Metaphor Secrets: Organizing Your Writing

Metaphor writing

Expository writing is designed to inform, explain, clarify, define and interest readers. A metaphor can make writing lively and exciting. Metaphors can be used to convey a variety of ideas and concepts, such as love and hate, humility and aggression, acceptance and rejection. However, not only can metaphors enliven an expository piece of writing, metaphors can be used as a way of getting a student to think and write about a subject. Teaching students how to use metaphors to develop their expository writing could be a delightful process.

Metaphor vs Simile

A metaphor is different from a simile in that a simile uses the word like to compare the subject with something else while a metaphor and the subject are one. For example: Let’s look at a metaphoric sentence. The hard, continuous rain was a wet monster which drenched the entire village, causing the straw-hut houses to collapse. Here we see that the hard, continuous rain is not like a monster. It is the monster. That is the basic difference between the simile and the metaphor.

metaphor tips

A teacher can use a variety of metaphors to help students organize their expository writing. The most popular ones include:

  • Simple Metaphors
  • Compound Metaphors
  • Complex Metaphors
  • Extended Metaphors
  • Absolute Metaphors

A metaphor is simple is there is a single connection between the subject and the metaphoric vehicle.

Ex: The down pour was a monster.

A metaphor is compound when a multiple elements are used to grab the reader’s attention

Ex: The air plane jostled with agonizing pain, its feathers split in two by lightening.

A metaphor is complex when a single metaphor becomes base to a secondary element.

Ex: The basketball joyfully flew into the net.

An extended metaphor possesses one main subject connected to additional secondary subjects and metaphors

Ex: The teacher is a roaring lion: we are the gazelles of his anger.

The absolute Metaphor simply means that is no logical connection between the subject and the metaphor.

Ex: That is worth more than a pot of god.

The use of metaphors to organize writing requires deep thinking. However, such activity has the potential to develop good writers over the course of a semester. The examples gives the teacher an idea of the various levels of thinking a student can use to organize his or her writing, in addition to the creativity and excitement that working with metaphors can inspire. Students began to see writing in a whole new light.

Classroom Application

Explain to students that they will be using metaphors to improve their expository writing. However, make sure all students understand what a metaphor or extending metaphor is. Review the definition of a metaphor if necessary. Students should know that a metaphor is created when a word or phrase denotes or is applied to another word or phrase. An extended metaphor is one that contains a main subject in which additional metaphors are added. For example, consider the metaphor,” The airplane was a furnace inside.” The word furnace is a metaphor because it applies to the airplane’s interior.

Distribute a selection of metaphors taken from various literature resources, such as a poems or short stories. Allow students to choose a metaphor that may stimulate their imagination. Ask them to read the metaphor over and over again until they have obtained a deeper meaning of the figurative language. Give them at least fifteen to twenty minutes to fully digest their readings.

writing metaphors

Make sure students examine every element of the chosen metaphor in order to determine how each element contributes to the meaning of this process. The students will use these elements to logically create the body of their expository paper. Students should consider such elements as imagery, symbols, intentions, tone and diction as well as over all themes. This activity of breaking the metaphor into elements is important because it can give the students a sense of organization.


Have students write a simple introduction, stating the subject to be described. The introduction doesn’t have to be long. Two or three sentences summarizing the theme of the metaphor as well as its most important elements are good enough. For the rest of the expository essay, especially the body, the students can use the traditional organizational or paragraph patterns, such as general to specific or specific to general.


Show students a variety of other ways to use metaphors to spice up a piece of expository writing. Metaphors are used as verbs, adverbs, Prepositional phrases, appositives, as well as adjectives. The effective usage of metaphors in a student’s expository writing will help her understand the craft of writing, as well as transform a boring essay into an interesting piece.


Make sure students can differentiate a metaphor from other forms of figurative language such as a simile. Although metaphors and similes are similar in their attempt to make a comparison between two persons, places or things, the forms of expression are different. Unlike a metaphor, which becomes the comparison, a simile uses the words “like” or “as” to convey similarity between two elements.