30 Writing Topics: Analogy

Ideas for a Paragraph, Essay, or Speech Developed With Analogies

analogy
Working in a fast-food restaurant is like . . . (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

An analogy is a kind of comparison that explains the unknown in terms of the known, the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar.

A good analogy can help your readers understand a complicated subject or view a common experience in a new way. Analogies can be used with other methods of development to explain a process, define a concept, narrate an event, or describe a person or place.

Analogy isn't a single form of writing. Rather, it's a tool for thinking about a subject, as these brief examples demonstrate:

  • "Do you ever feel that getting up in the morning is like pulling yourself out of quicksand? . . ."
    (Jean Betschart, In Control, 2001)
  • "Sailing a ship through a storm is . . . a good analogy for the conditions inside an organization during turbulent times, since not only will there be the external turbulence to deal with, but internal turbulence as well . . .."
    (Peter Lorange, Leading in Turbulent Times, 2010)
  • "For some people, reading a good book is like a Calgon bubble bath--it takes you away. . . ."
    (Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor, 2008)
  • "Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. . . ."
    (Lewis Thomas, "On Societies as Organisms," 1971)
  • "To me, patching up a heart that'd had an attack was like changing out bald tires. They were worn and tired, just like an attack made the heart, but you couldn't just switch out one heart for another. . . ."
    (C. E. Murphy, Coyote Dreams, 2007)
  • "Falling in love is like waking up with a cold--or more fittingly, like waking up with a fever. . . ."
    (William B. Irvine, On Desire, 2006)

British author Dorothy Sayers observed that analogous thinking is a key aspect of the writing process. A composition professor explains:

Analogy illustrates easily and to almost everyone how an "event" can become an "experience" through the adoption of what Miss [Dorothy] Sayers called an "as if" attitude. That is, by arbitrarily looking at an event in several different ways, "as if" if it were this sort of thing, a student can actually experience transformation from the inside. . . . The analogy functions both as a focus and a catalyst for "conversion" of event into experience. It also provides, in some instances not merely the heuristic for discovery but the actual pattern for the entire essay that follows.
(D. Gordon Rohman, "Pre-Writing: The Stage of Discovery in the Writing Process." College Composition and Communication, May 1965)

To discover original analogies that can be explored in a paragraph, essay, or speech, apply the "as if" attitude to any one of the 30 topics listed below. In each case, ask yourself, "What is it like?"

Thirty Topic Suggestions: Analogy

  1. Working at a fast-food restaurant
  2. Moving to a new neighborhood
  3. Starting a new job
  4. Quitting a job
  5. Watching an exciting movie
  6. Reading a good book
  7. Going into debt
  8. Getting out of debt
  9. Losing a close friend
  10. Leaving home for the first time
  11. Taking a difficult exam
  12. Making a speech
  13. Learning a new skill
  14. Gaining a new friend
  15. Responding to bad news
  16. Responding to good news
  17. Attending a new place of worship
  18. Dealing with success
  19. Dealing with failure
  20. Being in a car accident
  21. Falling in love
  22. Getting married
  23. Falling out of love
  24. Experiencing grief
  25. Experiencing joy
  26. Overcoming an addiction to drugs
  27. Watching a friend destroy himself (or herself)
  28. Getting up in the morning
  29. Resisting peer pressure
  30. Discovering a major in college