An analogy compares two things that are mostly different from each other but have some traits in common. By showing a connection between two different things, writers help to explain something important about one thing by using a second thing you already know about.
There are two types of literary devices commonly used when drawing analogies in narrative writing: similes and metaphors. A simile is a comparison between two things using the word "like" or "as". For example:
A metaphor also compares two things, but it does not use the word "like" or "as." Instead, it simply describes one thing as another, either by stating a direct comparison or using descriptive words. For example:
Similes and metaphors are simple direct or indirect comparisons, they do not offer any explanation. An analogy extends the comparison in order to explain a topic in a way the audience will understand.
Let’s take one of the examples above and create an analogy: America is a melting pot with many different nationalities blended together into one shared experience.
Think of the famous line from Forrest Gump: “My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” This analogy makes use of a simile to help explain about the uncertainty of life.
Though analogies are common tools in writing, verbal analogies are more like logic puzzles. These also compare two different things, but they do it by breaking them into parts to see how they are related. A verbal analogy looks like this:
kitten : cat :: puppy : dog
The colons stand for words, so that when you read it aloud, the analogy says:
Kitten is to cat as puppy is to dog.
In this case, the relationship described is between the young and adult animals. The two animals being compared are cats and dogs.
To understand a verbal analogy, think about how the words on each side of the colons relate to each other. Sometimes the relationship is a part of the whole, a change in size, a synonym or an antonym.
Take a look at the analogies below to see if you can figure out how the words are related to each other. This will help you understand the comparison that is being made.
While verbal analogies aren't often used in writing, the skill of making good comparisons and connections will help you better explain your thoughts. You might find it helpful to describe an idea by explaining what it reminds you of.
For example, a science report could use the analogy that veins are to blood as roads are to cars, transporting each safely to their destination but sometimes becoming blocked. Analogies are useful when you're writing factual reports and essays, while more poetic comparisons like similes and metaphors are helpful in descriptive poems and stories.
For more information on this topic, take a look at Analogy Examples.
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