Monday, June 12, 2023

How to Use Metaphors Properly in Writing

Metaphor Meaning

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn't literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

Most often used in poetry and literature when someone needs to make their writing a bit more colourful.

Here are some everyday examples:

  1. Dull as dishwater.
  2. He is an old flame.
  3. You are my sunshine.
  4. Life is a journey.

Reasoning  and Thought Using Metaphors

You can bring your reader around to different thoughts and a new perspective with the help of metaphors.  

Explaining how the internet works to someone we would use metaphors like:

  • Surfing the net
  • Landing page
  • Superhighway
  • Domain

All of these terms were unheard of before the net came along.  They help us understand and see something that isn't visible to the human eye, but is clear in our minds eye.

Mixed Metaphors

A mixed metaphor is a succession of incongruous or ludicrous comparisons. Also known—playfully—as a mixaphor.  ThoughtCo.

Mixed metaphors are another way of getting your reader to see things in a humorous way.


  • more fun than a barrel of laughs.
  • a few hammers short of a shack.
  • a few monkeys short of a barrel.

Why Metaphors Are So Useful

When you start using metaphors properly they can really bring your writing to life.  They can open up a whole new world of sight, sound, touch and smell making your writing sound much more appealing.  

If you're trying to introduce your readers to new ideas and concepts, metaphors can help your audience digest information without a second thought.  They can be even more useful if you're trying to describe characters, or scenes in a fictional story.

Metaphors Are Useless When They're Overused

Metaphors can be rendered useless if they're used again and again to communicate the same thoughts and ideas.  

If the metaphor you're using isn't that clear in its meaning, this also can be problematic in writing.  After all, the message you want to put across needs to be clear all of the time.

Analogy vs. Metaphor vs. Simile

Analogy A relationship of resemblance or equivalence between two situations, people, or objects, especially when used as a basis for explanation or extrapolation. Wordhippo.

MetaphorThe use of a word or phrase to refer to something that it is not, invoking a direct similarity between the word or phrase used and the thing described (but in the case of English without the words like or as, which would imply a simile); the word or phrase used in this way; an implied comparison.  Wordhippo.

Simile A figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another, in the case of English generally using like or as.  Wordhippo.

Should I Use Metaphors When I Write?

While metaphors are a useful literary device, they can also become a writing snare that will muddy your meaning if used too often.  

Before you start introducing metaphors, get to know your audience first.  Always make your writing clear because you may have readers at different levels that don't have the same knowledge and understanding that you have.  You also have the problem that people may be in a rush when they're reading and don't have the time to sit and think about what they're reading.  All of these points need to be weighed up before they're written down.

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