A collection of thoughts on metaphor in science writing

In a pithy post on his Scientific American blog, Caleb Scharf opined:

I like my black holes fearsome and my interstellar gas thin and frail. It may well be that in doing so one reinforces a certain blinkering, but we’re not all Mr Spock, we need structures, we need something to hang on to – as long as we remember to let go occasionally.

To which commenter davedobbs added:

Writing about science without using metaphors is like…it’s like…

In a lofty piece in American Scientist, Roald Hoffmann advised:

They have no substance, these mental fetters that constrain metaphor and teaching and narrative in the communication of science. Break them.

In a fun post on her Madam Grammar blog, Lisa McLendon cautioned:

The reason to use a metaphor is to help readers understand something. If it doesn’t do that, it’s not working — and your best bet (a gambling metaphor) is to rewrite.


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