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Metaphors and Similes

Use metaphors and similes to spice up your writing.

By
Stever Robbins,
September 1, 2011
Episode #085

Page 1 of 2

metaphor simileHi! This is Stever Robbins, host of Get-it-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More. Grammar Girl is working on her book this week, and since I do a lot of public speaking, she asked me to talk about how to use similes and metaphors to spice up your speaking and writing.

Metaphors and Similes: Definitions

Metaphors and similes both call attention to how two different things are similar, so people listening to you can apply the qualities of one thing to the other. The difference between metaphors and similes is that similes hit you over the head with the comparison by using explicit words such as “like” or “as,” -- When Jon Bon Jovi sings “My heart is like an open highway,” that's a simile because he used the word “like” to directly make the comparison. Metaphors, on the other hand, don't use direct comparison words. When Tom Cochrane sings “Life is a Highway,” that's a metaphor because there's no word such as "like" or "as."

Metaphors are a bit more subtle. You can remember the difference between similes and metaphors by remembering that simile has the letter l in it, just like the word “like,” which you often use in a simile.

Metaphors and Similes: Uses

People use these figures of speech when speaking romantically. “Dearest, your eyes sparkle as starlight in the water of a deep, cool well.” The speaker is drawing a parallel between his beloved’s eyes and starlight in a well. She doesn’t actually have wells for eyes; if she did, she would slosh when she walked. But her eyes do sparkle, and that is the connection he’s drawing.

You can also use metaphors and similes to help explain concepts that confuse your listener. First, identify the point you want to explain. Then find a topic your listener might know well where that point also comes up. Then use a comparison to link your point to the familiar topic to help your listener understand.

Next: Metaphors and Similes: Examples

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