Module: The Writing Craft
Time: 15 minutes

In a nutshell: What is a metaphor?

A metaphor is a comparison between two things that are clearly not the same (like a horse and a hammer). When the metaphor works well, it surprises the reader with the comparison – while at the same time convincing them of how alike the two things are. In the context of business writing, metaphor is a way of providing context – and showing, rather than telling.

Examples

From an event: The event room we sat in was a frozen cave, but it didn’t matter – the speaker was so inspirational.

Comparison: Between an event room and a frozen cave.

From the office: Presentations are scary when you’re first starting out in your career. I’ve been told I looked like a fish drowned by air in my first one.
Comparison: Between the narrator and a fish out of water.

The great thing about metaphors is that they do two things at once. Firstly, they make the writing more interesting, relatable and fun. Secondly, they make it easier for a varied audience to feel a sense of connection to the story. Not everyone’s held a presentation, but most people know or can envision what a fish on land looks like.

In 15 minutes, you’ll be able to create your own metaphors and use them effectively.

Workshop goal: You are able to identify comparisons between unlikely – and yet convincing – things, and implement them into your business writing.

Steps

  1. Pick a professional experience that you’ve had recently. It can be from an event, from the office, or in a virtual context. 1 min
  2. Describe the experience you’ve chosen. What happened? How did it make you feel? Did you come away from it with something important? Who was there? 5 mins
  3. Find three comparisons to other experiences or things that are completely different to the one you’ve had – but that are still connected either emotionally or figuratively to it. It can be how a speaker’s voice reminded you of the ocean or how an exciting meeting was like a rollercoaster. 6 mins
  4. Combine the experience you’ve had with each of the three comparisons and see which one you think flows best in your text. 3 mins

Now you’ve identified a comparison that is unique to your experiential frame of reference, that provides your readers with more context for your message. That means they’ll connect more with your content, and feel more included into your narrative.