15 Metaphor Examples: How to Paint Vivid Pictures With Words (2023)

15 Metaphor Examples: How to Paint Vivid Pictures With Words (1)

You know the feeling, don’t you?

You’ve poured all your energy into writing an article. You’ve shared your best tips. You’ve edited each sentence.

But despite all your efforts, your article still feels bland. You know a metaphor would add a dash of fun, and a splash of personality. You’ve seen one writer use food metaphors all the time. But how does she do it? How on earth do you dream up a metaphor?

Start with giving yourself permission to have fun, and allow your mind to wander freely. Create a sense of play, and look for connections between two completely different topics. To make a metaphor work:

  • Compare things at the same level—a process to a process, or a thing to a thing
  • Add details to make the metaphor vivid—if possible, engage different senses

Shall I show you how?

Want to write better? Get my best writing tips for business here > > >

Example #1: Make your words flow

Have you ever seen ballroom dancers float across the dance floor?

Clumsy dancers think one step at a time. But professionals dance with flowing movements.

Your content must also flow from one sentence to the next.

Why this metaphor works:

  • The flow of words is compared to the flowing movements of dancers
  • The phrase Ballroom dancers floating across the dance floor creates a quick visual impression; words indicating movement like floating are sensory, too

Example #2: Writing a practical guide is like cooking for friends

Imagine a childhood friend comes to visit with her kids. You’ve not seen each other for a few years. What will you cook?

First, you need to know what they like to eat. Do they like spicy food? Is anyone allergic? What if one of the kids has become a vegetarian?

With writing it’s the same. Think about your audience before picking a topic:

  • Are they struggling with the problem you want to write about?
  • Do they want to solve this problem?
  • Can you help them solve this problem or is the problem too big? Can you narrow it down?

Why this metaphor works:

  • The process of writing a guide for your readers is compared to the process of cooking for friends
  • The metaphor is told as a mini-story, a sprinkling of details like spicy food and allergies brings the story to life

Example #3: Writing vs cooking skills

A chef needs to learn chopping, sautéing, roasting, and grilling. She needs to understand what makes a meal nutritious and how to select dishes that taste well together. She needs to practice separating eggs, making roti, and cutting a perfect carrot flower.

Cooking mini-skills are pretty clear.

But writing mini-skills seem fuzzier.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Disentangling writing skills isn’t as hard as you think. You can practice them one by one—just like you can practice kneading, mixing, and grinding.

From: 27 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills and Escape Content Mediocrity

Why this metaphor works:

  • Writing skills are compared with cooking skills; and the process of learning to cook is compared with the process of learning to write
  • The details of cooking skills are concrete—you can visualize them immediately

Example #4: If my business was a garden …

If my business was a garden, then I’d have benches for you and me to sit on and chat. You’d bring your thermos with coffee, and I’d be slurping my green tea.

From: The Old-School Way for Making Money From Your Blog

Why this metaphor works:

  • Visiting a garden is compared with visiting a blog
  • The details sketch a quick picture, and the word slurping adds an auditory detail

Example #5: Spice up bland text

Turning bland text into sizzling content may sound difficult, but it requires only two simple steps:

  • Like a chef tastes a dish before serving, you need to know when your content lacks flavor. You have to spot weak phrases.
  • And just like a chef grinds a little extra pepper, sprinkles a few coriander leaves, or drizzles extra lime juice, you need to balance the flavors of your writing, too.

Why this metaphor works:

  • Boring content is compared with bland food; spices are compared with strong words; and the process of editing is compared to the process of adding spices to food
  • Details like pepper, coriander leaves and lime juice make the comparison sensory

Example #6: The Godiva guide to mouth-watering blog post titles

When you see a box of chocolates, does your mouth start to water?

Do you crave opening the box?

Do you imagine biting the chocolate, tasting the sweet cherry mixed with the bitterness of dark chocolate? Or are you anticipating a rich nuttiness? Divine vanilla?

Your blog post titles should be like that box of chocolates.

When your headlines are lip-smackingly good, readers crave reading your post. You get more readers, more tweets, more likes, and more plusses.

