How to use analogies in your training

Uh oh.

June feels stuck.

She has a contract to write some text for training Modlettes.  She really wants to impress a new client.

But she’s very afraid her text will be boring that she can’t get started.  She’s afraid her text will be like a bland chicken dish without salt, without chillies, and without herbs or spices.

Who’d enjoy eating that?

June would prefer a tasty, tangy chicken.

How can she introduce a dose of creativity?

Analogies give learners a look into your life, and you can draw your inspiration from many different life experiences such as parenting, gardening, travelling, or sports.  Each topic gives you can opportunity to share stories outside your normal expertise and to become more human in your writing.

For instance, in the Modletter on “Writing for Clarity”, the introduction explains the concept of umami:

“Have you heard of umami?

It’s the 5th taste.  It is often translated as a savoury taste; and soy sauce, steak, mushrooms, broth, and even some cheese all have umami.

I used to think it was a strange idea.  How can mushrooms be similar in taste to a sizzling steak?  But once you learn to detect umami, you start to appreciate its tantalising power.

A good writing style has umami too.  But what is it?”

This was my opening paragraph and it was meant to increase the reader’s curiosity for what might have appeared to be a dry (ish) subject.

At the conclusion of the Modlette I used the following to reconnect the learner with the connection to the main topic.

“Umami comes from the Japanese word umai . . . deliciousness.

Kazu Katoh, a Japanese chef, said about umami:   “It’s something that’s kind to the body.  It’s about feeling good after eating.”

Isn’t that what we strive for as writers, too?

To write something not just nutritious but also delicious to read . . . something that sticks in our learner’s minds . . . like the taste of a mature cheese or a mushroom risotto or a stir-fried beef with ginger, broccoli, and fish sauce.”

Dream up your own analogies

To come up with an analogy, start with giving yourself permission to have fun.  Create a sense of play to look for connections between two completely different topics.  To make an analogy work, compare things at the same level – a process to a process, or a thing to a thing, or a role to a role.

Boundaries can make us more creative, so consider to focus on one specific domain for your analogy, such as gardening, cooking, travelling, sports or art.  Choose a topic you know well so it’s easier to come up with similarities.

Make learners crave for more

Twenty years ago, I was consulting to Heineken in Mainland China.  We were travelling back to Guangzhou, and stopped at a small village for a meal.  We had Peking Duck.

How, almost 20 years later, I still remember that duck.  They only had chopsticks and I struggled to eat it.  But the smokiness, the spiciness, the sweetness, the stickiness I can still remember.

A good analogy can make your writing memorable, too.

Learners will look forward to your next training Modlette.

Happy cooking.