19Use Familiar Yet Surprising Analogies

An analogy is a comparison that frames the unknown with the known. Think of an analogy as a kind of gift to your readers that helps explain a complex process or concept with familiar, relatable specifics. In other words, it helps make the abstract more concrete.

Remember the example from Rule 5 that referenced the literacy stat?

“According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), released in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Education, 30 million adults struggle with basic reading tasks.”

Thirty million sounds like a lot. But is it? It's about 12 percent of the population (that helps) or just over the total population of Texas (much better).

You could say you've acquired 842 new accounts in 2014. Or you could put that into context by pointing out that it's more than the capacity of the London Eye.

I like the way the Guardian used familiar but surprising analogies in a piece to explain why NSA (National Security Agency) access and privacy should freak us all out.

“You don't need to be talking to a terror suspect to have your communication data analysed by the NSA,” the Guardian wrote, because the agency is allowed to travel three hops (degrees of separation) from its targets—”who could be people who talk to people who talk to people who talk to you.”1

So if you have 200 friends on Facebook (just over the average number of friends there), three hops gives the NSA access to a network that exceeds the population of Minnesota.

Of course, ...

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