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Mark Bowden

Mark Bowden is a writer who can sound like everybody's best friend. Pop culture references included at no extra charge.

Metaphors: Turn Your Copywriting Up To 11

Metaphors: Turn Your Copywriting Up To 11The use of metaphors came up during a conversation earlier this month, and the topic sparks debate among the copywriting community. There are those that argue that metaphors do not belong in technical writing, and if you can’t already tell, I do not fall into this camp.

But why metaphors? Why have I chosen this hill to die on? Well perhaps it stems from my love of puns and terrible dad jokes. 

Ask my 13 year old and he will be the first to tell you that I am “cringy.” But on a deeper level, metaphors offer a unique opportunity to give life to copy, breathing air into its lungs, and taking it to a place that would otherwise be gray, and frankly pretty dull.

While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with pure technical writing, I choose to live in a technicolor world and I believe that you should too. Perhaps you should thank Bob Ross and the influence his “happy little trees” had on my childhood.

Metaphors? Inconceivable!

No good sir, or madam, metaphors are not inconceivable. To me they enrich the reader’s experience and can be found in just about every piece of copy that I have ever produced. While I admit that you do have to use metaphors judiciously, they can be a tremendous asset in any copywriter’s arsenal.

The Power of Pop-Culture

Pop-culture references are hands down one of the best ways to infuse personality into your writing. Like Excalibur from the stone, pop culture references and metaphors draw their power  from being instantly relatable with your audience.

This is primarily because pop-culture references provide vivid imagery and evoke emotion with the reader. The metaphor can be left open-ended allowing the reader to draw upon their own personal experience, or can be the tip of your quill, ready to pierce the reader’s imagination the way that you see fit.

While this could come in the form of an entire paragraph, don’t ignore the power of a single word. Don’t believe me? Go up to any millennial and whisper the word, “Littlefoot.”

AI Can’t Replace Experience

Artificial intelligence has already made an impact on the copywriting industry and its influence will undoubtedly continue to grow. Personality is the unattainable holy grail for AI and it is the one thing that will keep some writers relevant while others fall to the dark side.

Make no mistake, whether you are 18 or 80, you have real world experience. Tapping into those experiences can help your writing transcend the mundane. When those experiences take the form of a metaphor, it simplifies the complex into something blindingly familiar. 

Make Sure the Metaphor Fits

Before you go into the wild blue yonder dropping metaphors like Hansel and Gretel, it is important to note that there is a time and place for use of these flavor enhancers. Context and tone matter, and the unsuccessful deployment of a metaphor can leave the reader scratching their head. 

This is particularly true when writing for a client. Copy should always match the client’s tone and digital voice. If most of their copy is informative with a “stoic” voice you might think twice about writing an article that uses 13 Star Wars references. If the client is looking for a more relaxed and informal tone, turn your words into a lightsaber and start carving through text like a Jedi through a sea of stormtroopers.

And if you find yourself struggling with the vast emptiness that is a metaphor-less world, just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

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