It’s important to create memorable visual images while you write, and this is often done through your descriptions. For example, you could describe the unexpected turns of life as confusing or surprising. But as Forrest Gump knows, if you use an analogy and compare life to a box of chocolates (you never know what you’ll get), this unique description will resonate more vividly with your readers. An analogy is a type of rhetorical device—a way to manipulate and use language to have a greater effect on the audience—where a writer compares two things. The grammar experts at Writer’s Relief know that an analogy is a great way to get your readers to use logic, make inferences, and understand highly specific dynamics. Here are our best tips on how using analogies can improve your writing.
Using Analogies To Improve Your Writing
You may already be familiar with similes and metaphors, which are good ways to make a comparison or represent an idea. As another rhetorical device, analogies take things one step further and connect an abstract idea with concrete objects so it becomes easier to understand. An analogy is an extended comparison between two things that are not usually considered alike.
When used well, an analogy doesn’t just show readers how two things are alike (or different), but also makes commentary on the comparison itself. Analogies provide deeper clarification or contextualization.
5 Types Of Word Analogies (With Examples!)
- Synonyms. Word analogies using synonyms ask the reader to look at two pairs of words that have similar—but not identical—meanings. Sometimes these pairs are relatively simple, such as puppy is to dog as kitten is to cat. A puppy is a young dog, just as a kitten is a young cat. However, analogies can also be more complex, such as kind is to agreeable as mean is to aggressive. While “kind” and “agreeable” are synonyms, they aren’t identical in meaning. It’s up to the writer to see the nuances between the pairs.
- Antonyms. A similar type of word analogy uses pairs of antonyms, or opposites, rather than synonyms. For example, smile is to frown as black is to white, or up is to down as open is to closed.
- Part to whole. Here, the order of words in each pair is very significant. The first word would be a fraction of something, and the second word would be the corresponding whole thing. For example, toe is to foot as finger is to hand, or deer is to herd as kitten is to litter. Of course, the order can be reversed, creating whole-to-part analogies as well! Category-to-example analogies are similar: The reader is presented with a broader grouping, then a specific subset of that group. For example, banana is to fruit as beef is to meat.
- Tool to action. You’ll notice that, so far, each analogy we’ve discussed uses the same part of speech. Tool-to-action word analogies involve a noun and a verb. They list both an instrument and the function that instrument is used for. For example, pan is to cook as spoon is to eat, or pen is to write as needle is to sew. Person-to-action analogies are similar—these analogies list an occupation, followed by the job that person would perform, such as artist is to paint as carpenter is to build.
- Cause to effect. While the words involved in these analogies can involve many different parts of speech, the relationship between them is much more specific: The first word is an action, and the second is the direct effect of that action. For example, sleep is to rested as infection is to disease. Effect-to-cause analogies can also be created, such as drought is to heat as frost is to cold.
Analogies are not limited to single-word comparisons: You can use more complex analogies in your creative writing. Complex analogies allow you to compare two things that may at first seem dissimilar, but in fact relate to each other in a very specific way. Analogies can be used for giving concrete explanations for abstract concepts, for helping readers understand something they can’t necessarily relate to, or for drawing an emotional reaction from your readers—and more!
Literary Examples of Analogies
In her novel The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen writes, “Memory is to love what the saucer is to the cup.” Bowen is using an analogy where the concrete functions of a cup and saucer better explain the relationship between love and memory, which are more abstract concepts.
In this famous verse from Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare muses, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called.” Here, Shakespeare uses an analogy to show that all flowers smell equally sweet no matter what names they have, and all people should be equally worthy, no matter what names they have.
Analogy is also a powerful device in poetry. Consider this verse from “The Day Is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.”
Using analogies in your writing will help readers better understand what you mean by bringing abstract concepts to life through impactful comparisons and explanations. And like a box of chocolates, connecting with your readers through your writing can be very satisfying!
Question: What analogies have you used in your writing?