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The Importance of Utilizing Metaphors and Similes in News Media


The Importance of Utilizing Metaphors and Similes in News Media

Sana Issa Srour (PhD)([1](

Ali Hama Murad([2])


News industry and news media in particular are related to mass media where the news targets the public, and the public is under the lens of the news. There are types of mass media such as the print media which includes newspapers and news magazines, the televised or broadcast news as in radio and television, and the last type is related to technological or digital media which is the Internet. This type includes a digitized version of the following media: online newspapers, news blogs, news videos, news podcasts, and live news. News Media come under Mass Media which influence the readers’ exclusiveness in terms of the sources of news. This influence takes place through language, among many other elements. Through using language, authors can advertise and market their creative as well as their innovative works. However, this is still unaccomplished without the adequate usage and employment of figurative devices or figures of speech. On the one hand, an example is a metaphor which functions as an embedded comparison between two different things, aspects or ideas such as the use of the expression “heart of stone” or Shakespeare’s “the world is a stage”. On the other hand, a simile is a comparison between two things which are not alike, through using the words “like” or “as”. An example is the expression ‘she is like the moon’. The purpose of the study is to reveal the effectiveness of using metaphors and similes as authorship tools in news media. The findings of the study are indicated by the results of the dichotomous questionnaire of yes-no type. The yes-answers on the given questions are indicative of authenticity, reliability, and convey significant results: a high ratio of 79% Yes-answers and 21% No-answers, by the study participants/respondents.

Keywords: Metaphor, simile, dichotomous, news/mass media, influence.


ترتبط صناعة الأخبار والوسائل الإعلاميّة على وجه الخصوص بوسائل الإعلام إذ تستهدف الأخبار الجمهور، فيكون تحت مجهرالأخبار. هناك أنواع من وسائل الإعلام مثل وسائل الإعلام المطبوعة التي تشمل الصحف والمجلات الإخبارية والأخبار المتلفزة أو المذاعة كما هو الحال في الراديو والتلفزيون، وهنالك أيضًا النوع الذي يتعلق بالوسائط التكنولوجيّة/ أو الرّقميّة وهو الإنترنت. يتضمن هذا النوع نسخة رقميّة من الوسائط الأتية: الصحف عبر الإنترنت والمدونات الإخبارية ومقاطع الفيديو الإخبارية والبودكاست الإخباري والأخبار الحية. تندرج وسائل الإعلام الإخبارية ضمن وسائل الإعلام التي تؤثر على خصوصيّة القراء من حيث مصادر الأخبار.

يحدث هذا التأثير من خلال اللغة، ومن خلال تاثيرالعديد من العناصر الأخرى. فإذا، يمكن للمؤلفين الإعلان عن أعمالهم الإبداعيّة، وكذلك أعمالهم المبتكرة وتسويقها، من خلال استخدام اللغة. ومع ذلك، ما يزال هذا الأمر غير مكتمل من دون الاستخدام والتّوظيف المناسبين للأدوات التّصويريّة، أو استعمال التّشابيه في الكلام. الغرض من الدّراسة هو الكشف عن فعاليّة استخدام الاستعارات والتّشبيهات كأدوات للتأليف في وسائل الإعلام الإخبارية. تتبين نتائج الدّراسة من خلال نتائج استخدام الاستبيان ثنائي التفرع من النوع نعم – لا. وتشير الإجابات بنعم على الأسئلة المحددة إلى المصداقية، والموثوقية، وتنقل نتائج مُهِمَّة: نسبة عالية تبلغ 79٪ من الإجابات بنعم، و21٪ من الإجابات بنعم، من قبل المشاركين في الدراسة.

الكلمات المفاتيح: تشابيه، استعارة، وسائل إعلام، تأثير.


Images and other literary devices are used to convey messages of the authors. All these devices, in order to be effective, must be based on the concept of creativity. This is because the author of the news media conveys the news ideas and simultaneously convinces the public through authorship and language use. This usage includes metaphors and similes as figurative language devices such as words, phrases, clauses, and sentences, whose aim is to portray and connote a specific meaning. According to Lieberman and Foster (1968), “the strength of the figurative language lies in an evocative rather than denotative power and in an ability to deal suggestively with feelings and qualities in contexts when the scientific literality would be incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading” (Lieberman and Foster, 1968, p. 4). Accordingly, metaphors and similes contribute to the creative development of the news media authorship and news language.