From: The Godiva Guide to Mouth-Watering Blog Post Titles

Why this metaphor works:

  • The anticipation created by a beautiful chocolate box is compared to the anticipation created by a good blog post title
  • The sensory details of sweet cherry, dark chocolate, and rich nuttiness make the metaphor tasty; also note the use of the sensory words mouth-watering and lip-smackingly

Example #7: Throw a party on your home page

Imagine joining a party …

You open the door, and see a sea of grey suits.

You see lots of faces, but you don’t recognize anyone. You hear a soft murmur. But no laughter. Not even a smile.

You can’t even figure out where the drinks and snacks are. You feel lost. Lonely.

Wouldn’t you want to turn around and leave? Go to a place where you feel welcome?

This happens on home pages around the web all the time.

You’re not sure where you’ve arrived because the home page is fuzzy. You don’t feel welcome, because the design is too hypey or too bland. And worst of all, you don’t know where to click because it’s cluttered.

From: How to Throw a Party on Your Home Page (and Get Visitors to Stick Around)

Why this metaphor works:

  • Arriving at a party is compared to arriving on a home page
  • The mix of visual and auditory details (sea of grey suits, soft murmur) helps experience the party

Example #8: Ever heard of a weight weenie?

[A weight weenie is] a road cyclist who’s obsessed with the weight of his bike. He’ll replace a component weighing 70 grams with one of 68 grams even if it costs 100 or 200 dollars more.

A weight weenie can’t sleep at night, considering the possibilities of shaving another 2 or 3 grams of the weight of his bike. He is relentless in his pursuit of finding the lightest frame, the lightest seat post, and even the lightest holder for his water bottle. A weight weenie complains in dedicated weight weenie forums about the false claims manufacturers make about the weight of parts.

With my hybrid bike, I can’t play in the league of weight weenies. But I do obsess about the weight of words and sentences.

If you want to engage your readers and captivate their attention until the last sentence of your blog post, you need to become a word weenie, too.

From: How to Remove Ballast from Your Blog Posts (and Keep Your Readers Spellbound)

Why this metaphor works:

  • What slows cyclists down (a heavy bike) is compared to what slows readers down (the “weight” of too many words)
  • Details like the lightest water bottle holder help you picture a weight weenie

Example #9: My imaginary restaurant

I’ve dreamed about opening my own restaurant for a long time.

A tapas-style menu. With Spanish dishes and a few of my Asian favorites. A good wine list, plus a decent selection of beers from across the world.

I’d have simple wooden tables and chairs. An eclectic mix of art and photographs on the wall. Or maybe I’d ask the local school for a few children’s drawings each month.

When we think about our blog, we tend to think about material things, too. Topic selection, fonts, colors, writing style, post structure. (…)

[But a] restaurant isn’t just about a menu and interior design. There’s something far more important. Something more difficult to describe. It has to do with atmosphere, feeling, and personality.

From: The “Secret” Ingredient that Turns Casual Blog Readers Into Avid Fans

Why this metaphor works:

  • The tangible and intangible aspects of a restaurant help explain the tangible and intangible aspects of a blog, which feels more abstract than a restaurant
  • Visual details help you picture my imaginary restaurant

Example #10: Ever assembled a flat-pack bookcase?

As long as you can figure out how to assemble the parts, it’s doable.

Now imagine a flat pack from hell…

You struggle to decide which parts are just packaging. You need to cut loose a few parts because they’re glued together in the wrong place. A few parts are dirty. And a couple of screws are so rusty you need to replace them.

Editing a first draft is like assembling a flat pack from hell.

You need to re-arrange, clean, and polish your first draft.

You need to write the missing parts. And throw away excess parts.

From: 27 Editing Tips: How to Make Your Web Copy More Engaging, Credible, and Persuasive

Why this metaphor works:

  • The process of assembling a bookcase is compared to the process of editing—the parts of a bookcase (shelves and screws) are like the parts of an article (paragraphs, sentences and words)
  • Details like missing parts and rusty screws help visualize the idea of assembling a flat pack from hell

Example #11: The breadmaker technique allows you to blog fast

Baking bread in a breadmaker is super-easy.

Add the following ingredients to the bread pan in the order listed:

  • ¾ teaspoon yeast;
  • 250g granary flour and 150g strong white flour;
  • One teaspoon each of sugar and salt;
  • 15g butter;
  • 270ml water.

Next, add sunflower and pumpkin seeds in the nut dispenser. Press a few buttons. And voilà: 5 hours later your bread is ready.

