Analogy vs Metaphor: Understanding The Differences For Writers

Analogies and metaphors are powerful tools that writers use to make their writing more engaging and descriptive. However, many writers often confuse the two or use them incorrectly, leading to confusion in their storytelling.

Understanding the differences between analogies and metaphors is essential for writers looking to effectively convey their ideas and evoke emotions in their readers.

In this article, we will delve into the definitions of analogies and metaphors, discuss their differences, and provide examples to help you master the art of using them in your writing.

What Is a Metaphor?

A metaphor is a figure of speech in writing. It is the comparison between two things that are otherwise unrelated. In the use of metaphor, a word or phrase is used as a representation of a vivid effect not literally.

Adopting the use of metaphors will add color to your writing through the use of a few words and striking imagery.

You’ll find metaphors everywhere, from everyday speech to literature.

In Adrian McKinty’s Falling Glass, he describes a view of Hong Kong as “a mashup of Canaletto and Blade Runner.” This metaphor brings to mind a bay filled with boats in Venice combined with the super-modern architecture depicted in the film Blade Runner. It gives the reader an instant visual impression without slowing down the story.

McKinty’s metaphor suggests that Hong Kong looks like a bay filled with boats and a city of almost surreal modern buildings covered in neon. And he does that with just two short references that bring images alive in the reader’s mind.

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Why Use Metaphors?

The use of metaphors in writing creates an immediate connection with your reader by generating a visual image. The compressed imagery sparks a response to something familiar while leading to a new way of understanding the compared object.

For instance, when you hear a statement like Work today was a nightmare! it means that work today was tough. Metaphorically speaking, the writer is saying don’t what is written word for word but as an idea.

Keep reading to find out how to use metaphors in your writing.

How To Use Metaphors In Your Writing

Here are five ways you can use metaphors in your writing.

1. Explain Abstract Concepts in Concrete Terms

Metaphors are useful in fiction because they add vivid imagery and don’t detract from the storyline. A metaphor compresses a concept into an easily understood image.

  • “Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces.”―Kill the Dead, Richard Kadrey.
  • “If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me.”—Macbeth, William Shakespeare.

2. Create a Sense of Familiarity

Because a metaphor uses familiar imagery, it becomes easy for the reader to understand the reference.

  • “Mr. Philip storms into class, a bull chasing thirty-three red flags.”—Speak, Laurie Anderson

3. Create An Image in the Reader’s Mind

Because a metaphor condenses down to imagery, the reader “sees” it in their mind.

  • “He could hear Betty’s voice. ‘Sit down, Montag. Watch. Delicately, like the petals of a flower. Light the first page, light the second page. Each becomes a black butterfly. Beautiful, eh? Light the third page from the second and so on, chainsmoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the second-hand notions, and time-worn philosophies.’”—Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.

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4. Trigger Emotions

You can use metaphors to trigger emotions; here’s a good example

  • “The parents looked upon Doris in particular as nothing more than a scab. A scab is something you have to put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away.”

5. Illustrate a Character’s Worldview

You get a sense of the characters’ worldview when they use metaphors. Your reader’s understanding of this character’s view of the world is immediately apparent. Through the metaphoric image your character is using, they perceive his personality.

  • “Bobby Holloway says my imagination is a three-hundred-ring circus. Currently, I was in ring two hundred and ninety-nine, with elephants dancing clowns cartwheeling, and tigers leaping through rings of fire. The time had come to step back, leave the main tent, go buy some popcorn and a Coke, bliss out, cool down.”—Seize the Night, Dean Koontz.
  • “You’re television incarnate, Diana. Indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy.”—Network.

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What Is an Analogy?

An analogy is a logical argument that compares two objects to convey a point. An analogy seeks to describe something, as opposed to the poetic figure of speech in a metaphor, which allows one object to symbolically stand in for another.

A good example of an analogy is “Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, take another shot.”

An analogy uses two usually unlike things and draws a conclusion from the direct comparison. It uses logic to present an argument.

American author E. B. White wrote a memorable example of an analogy:

“Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

Why Use Analogies In Writing?

