When it comes to writing metaphors, most people often associate metaphor with poetry, literature, and art.
However, all of us use metaphors in our day-to-day conversation, without even realising it. It’s a shortcut to instant understanding.
Metaphors make complex and unfamiliar things or ideas simple and familiar to the listener because they compare the unknown to what the listener or reader already knows and accepts.
Metaphors are visual in nature and literally help your client or audience “see in a flash” in a vivid, emotional way what you mean.
In fact, metaphors are so effective at instantly communicating both tangible and conceptual information, that they are ingrained as part of the English language.
In today’s world where audiences are constantly bombarded with information, metaphors are even more important than before. If you are looking to produce web content for your business, having strong metaphors can give you more readers and more traffic to your website.
Metaphors help us understand things easily
Think of the following common phrases:
- Time is money
- Living life on the edge
- I thank you from the bottom of my heart
These are all metaphors that are used every day, and the moment we hear or read these words we immediately understand what the speaker or writer is trying to convey.
Instead of writing a paragraph explaining how precious time is, simply saying ‘time is money’ you’re your readers know how much you value time.
This is especially important in writing blog content as it allows you to stay concise and keep your message clear.
Some businesses operate in a space where it is hard for their clients to follow. By using metaphors that are easy for the clients to understand, clients are able to see possibilities he didn’t see before and they help him make the best decision.
Words that are visual create greater impacts
Metaphors are extremely potent tools because it leverages on one thing that everyone has: our power to imagine.
Metaphors create images in our mind that sticks to our brain, and it is key to effective communication. Instead of showing you a photo of a person looking, you can use metaphors like “He was so hungry he could eat an entire buffet spread” to convey the level of hunger this person is experiencing.
The words that work are those which make your listener experience something: See it, feel it, maybe even hear or taste or smell it. What you say must give your audience a visual, because the visual imagery triggers a raft of meaningful associations.
Think about what would appeal to your readers most: a product or service that would help increase your sales or help catapult, jumpstart, galvanise, trigger, swell, ignite, turbo-charge, electrify, or enhance your sales?
Metaphors can grab and persuade
Metaphors of any sort tend to surprise your audience because a metaphor is not usually what is expected.
For example, if you’re looking for a workout program to get in shape, a blog post with a metaphorical title such as “How to Get Shredded Like Homer Simpson” will be enough to get heads turning.
If you can disarm your audience with a metaphor, you can likely pry their minds open to the possibility that there might be more still to learn about the contents of your article.
How to create powerful metaphors
If you’re thinking you aren’t poetic or creative enough to come up with winning metaphors, you’re wrong.
Like fish unaware of water because it surrounds them their entire lives, people are often unaware of how readily and continuously they draw comparisons to navigate throughout their days.
Coming up and writing with vivid metaphors is easier than you think. Most of us are already an unconscious, natural metaphor user.
Here are the keys to creating powerful metaphors that will generate an impact on your audience:
Know your audience
This is the number one rule for any effective communication.
Reader inputs such as comments on Facebook or Twitter can supply you with enough information to create an appropriate metaphor for your audience.
For example, if your readers are tennis enthusiasts, using headlines such as “Meet the Pete Sampras of Business” will grab interest because it suggests that the article will be about someone who is on the same level as the legendary tennis player.
On the other hand, using the same headline on an audience of bowling audience is unlikely to garner the same level of response.
Make use of the internet and social media to take ‘snapshots’ of your audience’s profile, such as their personal background, industry or business. Use forums, Reddit, Amazon reviews or Quora to learn what is in your audience’s mind.
Metaphors such as “it’s apples and oranges.”, “the 800-pound gorilla”, she’s a diamond in the rough” are all too common and most audiences have already heard them once too many times in media every day.
Therefore, these cliché metaphors aren’t quite as impactful as a unique and original metaphor that you come up with. A metaphor should ideally be fresh, original and specific.
Still, if you do not have a metaphor in mind, a cliché metaphor is still better than no metaphor at all.
