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The Mixed Metaphor: Confusing or Memorable?

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

An online devotional for writers

A Word From The Word

Don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NLT)

A Word For Writers

The Mixed Metaphor: a #devotional for writers based on Luke 12:32 at Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips

A metaphor describes one thing by comparing it directly to another. It gives your writing clarity by allowing the reader to understand an intangible concept through a familiar, concrete image.

A mixed metaphor gives the reader two images to process. The result can be confusing … or memorable.

For example, let’s say your character is “treading lightly.” 

His “treading footsteps” confidently stride, plod, and maybe even trample whatever is in his path. But “lightly treading footsteps” are nimble, graceful – even dainty – movements. 

So, when your hero is treading lightly, is he proceeding purposefully through the confrontation … or tiptoeing with his words so as not to offend?

Both. The contrast between trudging and gliding allows the reader to understand that Mr. Hero is taking the utmost caution as he confidently proceeds forward. 

Scripture is full of mixed metaphors. They give us a broader, more comprehensive view about God and His ways.

In one instance, Jesus referred to his disciples as His little flock, comparing us to sheep. Then He explained that those same sheep inherit a kingdom – God’s Kingdom (Luke 12:32).

Think of the contrast for His listeners. They knew sheep as animals lacking sense and intelligence – yet clearly understood the role of kings, queens, princes, and princesses. The two images reveal the contrast God wants us to understand and live out: we are 100% reliant on Him, as sheep depend on the shepherd. Yet we can live in the confidence and authority of royalty. 

A mixed metaphor can be memorable … or confusing. Tread lightly. Make sure yours shows a rich contrast. 

A Wise Word

The best mixed metaphors show clear contrast.

A Word To Pray

Loving Father,

Thank you for mixed metaphors in scripture that give me a more comprehensive view of You and Your kingdom. Show me how to use metaphors purposefully so readers grow in their understanding rather than confusion. 

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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