Show, don’t tell.
It’s one of the best ways to convey information. Hands-on lessons teach students faster. Observation allows different knowledge absorption than reading. Watching someone else helps us see the exact actions required in motion.
Sight is a stronger sense than hearing. Vision is our primary source of information, and we rely on it to gather and pass on data to our brains, where that information becomes coherent images.
Think about it: would you rather go deaf or go blind? I think to live in silence is difficult – but to live in darkness would be devastating.
When all you have is text and words, though, it’s difficult to demonstrate concepts to readers. You’re continually telling and not showing. All you can do is describe and hope readers grasp what you mean.
Sure, you can try to make it easy. You use simple language and sentence structure. You avoid jargon and you drop big words. You keep content short and sweet, focusing only on the necessary. A relevant picture helps convey meanings, and you might add a graph or a screenshot, too.
But add an analogy, a comparison to show similarities and connections, and you achieve one of the most effective means to rapid understanding.
Parents know the power of analogy well. Explaining social concepts to children can be tough, so moms and dads use analogies all the time. “Remember how you felt when Billy broke your bicycle? Well, this is like that time.”
Health and medical practitioners use analogies with patients. The heart is like a pump and blood vessels are like pipes. Blood is the river that carries things from one place to another.
Analogies let our mind’s eye grasp concepts quickly and easily. Analogies let us take an unfamiliar concept and make it clear by drawing connections to a familiar concept. And it all clicks into place.
In a text-based environment, analogies can produce some interesting results. Every time our posts have included analogies, the posts receive more comments, more hits and more links than any other type of post we write.
Analogies resonate with readers because they use familiar concepts and people don’t have to think hard to connect the dots. They can picture the concept in their mind’s eye in a flash.
The next time you sit down to write something complex that you’d like people to understand easily, or increase reader enjoyment, or create a stronger impact, use an analogy.
But be careful. There are times when analogies won’t work or when you should avoid using them completely. There are right ways to use analogies, too, and there are key characteristics that make up a really good analogy.
Stay tuned – we’ll cover these do’s and don’ts in tomorrow’s post.