Ever tasted bread from a breadmaker?

It’s good. Tasty. Yummy.

It’s free from enhancers and additives. And if you use the timer, the lovely smell of fresh bread wafts up to your bedroom early in the morning, welcoming the new day, and teasing you to get up.

Writing blog posts super-fast is like baking bread in a breadmaker. You follow an automatic process with known ingredients.

From: How to Write a Good Blog Post Super-Fast (and the Joy of Slow-Blogging)

Why this metaphor works:

  • The process of baking bread is compared with the process of writing a blog post—the ingredients of bread are compared with the ingredients of a blog post
  • The breadmaking process is described in detail—you can almost smell the bread

Example #12: Imagine you’re an Olympic athlete

You’re about to run the biggest race of your life.

You’ve trained innumerable hours. You have the right shoes. The right shirt. Your lucky underpants.

You know the track. You know how to run your race, and you know where the finish line is.

Have you noticed how often sports analogies are used to explain how to run your business?

There’s a huge problem.

When you start running your own business, you’re unprepared for what’s coming. You don’t know the track. You haven’t completed the proper training. You might not even know what the finish line looks like. Let alone understanding how you get there.

From: 13 Ways to Move Forward When Self-Doubt Sabotages Your Business Progress

Why this metaphor works:

  • This metaphor is unusual because it stresses what’s different between running a race and running your business (being prepared vs being unprepared)
  • Details like lucky underpants help imagine the preparation for the race

Example #13: Our business path doesn’t have GPS coordinates

We like to have a blueprint and know exactly what we need to do and how.

We like certainties.

But running a business is not like getting on a flight to Washington, taking the train to London, or driving to the supermarket.

In business, we can’t know exactly who our audience will be. We can’t know exactly what they’ll like to buy and how much they’ll pay for it.

To move forward in business, we have to embrace uncertainty. We have to accept a trial-and-error approach.

From: Here’s How to Find the Courage to Choose Your Own Business Path

Why this metaphor works:

  • Planning a business is compared to planning a journey, and the key difference (certainty vs uncertainty) is pointed out
  • The specific examples—taking a flight to Washington, taking the train to London, or driving to the supermarket—make the “planning” of a journey concrete

Example #14: Your blog readers are fussy eaters…

And your opening paragraph is like a first bite of an unknown dish.

If the first sentence is chewy or the first paragraph is bland, they’ll quickly give up. They’ll look for a better treat elsewhere.

So, set the tone with digestible sentences with a promise of more scrumptious goodness to come.

From: 7 Scrumptious Blog Writing Techniques to Delight Your Readers

Why this metaphor works

  • Blog readers are compared to fussy eaters—both consume either content or food
  • The first bite of a dish determines whether you eat on or not, and in the same way the first paragraph of a blog post determines whether people will read on.

Example #15: Imagine a road trip to San Francisco …

You pack your bags. You check your car’s oil level and tire pressure. You put the latest Rainmaker.FM podcasts on your stereo, and you’re ready to set off for the 2,850-mile journey from Washington, D.C. to the Fillmore Jazz Festival.

Despite a dodgy navigation system, traffic jams, road work, several arguments with your friend, a dirty motel, and a flat tire, you arrive in San Francisco six days later.

You’re exhausted. Your back hurts. Your nerves are frayed.

But you’re just in time for the opening concert.

Landing pages are like that road trip

But there’s one huge difference.

While you were committed to arriving in San Francisco on time, your web visitors are less goal-driven. Unclear directions make them turn around and click away. And that’s when you might lose them forever.

What can you do to create a smooth journey for your web visitors?

Why this metaphor works

  • A web visitor’s journey is compared with a road journey—both feature similar “road” blocks, but while the road traveler is committed to arriving, the web traveler is less committed
  • The story of the road journey helps experience the trip

Stop doubting your creativity

When I started using metaphors, I didn’t see myself as a creative writer.

Hell no.

I didn’t even think of myself as a writer yet.

So stop doubting yourself. You don’t need a special talent. You don’t have to be a creative genius.

What you need is the courage to experiment.

So set yourself free and try different ideas.

Add a dash of fun to your posts. Entertain your readers. And make your message sticky.

Recommended reading on metaphors:

The persuasive power of metaphors (introduction)
How to create fun metaphors
Try these creative techniques to add pizzazz to your writing

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