Analogies are used in writing for several reasons:

  • To help readers comprehend the unfamiliar, an analogy relies on familiarity. The use of familiar references helps your reader to connect with the concept, sharpens their focus on it, and deepens their understanding.
  • An analogy helps one understand what is being talked about faster. Instead of leading your reader through a lengthy explanation, you make a logical point in a couple of sentences.
  • Analogies work in fiction to clarify a point so the reader can get on with the story, and in non-fiction to illustrate a difficult point with a concise explanation.

How To Use Analogies In Your Writing

Here are three ways you can use analogies in your writing.

1. Explain Abstract Concepts by Comparing Concrete Terms

An analogy solidifies a concept by using well-known tangible terminology and imagery, but a metaphor conjures up a visual image. The writer’s intended meaning is better illustrated by the use of well-known terminology.

In fiction, analogies are a useful tool for explaining ideas without detracting from the plot. In this manner, lengthy narrative explanations are avoided by the author.

Here are some popular analogies we can find in our literature:

  • “Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”― Leo Tolstoy.
  • “Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”―A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett.
  • “If people were like rain, I was like drizzle and she was a hurricane.”―Looking for Alaska, John Green.

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2. Analogies Create An Image in the Reader’s Mind

The use of familiar terms and objects in writing helps grab a reader’s attention. Then, the explanation of their relationship works to consolidate the idea through the use of imagery with an emotional undertone.

The images are a shorthand for understanding the logical concept.

  • “Studying wine taught me that there was a very big difference between soil and dirt: dirt is to soul what zombies are to humans. Soil is full of life, while dirt is devoid of it.”― Into Wine: An Invitation to Pleasure, Olivier Magny.

Here, the writer uses the image of zombies as opposed to humans to emphasize his point. You know how it feels and smells when you’ve got rich soil in your hand. And they’re aware of how dirt and dust settle on the side of their vehicles or shoes. Without mentioning soil chemistry or physics, the writer evokes the difference and why soil content is important to vineyard culture.

3. Lead to a logical conclusion

Visually and concisely leading the reader to a logical conclusion is the best use of the analogy. An analogy is used by fiction writers to introduce and summarize important points.

To help the audience understand their point, speech writers use analogies that do not require lengthy explanations. They’re aware that to keep the audience interested, a speech needs to be moved.

Here are some examples of analogies:

  • “You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, and they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.” ― Albert Einstein.
  • “The Scientist must set in order. Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.”―Science and Hypothesis, Henri Poincare.
  • “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.”―Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The Differences Between Metaphors and Analogies

A metaphor points out the similarity between two things through a direct comparison without alluding to it. On the other hand, an analogy shows a comparison between disparate things and draws conclusions from the comparison. 

For example, when you say “My brother is a devil” that is a metaphor because you are comparing him to the devil in terms of evilness but there is no further explanation. We’ll have to be informed about the devil beforehand to understand the reference. But if you say – “My brother is such a devil creating nuisance” this is an analogy. The elaborate comparison points out the ability to create a nuisance for both parties, thus explaining why they are alike. 

The purpose of metaphors and analogies differs, even though they are both conscise and depend on imagery.

Metaphors can be used in an analogy to support the comparison’s imagery. Metaphors’ emotional impact increases curiosity about the rational conclusion.

Here are notable key differences between metaphors and analogies:

  • A metaphor uses imagery to evoke an emotion, to feel.
  • An analogy uses comparative imagery to lead to a logical conclusion, to think.
  • A metaphor says a thing is another thing.
  • An analogy compares two divergent terms to draw a reader to a conclusion.

FAQs On Analogy vs Metaphor

What is the difference between an analogy and a metaphor?

An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar in some way. By analogy to something more familiar, it usually explains a complex idea. On the other hand, a metaphor is an expression of speech that directly refers to one thing and describes another. It asserts that one thing is another thing, not just like it.

Can an analogy and a metaphor be used interchangeably?

While both analogy and metaphor involve comparison, they serve various purposes and are not always interchangeable. Analogies are often used to clarify or explain concepts, while metaphors are used to evoke imagery or create symbolic meaning.

How do you write a metaphor?

Metaphors are most effective when they relate abstract ideas to everyday objects that readers are familiar with. To illustrate how different disciplines relate to one another, abstract disciplines are described in the Einstein quotation above as a concrete item in nature.


If you want your writing to be engaging using metaphors and analogies will be helpful. Now you understand the differences


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