Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mixed metaphors (4)

When you inadvertently use a mixed metaphor, you are taking a risk. A mixed metaphor can easily confuse or distract your reader. Your reader may stop to chuckle at the incongruity of the mixed metaphor and lose track of your main argument. Worst of all, your distracted reader may even stop reading what you have written.

Definition of a mixed metaphor

A mixed metaphor is a series of two or more metaphors that become incongruous when combined. Often the incongruity strikes the reader as humorous.

Example of a mixed metaphor

Two weeks ago, Atlanta-based published a memo that was “circulating the Internet.” The last paragraph of the memo contained an unintentionally amusing mixed metaphor:

“At the end of the day, when the morning comes, a black agenda would better enable us to have our interests respected by and our influence realized in any administration.”

The Takeaway: Here are five tips for avoiding mixed metaphors: (1) Use metaphors sparingly. (2) Double-check the definition of each metaphor you use. (3) Make sure each metaphor is clear and imaginable. (4) Make sure there is no chance of a mixed metaphor – unless you are deliberately creating a mixed metaphor for the purpose of humor. (5) Have someone edit your copy: for some reason, we generally find it difficult to detect our own mixed metaphors.

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