Figurative language requires a special interpretation since it is an unorthodox type of language (Leech, 1966, p. 181-182). This special use of language requires careful reading and interpretation on the part of the analyst. However, learners of a foreign language may encounter problems in understanding the meanings of the words and expressions which are employed in a non-literal sense (Black, 1964, p. 6). Swan, K., Shea, P., Richardson, J., Ice, P., Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2008) stress the importance of authentic material in conveying a particular message. Media are intended, as any means of communication, for carrying information to the public, and its interpretation has a decisive effect on the public (William, 1980, p.61). According to Kulczynskyj (1990), there are three basic types of mass media: the graphic, the optic, and the electronic. Each has its own characteristics. First, the graphic type includes the printed news material such as newspapers, books, magazines, and posters. Second, the optic type includes photographs, slides, and signs. Third, the electronic type includes the digitized versions of films, radio, and television.  In order to reach a large audience, publications which have a wide circulation must depend on the ideas and aims of the producer as well as on the targeted public which it wants to impress (Kulczynskyj, 1990, p. 11).

Authors use the technical term ‘metaphor’ either to refer to the figurative language in general, which includes figures of speech and thought, or to refer to just a kind of figure of thought. In etymological terms, the word ‘metaphor’ derives from the Greek word ‘metaphora’ which means to transfer through carrying over (Liddell and Scott, 1996). The word ‘metaphor’ itself refers to a specific variety of the figurative meanings and it is a special kind of comparison, usually of something unknown with something known for the purpose of clarifying the former (Liddell and Scott, 1996). The purpose of the metaphor is to achieve a rhetoric effect as well as to explain and clarify objects, persons, ideas, emotions, or situations. Thus, a metaphor is used in order to change a particular meaning of words, create new words, or embed a significant idea. A metaphor is a word utilized for something resembling an entity which it usually refers to. Hence, it is a transfer from the concrete sense to the abstract one. The following is an example of a metaphor: “A flood of protests poured in”. It refers to a type of figurative language. It reveals how the protesters of the revolution are like a surge in their uprising, moving with a powerful force which is unstoppable.

Moreover, many news media authors believe that the figurative language which is prime in influencing the public is the metaphor. Ullmann (1973, p. 175) quotes the opinions of various famous writers as follows. For Aristotle, “the greatest thing by far is to have a command of the metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius”. Mallarme mentions the “absolute power of metaphor” and Proust posits that “the metaphor alone can give a kind of eternity of style”. In contrast to a metaphor, a simile is an explicit imagery which is achieved by analogy ‘A’ is like ‘B’, whereas a metaphor is an implicit imagery which is achieved by the identification ‘A’ is ‘B’. Thus, a simile is an explicit comparison between essentially unlike notions which are introduced by words such as “like” or “as” or a verb such as “seem”. So, if a speaker omits “like” or “as,” then a metaphor is used. In addition, a simile is a subgroup of metaphor wherein the comparison is made explicit by the use of ‘like’ or ‘as’.

          Furthermore, metaphors and similes are tropes represented as important constituents of language. However, they might not be as popular in usage as other linguistic features such as ambiguity, neologisms, blending, and puns. This is because they are considered as deviations from the linguistic code since they require a special interpretation. The analyst must carefully read them through taking into consideration the figurative meaning of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences (Kulczynskyj, 1990, p. 13).

The Research Problem

This study presents the research problem in the form of a question as follows. Can the figurative language and the figures of speech be essential for authorship as well as the news media to function as supporters in order to facilitate the jobs of reporters, writers, and journalists? Thus, this study is an attempt to answer the research problem.


This study adopts the quantitative analytical descriptive approach. It is analytical where the researchers utilize statistical analysis to analyze and calculate the data. Then, the researchers describe the data and interpret the results. Moreover, the researchers use a tailored questionnaire which is distributed to 50 participants/respondents at the university education level, chosen randomly: 40 males and 10 females of age range between 30 and 70. The questionnaire is of the Dichotomous Questions type. This type of questions provides the respondents with two options which are in the form of yes or no, to choose from. The reason that the researchers chose this type is because the dichotomous type is the easiest form of questionnaire type which requires no effort on the part of the respondents in answering it. Furthermore, this study employs the data collection method of online questionnaire. It includes a set of standardized questions which are put together and distributed via online channels, in particular the social media platforms such as Facebook and Facebook Messenger. The researchers chose these platforms in order to save time during the data collection process and because it is a cost-free method of data collection; this applies to the questionnaire as well.  Hence, the dichotomous questions are easy to understand and respond to, and they help the researchers to gather quick and straightforward responses from the participants in the study.

The Research Hypothesis

This study attempts to answer the following research hypothesis: the usage of the figurative language such as metaphors and similes in the authorship and the news media is an authentic phenomenon in affecting the audience.

