The Persuasive Power of Metaphors

, , | Colin Dawson

  • You know your writing for learning needs to stand out
  • You want to inspire your learners to take action, change their behaviours, or to learn a task
  • But can you attract attention in a sea of distractions?

Try using metaphors.

Metaphors can make your writing more personal, more memorable, and more persuasive (Yes, we’re selling learning)

Sounds good?

Metaphors can make your writing more personal, more memorable, and more persuasive (Yes, we’re selling learning)

Sounds good?

What is a metaphor?

Metaphors compare two things to explain or to entertain

Metaphors can compare the known to the unknown; the abstract to the concrete; or dry stuff to fascinating topics.

“Metaphors allow you to make the complex simple and the controversial palatable.  Conversely, metaphors allow you to create extraordinary meaning out of the seemingly mundane” - Brian Clarke

Metaphors, similes, and analogies make comparisons in slightly different ways:

  • A metaphor states that something is something else without using the word like or as.  For instance:  ‘Your training is a bland dish”.
  • A simile uses like or as: Your training is like a bland dish.
  • A analogy makes comparisons at more levels.  For instance:  How do you avoid bland training nobody wants to read?”

Spice up your writing with metaphors.  Metaphors are the secret sauce to make your learners crave more.  They keep your learners reading on.

Why do metaphors work?

Metaphors are often said to help explain complex topics.  That’s true, but metaphors can do so much more.

Think about this:  would you prefer to read a training narrative that enhanced or jump started your desire to learn and remember the subject?

Metaphors create vivid images in your learner’s head . . .  making it easier to understand and remember your message.

Metaphors engage the right brain . . . just like stories.  They by-pass rationality and lower defences to training dialogue.  That‘s why metaphors can make you more persuasive and engage the learning brain.

Metaphors work best when they’re simple, unexpected, and concrete:

  • Create a quick picture rather than a lengthy story.  You lose your learner if you have to do a lot of explaining
  • Surprise your readers.  Present a fresh angle on an old topic
  • Try making your metaphors sensory, so readers can experience your words.  When readers can see, feel, smell, taste or hear something, they’re more likely to engage and remember.

For instance:

Your training programmes are like mashed potato without salt.  After one bite I’ve had enough.

OR

Your training stands out like a single soprano amid a choir of baritones.  It’s different, fresh.

No matter what industry you write training for, no matter what topic you specialise in, you can find metaphors to make your writing crisp, lively, and persuasive.

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