Emotional humans tend to invoke analogies on a regular basis, often using them to colorfully describe unpleasant experiences, such as: “Waiting in that line at the coffee shop was like walking through the gates of hell,” even when the writer could not possibly elaborate on what the gates of hell feel like. A well-constructed analogy paragraph can add dimension and meaning to writing as analogies do, at their essence, compare two different things with the purpose of giving more meaning to one.
Ensure that the two things you are comparing share enough similarities to justify the comparison. A wobbly analogy, like a three-legged chair, will quickly fall apart.
Write a draft of a topic sentence that sets the stage for your analogy paragraph. Unlike most topic sentences -- which are direct and specific -- this one may strike a chord of understanding, as well as puzzlement. That’s to be expected, as your “job” as a writer is to expound on and explain what the analogy means to you in subsequent sentences.
Fine-tune the topic sentence and ensure that it suggests enough ideas for you to amplify: “I thought I was walking into a quiet medical clinic, but really it was like going back into time to the noisy workout gyms from the 1980s.” This analogy suggests a crowded, frenetic environment that causes the writer unease, if not disappointment.
Brainstorm ideas for the similarities between the “clinic” and a gym where, for example, people exercise and work out on fitness machines. Write down these ideas and choose the best three to demonstrate your meaning and to create an emotional appeal of understanding.
Write at least three sentences to make the analogy complete, employing descriptive and vivid language that paints a visual picture: “Several men were sweating on treadmills while a group of woman were working out with a personal trainer who barked commands to “up the tempo” and “feel the muscle burn.” With multiple TVs blaring in the background, I didn’t even hear the doctor call out my name. For a long moment, I had forgotten I was in a medical clinic at all. I thought it was 1988 all over again.”
Review your choice of words for denotation and connotation. The allure of analogies is such that they can lend themselves to exaggeration. Fight this tendency mightily as it will only jeopardize your credibility.
Read your paragraph aloud and edit it for spelling, punctuation, grammar and style.
- “The New St. Martin’s Handbook”; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors; 1999
- “The Little, Brown Handbook”; H. Ramsey Fowler, Jane E. Aaron and Kay Limburg; 1992
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