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to investigate and prove the following points:

  1. The usage of the figurative language as the basis for writing and speaking skills in terms of news media and authorship.
  2. Metaphors and similes are ornamented elements which illustrate the importance of recognizing and comprehending speeches of reporters, journalists, TV presenters, TV programmes hosts, and spokesmen.

News opponents and critics work on defeating such themes, where they clarify the contrary and the dissimilar. However, research has shown the importance of using linguistic features and figurative languages in oration and public speeches (Zuliftriyani, 2020, p. 341).

Modern Interpretations of Figures of Speech as Tropes

The modern era is called the global era of high technological digitization which is characterized by the development of the science. People are treated like machines who constantly work non-stop, and don’t care for the surrounding environment (Zuliftriyani, 2020, p. 539). This makes communication to reach the minimum level. Therefore, writing must be packaged along with the content that reflects the perspectives of usage, which must be interpreted as an activity or a taste in the authorship and publication. Creative writing must be employed in the contexts and texts through the productive, moral, developmental, and objective management of the tropes, which are the metaphor and the simile.  These rhetorical and literary devices are used in order to express the positive values and categories of the characteristics of writing for the purpose of positively affecting the readers as well as the learners. The producers/authors of a given text possess the ability to read and write. Their reading ability is the result of their capacity to recognize and distinguish the symbols of the language which are used by a certain the author in order to transmit certain idea. However, their writing ability is the result of their capacity to employ orthographic language symbols in order to express ideas which reveal their authorship.

Contemporary mass media authors tend to rely on various tropes such as metaphors and similes. This is attributed to the need for persuading the consumer to interpret the product through the hidden ideas and associations.  Thus, a metaphor functions as a filter for the consumer to perceive the reality (Petkovic, 2014) whereas a simile is used in order to make the consumer see the analogy among things. Traditionally, linguistics deals with examining language from various aspects such as analysing figures of speech such as metaphor, wherein a word or phrase literally denotes one kind of an object or an analogy between one thing and another (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980). Moreover, the authors argue that metaphors are also pervasive in thought and action. They believe that utilizing a metaphor is to be simply understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another. Thus, they provide several examples of daily metaphors, such as “argument war” and “time is money” (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, p. 276). In more recent years, there appeared a different type of metaphor such as the visual metaphor. Such a metaphor type does not exist in words, but it is framed in a picture, a scene, or a video. This type of metaphor is apparent and is frequently used in mass media. It is referred to as practical metaphor. Serikov defines practical metaphor as a metaphor which takes place when one situation or one object is transferred into another situation or is attached to another object (Serikov, 2007, p. 132).

An important notion regards the ways in which the mass media authors appeal to the readers. This occurs through the wide use of the comic sense utilized through metaphors. Different types of language games are used in the press, the internet data-portals, and sports magazines. The comic sense is referred to as the contradiction of identity principles through ambiguity and contrast. Contrast refers to language devices such as simile, oxymoron, antithesis, metonymy, and antonymy, among other devices. Metaphors and similes require selections of an equivalent word which aims to convey the expressive language of the authors through news media. It also includes adding elements that are more familiar to the audience or readers such as commentaries and loan translation words, particularly idioms. These notions add to the expressivity of the authors, in addition to the stylistic devices used which help the expressed ideas and thoughts of the authors to be globalized. This in turn testifies to the authorship of the material produced and published through mass media.

Language Features of News Media

The symbolic dimension in the news media conveys practices through analyses of the news contexts and language devices. The rules of conduct of a professional journalist state that the primary obligation of a journalist is to truthfulness in terms of what is reported. This requires that the journalist exhibits high levels of accuracy, fairness, and comprehensiveness (Black, 2010). Among the topics that are much discussed is corruption. It is frequently evoked by journalists in news reporting and editorials with an underlying assumption that its meaning is universal and self-evident (Rothstein, 2014, p. 29). An example of talking about corruption in the news is through the vivid usage of particular images through metaphorical language. In Cognitive Linguistics, metaphors and similes are understood as tools which define one conceptual domain in terms of another (Kovecses, 2002). Thus, journalists and news media producers provide the images that are “better suited to making the idea or thought more tangible and more striking than if it were presented directly and without any sort of disguise” (Ricoeur, 1978, p. 60).  Accordingly, authors and news media producers utilize figures of speech and rhetorical devices which contribute to providing meaning to abstract terms in order to project the reality to the audience in a particular way. Hence, metaphors and similes are powerful tools which function as frames in order to portray what the reality might look like through the eyes of journalists and news media.

