Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Is it a simile or is it a metaphor? Who remembers how to tell?

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That last post I made about the expression “put your [fill in the blank] on steroids” prompted a discussion with my wife, Shirley, about whether that is a simile or a metaphor. (If you reread my post, you’ll see I made a quick “cop out” by saying the word steroids was “used metaphorically.” Confession time for the old blogger guy. He He.)

So I looked it up to be sure. Here goes:

1. A simile is a comparison using “like” or “as.” It usually compares two dissimilar objects.
2. A metaphor states that one thing is something else. It is a comparison, but it does NOT use “like” or “as” to make the comparison.

That’s about the most concise, easily understood explanation I’ve ever found. Here are some examples:


“Asking for an intelligent response from him is like asking a group of teenagers for wrinkle cream reviews.”


“Her eyes were sparkling diamonds against the backdrop of her perfectly formed, dark lashes.”

I just keep the “simile = like or as” and “metaphor = is” formula in mind and it helps me remember.

Of course, the important point in this not learning “simile” and “metaphor” to pass some sort of test. (Unless, of course, you’re facing a test in school or preparing to be on “Jeopardy!”) The most important lesson here for writers is to develop skills to use the wonderful richness of our language. “Gifted writers” find the figurative use of language an easy, natural thing to do — the rest of us have to write, write, write, and practice, practice, practice.

So get busy. Write, write, write, practice, practice, practice …
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