importance of facial cues in business:  “We’ve all had the experience of talking to someone who gives us absolutely no facial or verbal cues.  It’s like trying to get a response from General Lee’s image on Stone Mountain.”

A writer is a like a painter, using imagery to entertain, provoke and educate with the fervent hope of not being a bore.  Your thoughts, good readers?

More Powerful Business Writing Using Visual Images

Business writing can be awfully dull, especially when it’s a topic that is unfamiliar to the reader.  Haven’t your eyes ever glazed over when you’ve been trying to make sense of what something means?

That’s why imagery in the form of analogies and metaphors is so powerful in clarifying your intentions.  I decided to write about visual imagery after reading a story about the growth of China as a world power in the The New York Times a couple of days ago.


An analogy explicitly compares two things that are seemingly different but actually have something in common.  The comparison starts with either “like” or “as.”

Take the analogy that got me started on this blog:  “China is like an adolescent who took too many steroids…it has suddenly become big, but it finds it hard to coordinate and control its body.  To the West, it can look like a monster.”  I don’t know about you, but I can just see this monster in contortions.  It’s out of control and that’s scary to the rest of the world.

That analogy is so much more powerful than if the speaker had said something like, “China is getting very large but it’s finding it difficult to manage its growth.”  Boring.

Have some fun filling in the blanks in these analogies:

President Obama is like a ­­­­­­______ pushing through health reform.

Comparing the Western world to the East is like comparing _______ to ________.

The cheerleaders are like ________when they try to energize people in the stands.


Unlike analogies, which compare two different things, metaphors say that something is something else.  Most often metaphors personify or de-personalize.  Using China again, “China stiff-armed us with trade barriers.”  China becomes a person and we see the powerful image of someone pushing us away.

Or, something can be de-personalized, as in “He was a beast tackling the quarterback.”  Here the human is transformed into the image of an animal.  How much more interesting than, “the defensive lineman got to the quarterback.”

Using a metaphor more akin to business, “The CEO was a bear beating the competition at its own game.”

Try filling the blanks in these metaphors:

Vice President Biden is a ______________ when he speaks.

He was a __________ piling the logs in the driveway.

She was a __________on the way to becoming head of the company.

Do you have some interesting analogies and metaphors you can share?