• July 25, 2023

Metaphors – How to use them when writing

Everyone uses metaphors. Justly. They are a natural way to illustrate. However, misuse them and they can really ruin you.

Don’t want to cram yourself? Then learn the 3 good rules about metaphors (and all the other figures of speech, since they apply widely).

1. Don’t mix them. Saying something like “knowing the ropes paves the way for a fruitful harvest”, for example, as I once saw in an actual memo, is illogical. (Ropes, pavement, and agriculture have nothing to do with each other.) Why is logic important? Because if you mix images like this, you’ll be rightly accused of not thinking about what you’re writing.

2. Don’t start your metaphor with “quotation marks” or the British “back quotes.” He is amateur. Your reader is smart enough to know when you are using a figure of speech. You would only use this punctuation if you were defining an unusual or made-up word. This is called a “neologism.” Even with a neologism, you would only use quotes once, when defining your new term; forever, your reader would not need them. Neologisms are not usually metaphors, in any case. So remember, there is no special punctuation for metaphors.

3. Make up your own metaphors. Don’t use the ones you’ve already heard. This is important. First, using someone else’s makes you look lazy, and you are. Second, because he is lazy, sooner or later he will accidentally mix one up, or use one that is not quite suitable for the situation. And you will lose your credibility. So never talk about needles in haystacks, or taking bulls by the horns, or anything else you’ve heard before. Invent new ones.

Here is some vocabulary to be clear. These are three terms that you will hear from time to time, whenever people are talking about figures of speech. A metaphor, technically, is an implicit comparison, like talking about the whole world being a stage and the people on it playing. A ‘simile’ (pronounced SIM-uh-lee) is the same idea, only more obvious, and uses ‘like’ or ‘as’. Then his tears fell like rain; his lips were sweet as wine. That is a simile. And finally: ‘snapshot’. This is what the printers called the plate used for printing stereotypes. Now refers to any term, phrase, or idea that is repeated so often that it loses its meaning. (You can see why ‘stereotype’ is now also used the way it is.) ‘Walling in self-pity’ is an example of a clich√©. The term is overused. When applied imprecisely to a situation, it is said to be ‘hackneyed’.

Well? Now stoke those fires, keep your gunpowder dry, clean the decks, and write.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *