A good analogy can help your readers understand a complicated subject or view a common experience in a new way. Analogies can be used with other methods of development to explain a process, define a concept, narrate an event, or describe a person or place.
Analogy isn't a single form of writing. Rather, it's a tool for thinking about a subject, as these brief examples demonstrate:
- "Do you ever feel that getting up in the morning is like pulling yourself out of quicksand? . . ."
(Jean Betschart, In Control, 2001)
- "Sailing a ship through a storm is . . . a good analogy for the conditions inside an organization during turbulent times, since not only will there be the external turbulence to deal with, but internal turbulence as well . . .."
(Peter Lorange, Leading in Turbulent Times, 2010)
- "[T]he world of particle physics is more like a crossword than a clockwork mechanism. Each new discovery is a clue, which finds its solution in some new mathematical linkage. . . ."
(P. C. W. Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World, 1992)
- "For some people, reading a good book is like a Calgon bubble bath--it takes you away. . . ."
(Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor, 2008)
- "Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. . . ."
(Lewis Thomas, "On Societies as Organisms," 1971)
- "To me, patching up a heart that'd had an attack was like changing out bald tires. They were worn and tired, just like an attack made the heart, but you couldn't just switch out one heart for another. . . ."
(C. E. Murphy, Coyote Dreams, 2007)
- "Falling in love is like waking up with a cold--or more fittingly, like waking up with a fever. . . ."
(William B. Irvine, On Desire, 2006)
- "My favorite analogy to success in free markets is looking through a telescope at Saturn. It is a fascinating planet with those bright rings around it. But if you walk away from the telescope for a few minutes and then come back to look again, you'll find that Saturn is not there. It has moved on . . .."
(Warren D. Miller, Value Maps, 2010)
- "Quitting a job is like leaving a woman. It's like abandoning part of yourself. . . ."
(Benjamin Cheever, Selling Ben Cheever, 2002)
- "Yes, a tree is an underground creature, with its tail in the air. All its intelligence is in its roots. . . ."
(Oliver Wendell Holmes, Over the Teacups, 1891)
Analogy illustrates easily and to almost everyone how an "event" can become an "experience" through the adoption of what Miss [Dorothy] Sayers called an "as if" attitude. That is, by arbitrarily looking at an event in several different ways, "as if" if it were this sort of thing, a student can actually experience transformation from the inside. . . . The analogy functions both as a focus and a catalyst for "conversion" of event into experience. It also provides, in some instances not merely the heuristic for discovery but the actual pattern for the entire essay that follows.To discover original analogies that can be explored in paragraphs and essays, apply the "as if" attitude to any one of the 30 topics listed below. In each case, ask yourself, "What is it like?"
(D. Gordon Rohman, "Pre-Writing: The Stage of Discovery in the Writing Process." College Composition and Communication, May 1965)
Thirty Topic Suggestions: Analogy
- Moving to a new neighborhood
- Starting a new job
- Working at a fast-food restaurant
- Quitting a job
- Watching an exciting movie
- Reading a good book
- Going into debt
- Getting out of debt
- Losing a close friend
- Leaving home for the first time
- Taking a difficult exam
- Making a speech
- Learning a new skill
- Gaining a new friend
- Responding to bad news
- Responding to good news
- Attending a new place of worship
- Dealing with success
- Dealing with failure
- Being in a car accident
- Falling in love
- Getting married
- Falling out of love
- Experiencing grief
- Experiencing joy
- Becoming addicted to drugs
- Watching a friend destroy himself (or herself)
- Getting up in the morning
- Resisting peer pressure
- Discovering a major in college