What Is a Simile?
- A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things by using the words “as” or “like.”
- To write a simile with “like” follow this formula: X is like Y.
- A simile helps make your writing relatable and easy to understand.
- ○ He’s as strong as an ox.
- ○ Life is like a rollercoaster.
Figures of speech (also known as figurative language) play an enormous role in helping your readers visualize, understand, and relate to your writing. There are numerous types, ranging from alliteration to zeugma, and everything in between. Figures of speech, and other rhetorical devices, are as important as milk to a baby, a tennis racket is to a tennis player, or the sun is to the Earth. Can you guess what type of figurative language we’ll be discussing today? That’s right. Similes.
What Is a Simile?
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares one thing to something else. It differs from a metaphor in that it uses “as” and “like.”
He eats like a pig. (Simile)
He is a pig. (Metaphor)
The first sentence is a simile because it has the word “like.” It explicitly compares the way the subjects eats to how a pig eats. The second sentence is a metaphor that makes a more implicit and broad comparison between the subject and a pig.
Let’s dissect one of the most popular similes in cinema history:
Here, the movie’s main character (Forrest Gump) compares life’s unpredictability to that of a box of chocolates. In life, you don’t know what’s going to happen, much like when you pick at random from a box of chocolates—you don’t know which one you’re going to get until you just try it.
How Do Similes Work?
Exaggeration often plays a role in similes. If someone says, “when he dances, he’s as light as a feather,” they are not literally implying that the subject has the same weight as a feather. However, the simile allows the reader to understand and visualize that the sentence’s subject is very light and swift on his feet when dancing.
If you have trouble remembering what a simile is, keep in mind that it sounds like the word “similar.”
The baby’s cries were like a siren.
= The baby’s cries were similar to a siren
(in that it was very loud and piercing).
Similes help make your writing relatable. For instance, in the example above, maybe the reader has never heard a baby’s loud cry before. But if they’ve heard a siren, they can imagine that a baby’s cry can be blaring.
How to Write a Simile
It’s easy to write a simile. The most important rule is to avoid clichés, which are overused phrases or expressions lacking originality. A few examples of clichés are blind as a bat, as busy as a bee, and sweet like honey.
When writing a simile using “like,” the formula is: X is like Y.
Your smile is like a star in the night sky.
When using “as,” the formula is usually: X is as (adjective) as Y.
He is as popular as Peter Parker in the new Spider-Man movie.
The key to writing effective similes is to be original and use relevant and timely comparisons.
Keep in mind that when writing a simile, “as” and “like” are typically not interchangeable.
She’s like a baby.
You would have to restructure the sentence if you prefer to use one over the other.
Here are a few more examples of similes:
In short, similes are easy to write and are great for making relatable comparisons. They are just one of the many figures of speech that you can use to enhance your writing. There are several other tips to apply and resources to use that can help make your text as clear and effective as possible. LanguageTool, for example, is a writing assistant that detects and corrects spelling and grammar mistakes. This tool is as free as the sun on a summer day, and as easy-to-use as a pencil.