Writing

Analogy in Writing (Definition, How To Write + Examples)

Posted: January 3, 2023
Word count: 1,351 (5 min)

An analogy is a literary device that helps understand a complex topic by comparing it with a familiar topic. Analogies uses other literary devices like similes and metaphors to do their task.

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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What is an analogy?

An analogy is a figurative of speech that allows the writer to express one thing by comparing it to another apparently unrelated thing. When your high school teacher said, "Camels are the ships of the desert", they did not mean camels are ships. They meant camels do the same job as a ship does in the sea - transportation.

Analogy in writing helps connect familiar things to unfamiliar things and this in turn helps the reader understand the scenario better. An analogy compares and relates to two objects at once and forms a meaningful connection that helps explain a point better.

Analogies use other literary devices like similes and metaphors to form comparisons. It helps by connecting an unfamiliar thing to a familiar thing fo the ease of understanding.

The word analogies come from the ancient Greek word analogos which means 'proportionate'.

What are the types of analogy?

There are two types of analogy that we understand: identical relationships, and abstract concepts.

Identical Relationship

Dark is to light as on is to off.

You have often come across this kind of sentence. This is what is called forming identical relationships. It is where one idea is paralleled to another idea of the same pattern. Dark and light here have the same relation as on and off in the above sentence.

Most identical relationships have the sentence pattern of 'A is to B as C is to D'.

  • Airplane is to sky as ship is to sea.
  • Soil is to plant as house is to human.

At times identical analogies can be extended in a way to express the intense relationship two things of people share. For example, "Books are to Sarah as water is to plant", or "Chewing bubble gum is to Marty as drinking is to drunkards." These are used to exaggerate and express the relation between two things or people or any habits they have.

Abstract Concept

Abstract concept analogies compares two unrelated things that have a similar pattern. For example, raising children and gardening are often compared. We have come across the saying that "Raising children is like gardening." They share this analogy because both of these tasks require tending, patience ans a lot of care.

Let us take another example. "Recovering lost money is like finding needle in a haystack." This sentence connects recovering lost money and finding needle in a stack of hay because both of these activities bear unfruitful results and are not worth wasting time on.

This kind of analogy helps in concretizing abstract ideas by connecting them to something tangible and graspable by the human mind.

Examples of Analogy in Literature

Some analogy examples from great literature are as follows:

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called."

A Hanging’, George Orwell

"They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water."

Kamand Kojouri

"Reading poetry is like undressing before a bath. You don’t undress out of fear that your clothes will become wet. You undress because you want the water to touch you. You want to completely immerse yourself in the feeling of the water and to emerge anew."

Macbeth, William Shakespeare

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."

Let Me Count the Ways, Peter De Vries

"If you want my final opinion on the mystery of life and all that, I can give it to you in a nutshell. The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination. But the combination is locked up in the safe."

Sootfall and Fallout, EB White

"A nation wearing atomic armor is like a knight whose armor has grown so heavy he is immobilized; he can hardly walk, hardly sit his horse, hardly think, hardly breathe. The H-bomb is an extremely effective deterrent to war, but it has little virtue as a weapon of war, because it would leave the world uninhabitable."

There is no frigate like a book’, Emily Dickinson

"There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

That bears a human soul!"

Night Clouds, Amy Lowell

"The white mares of the moon rush along the sky

Beating their golden hoofs upon the glass Heavens;

The white mares of the moon are all standing on their hind legs

Pawing at the green porcelain doors of the remote Heavens."

Why is an analogy used in writing?

Like every literary device, an analogy is used in literature as a tool to express something better. Analogies should be used to familiarize your audience with complicated ideas or inspire them with big ones.

Analogy also helps writers create a vivid picture of the deeper thought they are going for and this in turn better engages the reader's mind.

How to use analogies in your writing?

Analogies are everywhere. We use verbal analogies in everyday speech, often with the intention of expressing a point. A good analogy improves the quality of writing. And writing a good analogy can be achieved by many ways. Think of it like a logical argument, especially i case of identical analogies. For abstract idea, find a familiar pattern that fits your writing. Let us understand in detail.

  • Opting for commonly understood things can familiarize the reader with what you are trying to express.
  • Try to use the compare and contrast technique to make your analogies more powerful.
  • Understand what type of figurative language would complement your audience.
  • An effective analogy is simple, easy to understand, and inspires your readers.

Examples of Analogies

Talking to you is like talking to a brick wall.

Living my life like there is no tomorrow.

"Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get." (Forrest Gump)

A puppy is to a dog as a kitten is to a cat.

A hammer is to nail as a master is to a butler.

The book was a roller coaster of emotions.

"Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo." (Don Marquis)

A car is to me as a ship is to a sailor.

"Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence." (Sydney J. Harris, What True Education Should Do)

"Dumb gorgeous people should not be allowed to use literature when competing in the pick-up pool. It's like bald people wearing hats." (Broken Hearts Club)

Summary

  • Analogy is a literary device in the English language that compares and contrasts closely related things together or things that share the same relationship or pattern.
  • Analogies are of two types: identical and abstract. Identical analogies compare two pairs of things that share similar relationships. Abstract analogies compare two things that same the same pattern or attribute.
  • Effective analogies should be easy to comprehend, familiar, and inspiring to the readers. Analogy uses similes and metaphors to make comparisons.
  • An analogy should be used to express a new idea better. The ultimate goal of an analogy should be to make the reader understand a complex idea using literary devices such as analogy.
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