Making An Analogy Essays

What Is An Analogy Essay?

An analogy compares two unlike things to illustrate common elements of both. An analogy essay is an extended analogy, which explains one thing in considerable depth by comparing it to another. Analogy essays discuss nearly anything, as long as the writer can find a comparison that fits.


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How to use analogies:

  • As introductions for papers where you want to show how two ideas are parallel.
  • To explain unknown/abstract concepts in terms familiar to or easily understood by your reader. For example when explaining the storage pattern for a Macintosh computer, you might liken the hard drive icon to a large filing cabinet.

Steps For Writing An Analogy Essay

1. Come up with an analogy

 One-half of the analogy is the subject of explanation, while the other half is the explainer. For example, if you said growing up is like learning to ride a bike, you would be explaining something complex and subtle (growing up) in terms of something simple that your audience will be familiar with (riding a bike.)

2. Draw a vertical line down the middle of a piece of paper to divide it in half.

 On one half, write characteristics of the explainer, and on the other half, the explained. Try to match up the characteristics. For example, training wheels might be similar to having to have lots of supervision when you are young.


3. Write a paragraph discussing the explainer.

 Start with a statement like "Growing up is like learning to ride a bike." Then explain the stages of learning to ride a bike.


4. Write a paragraph discussing the explained.

Start with a statement that gives an overview of what the two shares. In the example above, you might say something like "Growing up also involves getting greater and greater freedoms as you become more confident”. Then explain the steps of the explained in a way that parallels the explainer.


5. Discuss the differences.

Sometimes there is a very important aspect of the explained that does not match up with the explainer. For example, in the above essay, you eventually completely learn to ride a bike, but you never stop growing up and learning new things. You may want to draw attention to this important distinction.


6. Review your choice of words for denotation and connotation.

The allure of analogies is such that they can lend themselves to exaggeration. Fight this tendency, as it will only jeopardize your credibility.

Actually, my favorite (and possibly most successful) analogy for teaching is one that I use when teaching grammar, particularly sentence structure.

This analogy actually stems from the way that I think about grammar, the way I picture the sentences in my mind.

Each sentence is a drama or play with roles to be filled. Subject, Verb, Direct Object, Adjective, etcetera. Depending on the type of sentence, the roles may differ: Subject, Linking Verb, Predicate Adjective, Adverb . . .

The 8 Parts of Speech are the actors. Each of them has different abilities that determine which roles he is suited to play. And the director is pulling from the different groups of actors (for example, if a director is looking for an understudy for a noun that is playing the role of the Subject, he would have to get a nominative case pronoun–though that’s a pretty specific example that I usually save for later).

So, nouns can play any role and answers the question “Who?” or “What?”
Pronouns are understudies for nouns. They also make good extras (because they are less flashy than nouns so we don’t have to pay them as much attention).
Adjectives can play roles modifying nouns.
And so on . . . I make up the connections as I teach them sometimes.

Usually, though, I focus on the main roles in a sentence, and I give the students basic sentence patterns to start recognizing:
Subject-Action Verb-Direct Object
S-LV (state of being)

And then we work with real sentences, identifying the basic outline of the drama (the pattern) and then finding which part of speech has filled each role.

I find this analogy especially helpful in dealing with verbals. Verbs are the most versatile forms of speech because they can play almost any part of the sentence, in one form or another, but they’re pretty picky and may bring an entourage of their own personal assistants with them!

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