News media sometimes use the remuneration-related vocabulary to express and elucidate the ideas of authors. Authors attempt to combine creative and innovative sources of domains through the style, language, setting, linguistic devices, and language structures such as phonemes, in order to achieve the desired outcome through specific contexts in the best way possible.  Therefore, the selection of metaphors and similes has implications on the meaning. Also, meaning is conveyed by the news media in order to create the essential signposts and hints by news authors. This is done to highlight certain elements without concealing the internal complexity that is almost inevitable, and consequently present such analytical approaches and societal progresses in a functional manner. In fact, the prime target of news media is to attract the audience and convince them of a specific world view which is from the point of the authors of news themselves.

Metaphors and Similes according to Reporters and Journalists

Metaphors and similes are used by the reporters, journalists and TV presenters in news media. They are employed as tools to persuade their viewers, which in turn leads to stimulating specific emotions in the audience. Charteris-Black (2004, p. 24) posits that in news media similes and metaphors relate new information to familiar information. Also, Semino (2008) considers that similes and metaphors are devices used in order to give readers a sense of familiarity when they are faced with something they know about, through their previous experience (Semino, 2008, p. 4).

In the realm of writing, metaphors are used to illustrate the writer’s intention and point of view or experience (Beard, 1998, p. 106). However, reporters and journalists use such literary devices in order to show their creativity and express comprehensible concepts (Barcelona, 2003, p. 3). According to the researchers of the present study, literary devices such as the ones discussed above are employed by authors or news media broadcasters in order to exemplify particular concepts, ideas, or to project a certain world view. This is achieved through symbolism or the use of symbolic words, phrases, and sentences. These function as carriers of the author’s views and ideas. To illustrate the notions of a metaphor and a simile, Semino (2008) uses an extract from Smith (2005) on beauty:

They were both holding a lot. Sadness swept over Jerome. They had nothing to say to each other. A five-year age gap between siblings is like a garden that needs constant attention. Even three months apart allows the weeds to grow up between you (Smith, 2006, p. 403, as cited in Semino, 2008).

In these lines, the writer uses simile in order to describe the difficulty residing between the siblings in terms of communication. This is done when the author compares their age differences to a garden which has been invaded by weed. Thus, the embedded meaning is conveyed through the simile which in turn forces the readers to interpret another meaning which is as follows: our relationship is a garden which needs constant attention; so, we must attend to it if we want our relation to continue and thrive. This use according to Semino (2008, p. 16) can be as the same type of the linguistic realization as the metaphor. Therefore, through using the simile of a garden, the author invites readers to project materials from this source onto the target concept of the five-year-age gap.  Furthermore, the metaphors used are employed as a communicative resource which helps language users to enhance the expressiveness of their messages through the most economic means available (Charteris-Black, 2004, p. 17).

The Use of Metaphors and Similes in Writing and Speaking

The researchers of this study consider that metaphors and similes are skills which must be utilized in speaking and writing. So, readers or listeners search for such devices in speaking and writing especially when the content or the meaning of the author is not clearly conveyed. These devices include, in addition to similes and metaphors, individual words, lexical items, or multi-word expressions. Furthermore, values and beliefs are dominant in news media and journalism in relation to TV presenters, TV hosts, reporters, journalists, pressmen, and publicists with whom the news and authorship are initiated in the programmes, the daily-publications, and broadcasting. This takes place through some kind of control upon the text-language in order to emphasise the stylistic diversity, validity, and individuality of the news and the authors (Fowler, 1991, p. 47). In addition, although the aim is to entertain the readers and listeners, the places and events might be abstract to the news eyewitnesses such as the spectators who describe the event that happens at a designated time and place. In this manner, Crystal (1998, p. 105) states that the employment of certain language devices can play a decisive role in attracting the reader’s attention in terms of the playful language, where “the ingenuity with the language provides an extra dimension of enjoyment to the receiver” (Crystal, 1998, p. 106).

 Aitchison (2007, p. 116), posits that certain words and sentences are added in order to give more weight and describe the gravity of the incidents that are illustrated by the reporters, spokesmen, and journalists. The purpose is to reflect noticeability of the reporting so as to convey the different degrees of the added drama. Generally, Aitchison (2007) contends that some incidents do not need to be fully dramatized, as they carry a sense of drama and intrigue on their own. Thus, they are used in order to create a sense of familiarity with the general public cause of the public appeal and popularity. This applies to the various news media, such as the print media in newspapers and news magazines, the broadcast news media of radio and television, and the Internet such as the online newspapers, news blogs, news videos, podcasts, and live news streaming. Furthermore, the integrity of media must be existent in news reporting. It refers to the ability of a news media outlet to serve the public interest and democratic process. This is achieved by making it resilient to the institutional corruption with the media system, the economy of influence, the conflicting dependence, and clientelism (Lessig, 2014, p. 3). Moreover, the integrity of media encompasses the following qualities of media outlet:

  1. Independence from the private or political interests.
  2. Transparency about the particular financial interests.
  3. Commitment to the journalism ethics and standards.
  4. Responsiveness to the citizens (Petkovic, 2014).

