Do you want to engage your audience more? Or simply explain abstract concepts? Then, you must use metaphors.
You have already encountered this figure of speech in novels or articles. For example, the author compares life to a journey or love to a garden.
Whether you are a student, writer, poet, advertiser, or journalist, you must be able to create original and effective metaphors to give personality to your texts. These figures of speech also allow you to imprint your readers’ minds, so don’t hesitate to use them. If you don’t know how to make a metaphor, keep reading. This article presents this helpful technique.
What is a Metaphor?
According to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a metaphor is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”
In other words, it’s an implicit comparison between two elements, usually a tangible element and an abstract concept.
This analogy helps readers (or listeners) understand a complex or abstract concept.
The metaphor can only work if the elements compared have similar characteristics. If there are few or no similarities, the metaphor may confuse the reader.
Why Use Metaphors?
- Facilitate understanding: metaphors improve understanding of a text by comparing complex or abstract concepts to familiar images or concepts.
- Make the message more memorable: when they are original and surprising, metaphors capture the attention of readers and facilitate memorization.
- Add emotion: making a comparison with familiar elements can awaken or create feelings in the reader.
- Add humor: metaphors can also be used to inject humor into the text when the comparison used is amusing.
How to Make a Metaphor: 8 Tips
1. Compare Similar Elements
When you make a comparison, make sure to compare similar elements, such as:
- an action (cooking) with an action (gardening);
- a character (Yoda) with a character (ET);
- a thing (spoon) with a thing (shovel).
This similarity makes it easier to understand the metaphor.
2. Choose Familiar, but Original Comparisons
Drowning in money, life is a highway, the snow is a white blanket… these metaphors are familiar, but not original enough to capture the reader’s attention.
Indeed, an effective metaphor should be both familiar and original:
- To create a familiar metaphor, you must use elements that are known to the reader. You can draw from activities and concepts that are well known to everyone (love, cooking, family, DIY, work, etc.). You can also look for metaphors that are appropriate for the company’s persona. For example, if the readers are experts in computing, medicine, or physics, you can look for appropriate comparisons in these areas.
- To create an original metaphor, you should avoid overused metaphors (shining star, early bird, cold feet, etc.). Ideally, you should create a metaphor from scratch or use rarer metaphors that you have come across during your readings.
3. Be Concise and Precise
If the metaphor takes up more than a few lines of text, it is probably too long. It’s best if it’s short, simple, and precise to avoid confusing the message.
4. Use Metaphors With a Specific Purpose
The metaphor should add value to the text. It can have several objectives:
- Help the reader understand the message better: in this case, use a visual metaphor or a comparison with a concrete element.
- Stir up emotions: make a comparison with an emotionally charged situation that is sufficiently universal and has been experienced by most of the audience (usually related to friendship, love, parenting, grieving, etc.).
- Add humor: humorous comparisons easily give a text a humorous tone while still being professional and without straying from the main subject of the text.
5. Consider the Context
The metaphor should be appropriate for the subject matter and the company’s activity. For example, metaphors containing elements of violence should not be used for associations, eco-friendly companies or those active in the social field.
6. Use Metaphors Sparingly
Inserting one or two metaphors in a text can make it more engaging and memorable. Inserting too many metaphors can make a text confusing and difficult to understand.
7. Find Inspiration
A metaphor should be original to surprise the reader. However, you can get inspiration from metaphors created by others. You can analyze them to understand how they were constructed. You can also keep a file of the most successful metaphors to feed your imagination.
Maybe you won’t dare to publish your first metaphors, because you don’t find them good enough. You may be right. Or wrong. Until you confront your metaphors with the reader, you don’t know if they are good or bad. So don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and accept feedback from readers to improve gradually.
Metaphors can bring a personal touch to the text, as well as help readers understand and retain complex or abstract concepts. To make effective metaphors, make sure to use familiar comparisons, but surprising enough to leave a lasting impression.