One Easy Way to Clearly Convey Your Message

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.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. James,

    I agree, analogies make a message much easier to relate to. Often, the make it much easier to understand.

    However… anyone who’s written something brilliant and then found themselves discussing Tiger Woods’ golf strategies, or the relative merits of Diamond Dave vs. Gary Cherone (the answer is, Sammy Hagar) might tell you that a good analogy that sweeps people up can also sweep them far off course from the point you were trying to make.

    Not that I would help people go off topic or anything. I want to contribute relevant comments… mostly. :)

    What I liked about your analogy today was that it was tiny and subtle. I had to go back to find it, yet it did add to my understanding of the story as I read.

    Easy to do, but may be equally easy to do too well?

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Free Slippery Advice, Today Only

  2. James, it’s great, as usual.

    Just imagine: in totalitarian countries writers who used analogues or other tropes were accused of escaping the reality :)

    I agree with Kelly as for the danger of sweeping readers off the point. For a writer, being concise and simple is the art, not less important than being rhetorical and sophisticated. The thing is to find that notorious golden mean…

    Helen Copy911’s last blog post..10 Do’s of a Sales Letter Video

  3. I am missing half a post. Must edit.

  4. There we go. Sorry about that.

    @ Kelly – I was sitting here thinking, “Of course there are right and wrong ways… Didn’t I just say that? Didn’t I say that tomorrow we’ll…. oh shit. Where’d the rest of that post go?”

    Ha, everyone must have gotten excited I only wrote a short one!

    @ Helen – And when you escape the reality, you can capture the fantasy… ;)

  5. Helen,

    James is very good at Escaping Reality.

    James,

    My turn to read your mind. ;)

    Kelly’s last blog post..Free Slippery Advice, Today Only

  6. James,
    The power of the myth is strong within us. Analogies that tap into those root archetypical emotions will resonate strongly and fast. We all have some vision of ourselves as hero in our own journeys.
    Kelly mentioned Tiger Woods. He shows. The resonance from that is legendary in his own time. Seeing grace and drive and being reminded of it, translates well across many disciplines because it is a hero’s journey.
    And we all make a little adjustments in our own endeavors because of that story. Not because he directly said,” do this”, but because others saw what he did and said, “wow, look at that.”
    I think that is the power of analogies. Good ones speak across disciplines in ways that inspire.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Chocolate Silk, $25 , and Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

  7. Ahh, the rest of the story.. :) ooh,, more…that’ll be good.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Chocolate Silk, $25 , and Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

  8. James, I use analogies a lot. Maybe sometimes to an extreme, comes from spending my whole life around kids I think.
    By the way, I tried to send you a private twitter message but the darn thing wouldn’t let me, Check the analagies resonate paragraph and then the one under. When you put it back together in the edit, it might have gone whammy.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..The Addiction of Conforming

  9. @ Wendi – Thanks :)

  10. What is that old saying:

    Tell me, I’ll forget it.
    Show me, I’ll remember it.
    Make me do it, I’ll learn it.

    I suppose the best we can do online in relation to those thoughts and this article is to either provide an analogy, create a video, or give people something to do, like homework.

    I love analogies. Sometimes, however, I find some analogies people write are just too long and take away from the article’s main point. Oh crap! Am I getting ahead of myself? Ok, I’ll wait till tomorrow’s post ;)

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..Blind Marketing Is Risky

  11. Making an analogy is basically making connections between seemingly unrelated things. That’s also one way to be creative and it’s also one of the things good comedians do. It’s nonlinear and unexpected. I completely agree that a good analogy is a great way to communicate.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..50 Ways to Celebrate Life Every Day

  12. I tend to make analogies that are composed of non-sensical scenarios. “It would be like you slipped on a banana peel and a clown pointed and laughed at you while you were bleeding on the sidewalk.”

    No one’s ever been in that situation.

    They totally know what I mean.

    I do not know why this may be, but I suspect it is because the gods are also chaotic, and they approve of the random as much as I do.

    Great post, Jamie. Now. Show me the money.

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..Sonnets Are Sexy

  13. I love analogies. Naturally, I don’t use them just for the sake of using them, but I find as you present in this article, they are very effective. Even more, it gives your writing a story telling appeal, which helps keep the article fun.

    Bamboo Forest’s last blog post..7 Mysteries of the Universe

  14. Great post!

    It’s so important to illustrate your concepts to make sure that you and the readers are on the same page. For one thing, not everyone learns by reading words.

    Thanks for making this important point.

    Laura Spencer’s last blog post..By: Melek

  15. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    YOU COULD USE VIDEO.

    (Ducks and runs…) :)

    Michael Martine | Remarkablogger’s last blog post..Beginner SEO for Anyone

  16. *chases with a big stick* GET THAT WORD OFF MY BLOG, DAMMIT!

  17. Adding to what Bamboo said, analogies give your writing a storytelling aspect. And anything that adds an element of story makes writing more memorable to readers.

    I might add that anecdotes in the form of customer stories work in the same way. Customer stories help readers actually envision what it would be like to use a product or service.

    Casey

    Casey Hibbard’s last blog post..Adding Interest with Video Testimonials

  18. “Show, don’t tell” is the most valuable thing I learned in creative writing classes and the most important piece of advice I’ve given authors in all my years editing. It doesn’t necessarily mean using analogies but, as you say, they are certainly effective at the right times!

    steph’s last blog post..Thank You

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