Painting a picture: similes

Using simples can help your reader fully understand what you are trying to convey by comparing something known to something unknown

Painting a picture: similes

Whenever you are writing, especially creatively, you should consider incorporating similes as they give your readers a vivid image in their mind and helps to get your message across. Contrary to what you were taught at school, similes are actually just a special type of metaphor, not a separate technique. They are a figure of speech and language technique used to compare two different things to draw a new meaning. Similes often compare the innate to the living and vice versa. They always use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to draw the comparison.

Top tip:

Always remember, similes are like jokes. If you have to explain it, it's probably not very good. Get a friend to read over your work. If they don't understand your simile, chances are you readers won't either.

Often, by using a simile, you can help the reader fully understand what you are trying to convey by comparing something known to something unknown.

In most cases, they are used to help the reader gain a greater understanding of the context of the writing so they can derive the intended meaning.


The car seats were as hot as a frying pan.

In this example, the simile compares the hot car seats to a frying pan. Through this, the reader can comprehend how hot the seat is because they know that frying pans gets very hot.

Sometimes, exaggerating a simile helps to convey your point.

His shoulders were as big as boulders.

In this example, through a comparison of a man’s shoulders to boulders, the reader can imagine how big the man’s shoulders were even through the meaning is not meant to be taken literally. They provide a point of reference for the reader so they can quantify to what degree the writer means something.

Similes also create flair and style when writing. Adjectives on their own only go so far, however when used in conjunction with a simile take on a whole new life.

His skin was brown and wrinkled.
His skin was brown and wrinkled like an old leather jacket that had seen years of abuse.

Use of simile here again helps the reader imagine and picture what the man’s skin looked like without listing lots of adjectives. It does a far more effective job of creating imagery than it did without the simile, not to mention it sounds far more interesting.

Start practicing!

Adding similes into your work is easy with practice. However, make sure you don’t use too many. Otherwise, your writing will get needlessly wordy and lose interest of the reader. Nor should you draw comparisons that don't make any sense, which only confuses the reader!

Need more help with writing techniques? Check out our articles on Quotation marks and Rhetorical questions.