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Metaphor Trouble

Written By: Youki on March 10, 2009 No Comment

New York Times article on metaphor problems and suggestions on fixing them (examples taken from actual published NYT articles):

Nip That Metaphor in Its Tracks

My colleague Adam Bryant, an editor in Business, notes that business writers tend to reach for metaphors to try to make complicated aspects of finance and economic policy more accessible. It’s the right instinct, but as Adam says, problems can arise when we mix and match metaphors in a single sentence or paragraph.

In recent weeks, we have printed sentences about …

… a stew of programs, some with warts and all.… assets that are hanging over a bank and need to be purged.

… acquisitions that are absorbed and then molded into a giant.

unplugging a stoppage by shoring up something.

You get the idea.

The best defense, of course, is to picture the metaphors in your mind’s eye, and if they don’t quite look right, think again.

Best to keep it simple, with bonus points for originality, like a line that Jack Healy tossed off last month about the decline in home prices, referring to developers who rushed to lay out quilts of new subdivisions.

Carter Dougherty also had a vivid image in his piece last month about Adolf Merckle’s suicide: Last fall, Mr. Merckle lost hundreds of millions of euros when he was caught in a brief but ferocious speculative riptide.

[read the full article]

My favorite poorly written sentence:

Over the last few years, the playing field has changed, with Sony now no longer competing solely against traditional Japanese electronics companies, but also against South Korean manufacturers like Samsung and LG Electronics, which have expanded their product portfolios.

p.s. Many thanks to Chris Palmatier for fixing our block quote formatting!

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