Mixed metaphors can be amusing. However, we writers are usually more interested in informing and persuading our readers than in amusing them. Mixed metaphors may distract our readers and impede information and persuasion. Here are three recent examples of mixed metaphors:
“A new general manager almost always means a new coach. If Miami travels this second road, Philbin’s short run in South Beach is on the hot seat.” (Source) (Boldface added.)
“[Sociological research by Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam] runs directly counter to some of the most deeply-held prejudices of liberal modernity, so it’s unusual to see results like these get any positive attention. Even Putnam felt it necessary to sandwich his rigorous results showing a powerful negative effect of ethnic diversity on social cohesion between a pabulum of hand-wringing about long-term benefits of immigration and assimilation, though he has no similarly rigorous results to sustain these claims.” (Source) (Boldface added.)
“Democracy is on the brink of a sea change” (Source) (Boldface added.)The Takeaway: Mixed metaphors can distract your readers. In some cases, they make your prose impossible to understand. Ideally, you should have someone edit your copy, because it is difficult to spot your own mixed metaphors.
Thanks to Paul G. Henning for the pointing out the first example.