| Academic writing help & assistance
Learn everything about academic essay & research paper writing

We help with

  • College essays
  • Research papers
  • Term papers
  • Dissertations
  • Theses
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Book reviews
  • Movie reports
  • Thesis writing
  • Essay writing

We recommend

Writing an essay: using similes & metaphors

Similes and metaphors are two similar, but not precisely the same, figures of speech which can be used to great effect in a variety of essay types. They can be used to communicate difficult ideas more clearly, to enhance descriptions, and to add interest and style to a topic. Here are some tips and tricks for using similes and metaphors well in your writing.

Understand the Differences Between the Two

    Similes compare something to something else, for example:

  • She was as lovely as a sunrise on a clear day.
  • His arms encircled me like a fortress, keeping me safe.
  • The writer uses words such as “like,” and “as” to compare two things in order to communicate an idea.

    Metaphors, on the other hand, directly equate two things for the purpose of description:

  • Her happiness was a sunrise, driving away all of the shadows that tormented me.
  • His arms were a fortress which kept me safe.
  • Notice that the things being compared may be identical, but the writer doesn’t use “like,” or “as.”

Don’t Mix Metaphors

When using a metaphor, it’s disruptive for the reader if you mix two or more ideas without clearly stopping the first metaphor and moving on to another. If, for example, you’re describing a conversation as if it were a game of baseball, don’t switch gears and start comparing it to hockey. Finish your initial comparison and then move on to a different topic before introducing another metaphor.

Keep it Simple

Metaphors and similes alike are most effective when they are straightforward. Over enthusiastic new writers sometimes feel that using these figures of speech is more effective than just describing something in a straightforward way. Often, that’s true. But keep in mind that if the metaphor or simile is actually more complex than the thing you’re trying to describe, it will come across as forced and clumsy.

Be Original

Similes and metaphors have the most impact when they’re used in unexpected ways. That doesn’t mean you need to make strange comparisons, simply avoid those that are tired and overused. “Hair like gold,” for example, has been said (and read) innumerable times and no longer really has any impact. “Hair like a field of wheat shining in the sun,” might create a more evocative image for your reader.

Give Your Reader a Break

Figures of speech are often most powerful when used sparingly. Page after page of similes and metaphors can end up being tiresome.