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Effective Use of Metaphors, Analogies, and Similies.

Using Analogies and Metaphors in your writing can assist the reader to understand exactly what is being discussed by using other examples. Their use provide a helpful means of describing a topic, but using a separate, usually more familiar topic to use for a relationship. While analogies and metaphors can often be used in similar circumstances, they are not the same.

An analogy shows that, if two things are alike in some ways, they may be alike in multiple ways (although they do not have to be.)
Example: The way a lion in the wild protects her young is an interesting analogy for how humans instinctively protect their newborn babies.

The above example is comparing a lion to a human. Many people know that wild animals will protect their offspring to death - and using this knowledge, you can become aware of the way the human instincts work as well.

A metaphor also compares two objects, but where an analogy does have a relationship between both objects (a mother lion and a human mother), a metaphor does not have the relationship. Instead, a methaphor is compares unrelated things with the intent of showing how they are similar.

Example: You are my sunshine.

In this example, "you" are being compared to the sunshine, or the sun. Since the sun is of complete importance as it is required for survival, it is being inferred that "you" are of equal importance. There are other, more interesting ways to use metaphors, though.

Example: The embarrassing event made her cheeks burn.

The example above suggests that her cheeks are burning. However, the word "burn" is being used as a metaphor to show that her cheeks become hot and red, showing embarrassment.

A similie shows a relationship between two objects or events explicitly. This is usually done with the word "like" or "as," as seen in the example below.

Example: His throat was as dry as the Sahara Desert at high-noon during a sandstorm.

The example uses "as" to show the comparison - the throat being dry and sandy or scratchy.

Example: Stepping outside was like stepping into a blizzard.

Outside is being compared to a blizzard - probably cold, snowy, and windy.


Using these Comparisons Effectively
When to use an analogy versus a metaphor versus a similie is completely up to whoever is doing the writing. At times, they are used without knowing they're actually being used. We have a few recommendations when to use these literary elements:

1. When you can describe something by using an example everyone knows instead of using multiple sentences to describe the details. For example, if it's hot, dry, windy, sandy, etc., it would be easier to say that the environment was like a desert than trying to show the temperature, humidity, and wind force.

2. When the action of something is almost identical to something else you could compare. As an example, if someone was yelling using short words, you could write He barked out the orders. The person isn't barking, but comparing his yelling to a dog bark is feasible.

3. When you want to make your sentences be easier to produce a vision in the mind of a reader. This is often used in conjunction with descriptive details, but a comparison allows for a baseline of vision: Entering the garden, it was as if we entered a grocery store, with a grand variety of perfect looking fruits and vegetables.


Hopefully your eyes aren't burning and you have lots of ideas to write down - or you could check out other Writing Topics in the Writing Lesson Center!


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