Tap the Mind-Changing Magic of Metaphor

October 31, 2016

It’s tempting to call metaphor the magic spell in a writer’s repertoire, the Penn and Teller of the page.

Metaphor has the power to persuade far better than literal language. It lets you say in five words what would otherwise take five paragraphs to explain.

Metaphor makes readers’ brains light up, helps them think more broadly about your message — even gives the illusion that the communicator is more attractive.

Metaphor makes messages more:

  • Understandable: Our conceptual system is metaphorical, say researchers George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. That means we can help people think, and we can clarify complex concepts through analogy.
  • Believable: Ads with metaphors were 21 percent more credible than ads without them, according to a study by Mark F. Toncar and James M. Munch.
  • Important: Participants in the Toncar study also found ads with metaphors to be 26 percent more important than ads with literal claims.
  • Memorable: Ads with metaphors were remembered almost twice as well as ads with literal descriptions, according to a study by Edward F. McQuarrie and David G. Mick.
  • Readable: An archival study of 854 ads showed that the percentage of people who read most of the ad was higher for ads with a metaphor in the headline than with a literal message.
  • Likable: Speakers and other communicators who use metaphors are deemed more appealing than those who do not. They’re seen to be more competent and dynamic and to have better character.

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