Calvin and Hobbes academic writing cartoon

I love words. I love to read and write. I was an English major for a reason.

As I implied in that post, it’s important to know how to use language to engage emotion. However, you also need to know when to use a particular tool and when to leave it in the box.

I used to work with a very successful CEO and CMO who would both, when feeling feisty, smack down any use of metaphor or simile  in a presentation.

  • “We’re trying to put ten pounds in a five pound bag”
  • “Support is drowning in priority one issues”
  • “Everything is coming up roses and these are our salad days”

I can still hear “just say what you mean!” in the back of my head.

  1. It is incredibly disconcerting to be forced out of flow and into analyzing your own sentences while you deliver them, so the lesson sticks
  2. The English language is just dripping in simile and metaphor (see what I did there)
  3. It’s good advice. A metaphor is assuming that your entire audience shares your level of knowledge and your set of opinions

Say you want to distinguish the capabilities of two teams. You might use a metaphor like medical specialists or sports positions. Is it truly going to land? Or are you just trying to find a way to soften a message that you’re afraid to say?

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