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How to Use Effective Metaphors in an Essay

Metaphors are a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity. They are widely used in literature and sometimes used in academic writing. They are viewed positively and, used effectively, can create powerful and lasting images and ideas. They are also a great way to give your essay spice and character.

Before we discuss how to use an effective metaphor in an essay, it is important to differentiate metaphors from similes. While both literary techniques are used to compare two different objects, themes, ideas, or actions, metaphors simply compare them as is, while similes use the words like or as. Writing an essay is like eating rusty nails. This sentence is a simile. However: Writing essays is eating rusty nails is a metaphor. You have conveyed the same idea without using "like" or "as."

There are two general ways to use metaphors effectively in an essay:

  • Metaphors
  • The first way is simply by writing a metaphor into your text in one sentence. This can be done in any portion of your essay. However, if you are doing it incorrectly, then it will leave the remainder of the essay to be read in poor eyes. Have someone read over your essay to make sure you are using the metaphor (comparison) correctly. If you are writing a metaphor about two different things that have no business in the same sentence, then you are probably using the metaphor incorrectly in a sentence. Here are examples of good and bad metaphors:

    The room was a crowded ocean, with fish swimming their way around.

    The room felt an ocean, because there were so many fish in the water looking around for space that they couldn't find because it was so crowded.

    You want your metaphors to be short and sweet. Do not write too many words to cloud the meanings. Simply write the bare minimum to get your point across.

  • Extended Metaphors
  • An extended metaphor is an idea created of comparison for an entire essay. It is not simply a sentence or statement written about one particular idea. Rather, it is an idea that extends throughout the entire essay, and as a result, should be mentioned quite often. You should return to a part of this same metaphor every time it is required. If you use as extended metaphor for your essay, be careful not to use other metaphors in the body. It will clutter the essay and make it virtually unreadable.

Be careful not to overuse metaphors in your writing. Too many metaphors (and similes) can cause writing to become flowery and light. Metaphors without substance are empty and weak. They are like unfulfilled promises and are likely to anger teachers into lower grades. Consequently, choose your words wisely, especially when flavoring your essay with metaphors.