How to Write an Analogy
You should use analogies in your writing when you want to show strong support by comparison. Here are some examples of how to use them:
He ran incredibly fast in the race.
In the race, he ran with the grace and speed of a cheetah—smooth, flawless, and natural, as if he had been raised running across the plains of Africa.
Those two are very close.
Those two unlikely friends are surprisingly close, like a shark and its cleaner fish—though they have different qualities and purposes, it is clear that neither could survive without the
Although analogies are useful and essential devices, they can be surprisingly difficult to use effectively! You don’t want to make comparisons to just anything, or your writing may start to look sloppy and careless. Here are some examples of poor analogies to show you the kinds of common mistakes you should try to avoid:
Poor Analogy: He ran as fast as a cheetah in the race.
Why It’s Poor: Wait, there was a cheetah in the race? No, of course not. That phrase is a dangling modifier. So just move it to the beginning, as in the sentence above (“In the race, he ran…”).
Poor Analogy: On that warm summer day, we went down to the beach, where the sand was as white as snow.
Why It’s Poor: The author has done so much to show the reader that the setting is a warm, sunny beach in summer. But the word “snow” completely undermines that by bringing up images of cold, grey winter. Rather than improving the imagery, the analogy actually works against it.
When to Use Analogy
Analogies can be an extremely powerful addition to your writing, so experiment! Using analogies is a really useful skill for improving your powers of logic, reasoning, and writing, and the best way to learn it is to practice.
When you experiment with analogies in your writing, keep the following principles in mind:
- Make sure it’s clear what aspect(s) of the two objects you want to compare.
- Draw an analogy to something concrete, ideally something that people can actually visualize in their minds. If you’re trying to explain an abstract idea, it doesn’t help to compare it to another abstract idea, but it might help a lot if you compare it to something tangible!
- If you’re using analogies in creative writing, make sure they’re suited to the setting! If the story is set on a boat, try to use analogies having to do with water or islands. Remember the example with the sand and the snow. In that case, the problem was that the setting was all wrong – snow doesn’t belong on a warm, sandy beach!