Look at how publications do it
Effective metaphorical headlines are like best-selling book titles: They both grab and inform your audience with just a few image-laden words, energetic verbs, or emotionally charged references.
Book publishers understand the importance of metaphor when it comes to naming books, for example:
- Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround
- Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
- Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining America
Even newspapers and magazines know how to grab their readers attention with metaphorical headlines. They need to arrest the attention of readers pressed for time and convey the essence of the articles in a mere few words.
- IBM: From Big Blue Dinosaur to E-Business Animal
- The Euro: High Wire Without a Net
- Will Godzilla Defeat King Kong? (Verizon’s Cingular Threat)
Remember, metaphorical titles can quickly engage and inform your audience because metaphoric language is packed with imagery and experiences your audience can draw on in an instant. Headlines should amplify, not explain, whatever content you are writing.
Metaphors in blog content
When you are producing blog articles, metaphors can also be used in other parts of your written content, such as openers and closers.
You can even tie your content together thematically using metaphors that are common to a single thread.
The best type of metaphor to open is to use a visual surprise.
You can tell a story of your own, or you can invite your listeners to use their imagination (“Imagine you are waiting for a train…”), and the effect is similar - They've momentarily transported away in the depths of their minds.
You can even a question they’re not likely to be able to answer right off the bat to use as a useful opener.
When you use a metaphor at the beginning of your blog post, it may become too distant or thin to use again at the end of your article.
You should ideally have a closing metaphor that circles back to the image or story you invoked at the beginning of your presentation.
Any closing is more memorable when paired with imagery. Use metaphor to underscore your message and stir up the emotion necessary for your client to take action.
Having a running metaphor, or a rich theme is an effective way to allow your readers to follow what you have to say in your article.
If your content is mainly dry and full of technical information, using thematical metaphoric threads helps to maintain the reader's train of thought on the right direction.
The best running metaphor threads rely on themes or worlds rich in image-laden vocabularies, such as the world of trains, football, and art. These worlds have been around for hundreds of years, and the history behind them makes imagery accessible to any reader.
Reinforcing your Metaphor building power
Like writing, using metaphors takes time and practice to get better. There are a few ways you can use to train your metaphor skills like a muscle. Once you have done these for a while, you’ll realise using metaphors becomes second nature to you.
Observe and Connect
Metaphor-makers are “observers and connectors.” They are curious individuals who take notice and register everything that surrounds them all the time. They can discern similarities in dissimilar things. They can bridge unrelated ideas and concepts to new situations.
This process is sometimes called lateral or parallel thinking, and it is a skill most writers use to create stories. Because unlike the strict linear thinkers, those who possess this skill have this natural curiosity inside them.
The key is to feed and develop this curiosity. Watch a documentary, read a book on a topic that you are unfamiliar with.
Collect interesting ideas.
Nowadays, it can be as easy as a click or two to collect clippings of ideas that you have come across on the internet or social media.
Use apps like Evernote and Pocket to quickly file exciting or catchy descriptions. Build up a swipe file that you can go back and refer to when you need a metaphor. Instead of using your clipping word for word, get creative and use the clipping as a springboard and invent your own metaphor.
Reviews of films, books, music albums and TV shows are also excellent sources of metaphors. See how other writers are using them to describe ideas and emotions and look at how you can use them in your blog content.
Visit other worlds
When you become a writer, to be able to draw on metaphors from different worlds is not a talent limited to only songwriters or poets. For example, you may be a fashion designing business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t draw a metaphor from the world of cars.
Writers who can wield metaphors effectively are like Thanos – they can visit other worlds and universes at will, and quickly to hit upon the comparison that makes their point. And it all happens within their mind.
Metaphors are genuinely among the most powerful weapons you can use to persuade, excite and inform your clients and prospects. They get you heard, understood and remembered, and you should be using metaphors in almost all your business content.
Whether you are writing a sales copy, blog article or social media post, metaphors will smooth your way to achieving the results you want.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.