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Using Metaphors to Clarify Abstract Business Concepts

Metaphors connect ideas through images.

Learning how to use metaphors is an important tool for any Sales and Marketing writer.

FYI: According to research, when you use images, such as visual metaphors, you are connecting to the side of the brain that can understand abstract concepts.

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Origins of Metaphors

It seems that metaphors connect at a deeper level than dry, logical facts, and help the reader digest what they’ve seen on several levels.

The word Metaphor comes from Greek and means to transfer something. A metaphor is a figure of speech, a word or phrase, which suggests a likeness between two objects or ideas that are dissimilar.

Metaphors do not use the words like or as; instead, they suggest a similarity.
Good metaphors help recall information. If you struggle to remember numbers, data or facts, you can use metaphor to recall what you’ve forgotten.

Metaphors are very common in everyday speech, (e.g., "Life is a yo-yo. It's a series of ups and downs") and we tend to overlook their ability to introduce information in a new way.

Steps to avoid

Jaded writing re-hashed metaphors. Avoid adjusting your material simply to insert a metaphor in the hope that it will spruce up your article. It will make your material look stilted and poorly constructed and readers will notice it immediately.

Start during the draft

Develop your metaphors during the initial drafting phases. Once you’ve finished your material, examine the metaphor and see if it’s appropriate.

Delete clichés and check for accuracy. Readers will give you a certain amount of poetic license, but if you go too far, they will not be impressed.

Be careful that you don’t squeeze in new metaphors. If you do this, metaphors will compete for attention and confuse the reader. Be selective. After reading a good metaphor, the reader needs time to digest it.

The Metaphor Test

When revising your metaphors, ask yourself, "Have I heard this before?"

Depending on how it fits, decide it's a cliché or adds value.


Finally, metaphors shouldn't overshadow the main message.

If the reader stops to admire them, you've missed the point. Metaphor should support the content, make it easier to remember, but not eclipse the message.

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