The degree of intensity of notice has traditionally been used in order to grab the attention and sentiments of the audience. This is demonstrated through the values of artistry and significance in using the various emotional language devices. These are utilized in news scenarios with the help of the imaginative forms of the written and spoken styles, in order to deliver the news media to the readers and listeners as simple and factual (Andrews, 2005, p. 153). However, with the many forms of news media being digitized, Andrews (2005) indicates that more people will receive their news from an online source rather than from the traditional newspaper.

According to Raisa, M., Sudarsono, H., and Rufinus, A. (2016), figurative language needs more hours for the people to learn them, including the definitions, the function, and the identification of practice. Furthermore, Raisa et al. (2016) believe that the purpose of the figurative language is to capture the readers’ interests and to deliver the idea and image in a more interesting way. Simultaneously, figurative language presents a lot of meaning and enriches the meaning of the text within which it occurs. Furthermore, figurative language conveys the connotative meanings which revitalize the text and/or the speech by making their meaning more precise and concrete (Ogunsiji, 2000, p. 56). Therefore, in line with what has been presented the researchers of this study consider that figurative language is a powerful effective means of communicating an idea, especially when this idea is not easily comprehended due to its complexity.

Hence, reporters, journalists, and news writers present their authentic material, cultural and language enrichment, news headings, as well as the cultural and personal growth model, as tools which transmit a particular set of objectives. Everyday metaphors and similes in language are culturally and perceptually based on words and expressions which reveal and underlie particular ideals, values, and beliefs. Thus, the analysis of figurative language in the news media exposes the underlying concepts as well as the culture of its speakers (Bonvillain, 2003). This is as such because it is based on the notion that figurative language is a language aspect or device where an expression is stated in a way which is contrary to its usual one (Bratu and Kazoka, 2018).


No. Questions Yes – answers No – answers
1 Q. 1 50 0
2 Q. 2 25 25
3 Q. 3 44 6
Total No.   119 31
Percentages   79 % 21 %

Figure No. (1) The Numbers and Percentages of the Dichotomous Questionnaire

The above figure shows that the Yes – answers of the given questions are indicative of authentic, reliable, and significant results in terms of the high ratios of 79% against the 21% of No – answers, as a result of the respondents’ participation. The numbers of participants in question number 1 are 50 respondents of the total number, which means that the authors are significantly in need of figurative language, i.e. the figures of speech, that are represented by metaphors and similes. Moreover, question number 2 indicates that the answers in the Yes /No options are similar and equal. This refers to the notion of authorship which is typical and ideal in cases of engaging and employing the master tropes. Furthermore, question number 3 indicates that the Yes-answers are more than the No-answers, of the total number of the dichotomous questionnaire, with the ratio of (44) Yes-respondents and (6) No-respondents. This means that news media contributes to the authorship and the composition success, which is achieved through the employment of various metaphors and similes.

No. Respondents Numbers Percentages
1 Males 40 80
2 Females 10 20
Total Number   50 100

  Figure No. (2) The Numbers of Participants: Males and Females


The growth of technology implies that the listeners and the readers together with the writers, the news media reporters, presenters, and journalists, all become less bound to the geographically fixed spaces. Such a notion motivates us to communicate virtually in relation to figurative language and the linguistic features that must be taken into account by the authors of news media. Thus, “it is allowed for them to select the communities and tools” (Baym, 2015, p. 5). Marwick and Boyd (2011) distinguish between the public and the audience in terms of mass media usage. They believe that people have always used media in order to create public identities for themselves and for the others. The findings of the present study reveal that the use of figurative language is indispensable for news media, which serves as a vehicle for sharing information as well as encoding specific messages. Another purpose for using figurative language by news media is to diminish the distance between the news broadcasters and the audience (reader/listener). This results in an interactive and enhanced communication among them.


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The Dichotomous Questionnaire

  1. Do the authors need figurative language or figures of speech and particularly, a metaphor and a simile? Yes / No.
  2. Is authorship regarded as typical, if it uses master tropes? Yes / No.
  3. Does the usage of the news media participate in the authorship production and invention success through the engaging of metaphors and similes? Yes / No.

[1] -Applied Linguistics, Lecturer at the Translation Department, Islamic University of

[2]– English Language and Literature, Linguistic Track, Islamic University of Lebanon.

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