Why are bad metaphors bad?

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“She had him like a toenail stuck in a shag carpet.” Is this a bad metaphor? what makes a metaphor work — or not work? This question occurred to me as I perused a set of “bad analogies” that were purportedly from high school students — but most of which were actually the results of … Continued

An editor’s notebook: When it comes to metaphors, don’t be a slut

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Editors deal in meaning. Metaphors are great for meaning — until they get out of hand. What do you tell an author whose relationship with metaphors has become promiscuous? Today’s example, like yesterday’s, comes from a book I was editing. The author had great ideas and an engaging writing style, but occasionally got carried away. … Continued

In defense of ruthless editing

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I edit smart people. And I don’t pull punches. If your writing has a problem, I’m going to tell you about it. One of my writer clients recently posted some of my editorial comments on Facebook, so everyone could see how, ahem, “direct” I was. He called me “ruthlessly encouraging.” This guy is writing a … Continued

Fresh metaphors

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Picking metaphors and similes is like picking vegetables — the fresh ones have the most flavor. A good metaphor isn’t as old and hackneyed as the presidential horse race, nor is it as bewildering as a new version of Windows on the first day. Learn from the masters of metaphor, like Matt Taibbi. Metaphors should be clever, but not … Continued

Matt Taibbi, master of metaphor, vivisects Trump in Rolling Stone

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In the hands of a master, metaphor makes prose vivid and memorable. That’s what Matt Taibbi just did with his deconstruction of Donald Trump in Rolling Stone. I’ve written about how inadvertent metaphor overload destroys the lazily edited 500-word article. But metaphors — even lots of them — can make a longer narration dance in … Continued

Lessons of the steely-eyed squeaker swiper: Christopher L. Gasper’s metaphor overload

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Christopher L. Gasper is a Boston Globe sportswriter. His metaphors startle the reader, jarring you from the trance of reading and making you say “wha?” Learn from his excesses. I’ve recommended that you avoid cliches in your writing. Don’t say “dumb as a post” if you can say “dopey as Sarah Palin.” But there’s a limit. When … Continued

Post-John Boehner, New York Times unleashes metaphorical tsunami

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How many metaphors can The New York Times pack into one article about the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner? Enough metaphors to choke a . . . c’mon, help me here. To choke a something-or-other. Can you spare a metaphor? Metaphors are a great way to frame a story; knowledgeable people will often supply one in a … Continued

10 writing tips on how to not be boring

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Business writers are boring. It’s tedious to read their email, Web sites, and white papers. Standing out from this grey background just takes a little color, and it will boost, not harm, your professional reputation. Boring text is not only dull to read, it’s dreary to write. Your readers are seeking information, but you’ve still got a responsibility … Continued