Say It With A Simile


I know we all hate emails, but be careful: our hatred of them is producing an unfortunate side-effect. The drive to make emails succinct and to-the-point is in the process stripping all the colour out of the English language.  Of course you want to get through your 300 emails a day as quickly as possible, but wouldn’t you like just one or two of them to have a touch of the poetic, to lift your spirits a little?


So this issue, for anyone who wants to inject a bit of colour into their emails, here are some literary role models for you to emulate….



From: William Shakespeare

To: Product Manager, toothpaste

Subject: Sales figures for January


I write, my liege, with news of some alarm.

Hereto attached, a document you’ll find,

Whose meat and substance, I am sure,

Will drain the very colour from your jowls.

In brief, we are undone: our foe gains ground,

And from our grasp has wrenched our market share.

His advertising, like a weed, at first

Has semblance of a flower, pastel-hued.

But when our docile customer leans in,

Its scent to savour, then its tendrils cruel

Break through the soil, bind their victim fast

And choke the life from our superior stems.

This tangled foliage we must strim away,

And with much haste: Cry ‘havoc!’ and conduct

A focus group; note well consumer trends,

Then conjure up the alchemy of Branding

And with its banner upward, march to war.

Thus this unweeded garden shall we till,

So it becomes our cust’mers favoured place.

There is no other course, it needs be so:

For in this age doth Marketing hold sway,

And ‘neath its yoke we mortals must obey.




From: Charles Dickens

To: Product Manager, toothpaste

Subject: Regional Focus Group results, Brighton


My dearest colleague,


Nothing – I repeat, sir, nothing – causes me quite so much wonder as the infinite variety of manners, humours and physical stature brought about by human evolution, so clearly in evidence in the ragged assemblage brought together in the name of research – to wit, the membership of this week’s focus group.  As our esteemed marketing manager Mr Ponsonby Pumblecrud busied himself with the many minutiae which seem to form the largest part of his employ (of the precise nature of which we lesser mortals remain in ignorance), and while in his shadow nimbly crept Mrs Dora Dilworthy the brand manager, with the demeanour of one who peeps from behind the knees of a giant, and yet in so doing sees the true meaning of things, I afforded myself the luxury of a few minutes to take in the scene before me.  Oh, how wondrous it is that the promise of free samples brings forth such a seething throng, ever eager to serve their country in return for floss and mouthwash!


My gaze alighted first upon an ill-bred looking fellow with skin like the crust of a raised game pie, engrossing himself in the task of ascertaining the precise quantity of toothpowder which would afford both his teeth and his ample toothbrush the most satisfactory brushing experience – an experience which, to judge by the similarity of his teeth to the barnacle-clad rocks which lay within view of our seaside hotel, might be somewhat new to him; he nevertheless applied himself to the goal of making the highest quality decision possible, having been entreated to do so with great aplomb by his appointed researcher: a marketing student whose own rather more geometrically precise incisors stood out above a chin like a cornfield after the burning of the corn and a neck like a fatty cut of mutton; this individual, benefiting as he doubtless did from the opportunities afforded him by one of our finest educational establishments – a soubriquet which, if one is brutally honest, appears only within the publicity material of that same institution – and subject of course to what space he had left to digest such opportunities, competing as they did with the many demands on his student time (those measuring highest on alcoholic content presumably being afforded a modicum of attention slightly in advance of those which his school and family would consider more worthy of a young gentleman of his bearing); this individual, as I say….  Sorry, I can’t remember how I started the sentence – I’ll email you again in a minute.



From: Winnie the Pooh

To: Product manager, toothpaste

Subject:  My resignation


Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone Pie,

A fish can’t manage, and neither can I.

I’ve hated this job, so I’m saying ‘goodbye’ -

Cottlestone, Cottlestone, Cottlestone Pie,



© Phil Lowe, 2004.  All rights reserved