Using Metaphors to Deliver Your Message

Metaphors can be an effective means of delivering your message to your audience and connecting with their core values. Many Americans view specific words and phrases as being unique to life as an American. When you use these words and phrases to tell your story your audience will have a deeper understanding of your message making them more inclined to agree with your organization.

Here are several examples of common phrases and metaphors and the frames they evoke for most Americans.

SPORTS: Play by the rules, level the playing field, targeting something. SPORTS metaphors are often applied to topics in BUSINESS, POLITICS or WAR especially.

BUSINESS: Watch the bottom line, get a competitive advantage, invest in x, full disclosure. BUSINESS metaphors are often applied to topics in POLITICS, SPORTS, WAR, and to personal life as well.

THE ECONOMY & THE MARKET: Grows, shrinks, balloons, deflates, crashes, a bubble about to burst.

WAR: Acceptable losses, acceptable risk, the war on—, collateral damage, preemptive strike, the good fight. Some WAR metaphors move back out again to POLITICS, SPORTS, and BUSINESS topics.

TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE: Drive, roll, slide, online, offline, progress. These terms are also used in POLITICS, SPORTS, WAR, BUSINESS, as well as personal life.

AMERICAN POLITICS AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS: Whistle stop tour, all politics is local, Joe Six Pack, it’s the economy, stupid, dance with the one that brung ya, big government. More metaphors may be transferred into this category than out of it.

AMERICAN HISTORY: Don’t Tread On Me, the New Deal, the Greatest Generation. These metaphors are usually applied in POLITICS.

WORK: Pay your dues, put in your time, sweat equity, join the union, work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

CRIME: outlaw, thug, crook, thief, bait and switch, shell game, con. CRIME terms are also used in WAR, POLITICS and BUSINESS.

RELIGIOUS MODELS AND TERMS: Have faith, on a wing and a prayer. Metaphors drawn from this category are used everywhere else.

LITERATURE: all the world’s a stage, pure poetry, an open book, acting a part, taking a role.

ENTERTAINMENT: ‘Go ahead, make my day.,’ ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ badges., ‘ ‘May the Force be with you!,’ ‘Beam me up, Scotty. . .,’ ‘Make him an offer he can’t refuse.’

COMICS, CARTOONS, VIDEO AND COMPUTER GAMES: Any popular video and computer game or anime characters. This category also includes all other video or computer plot, setting, or gaming terms.

SLANG, CATCH PHRASES, AD SLOGANS, AND BRAND NAMES: Don’t go there, be cool, no such thing as a free lunch, on the wrong track; wham, bam, thank you, Ma’am, bun in the oven.