I always find myself using CTRL + F to remove the words/phrases I think I'm repeating too much (most of the time they are metaphors).

In the following passage, however, I'm not very sure whether the repetition is apparent:

Despite my efforts to resist, I couldn't help catching a glimpse of her side boob. It poked out from her tank top like a half sun. Needless to say, it gave me a massive erection, which I tried to hid by lying on my stomach and pretending I was looking for a good angle to blow on the fire. I hated that. It was as if my entire life had consisted on hiding hard-ons.

Finally, a log caught fire, followed by the rest. It was very sudden. And in no time Paola and I had a display of dancing flames before us. Their warmth entered every pore of my skin.

"You're pretty good." Paola looked genuinely impressed.

"I used to do it a lot," I explained, "when I was a kid."

"I see. I think it's nice—having a skill."

"Building a fire isn't a very useful one."

"It's still nice, though." Paola gazed thoughtfully at the flames, as though trying to find a hidden meaning in their glow. "A skill that has nothing to do with money. I think it's more simple, more pure. And you do it just because you enjoy it. Sometimes we forget to do things just for the sheer pleasure of it."

Maybe I'm overdoing this "repetition deletion" thing? (I use a lot of metaphors. So there are a lot of "like" and "as if/as though" in my writing. I picked this up from the Japanese authors I read, like Haruki Murakami and Yukio Mishima.)

2 Answers 2


As soon as you use 'as if', 'as though' or 'like' you are leaving metaphor territory and heading into the land of similes.

I personally think simile-light writing is more dynamic, more exciting, funnier:

"...poking out from her top, a glorious, golden half-sun, about as perilous to idle gawkers."

"I was scared to think of the hours I'd wasted in my life concealing erections."

"Paola gazed into the flames, searching for some hidden meaning in their bright, hungry tongues."

I always think a like or an as if signals half a thought, a lack of commitment to lyrical writing. I think this may be a personal point of view however. Similes are something that can definitely be overdone however.

  • I second that point of view. And yet I still have to fight with myself as to not do exactly that when I write.
    – fuandon
    Aug 8, 2014 at 15:51
  • Oh in the first draft the rule is "switch off the inner editor and bang it down". But then in drafting it's time to weed out those pesky as ifs, definitely.
    – One Monkey
    Aug 8, 2014 at 15:53
  • 1
    @One Monkey Ha, I think this is a matter of style. I find the metaphor versions too exaggerated...what's the word...hyperbolic? (I think this is the main difference between Western and Eastern literature). The third example is pretty good, though. Thanks for the suggestions.
    – wyc
    Aug 8, 2014 at 15:54
  • 1
    It occurs to me that simile framing in English has become the signal of a half-baked thought. One of the perennial annoyances is people using the word 'literally' to mean 'metaphorically'. I wonder if that usage crept in because 'like' and 'as if' started to become gauche...
    – One Monkey
    Aug 8, 2014 at 16:08
  • On the other hand, similes make it sound more like you are speaking to a real person. Metaphors can very quickly push you into purple prose territory. Aug 9, 2014 at 14:33

As a baseline I personally try to avoid repeating similar words and phrases in the same paragraph as a bare minimum. In this case the repetition isn't as obvious, (well, the fact that you bolded it makes it quite obvious, but still...) but you could probably get away with straight removing 'as though' in that last paragraph, and maybe even that first instance as well.

as if also as though
like something was actually so.

In terms of repetition, I don't think it's ever bad to check for repetition, just don't let it get in the way of your actual writing process (i.e. don't over-edit).

In the second case, removing 'as though' leaves you with

Paola gazed thoughtfully at the flames, trying to find a hidden meaning in their glow.

She may not actually be trying to decipher their meaning, hence the 'as though', but the image is still there. Based on that, I as a reader get the sense that she has a thoughtful look on her face (you could also remove 'thoughtfully' from the first part). The image is still there, and in my opinion removing 'as though' only enhances it.

In the first instance, removing 'as if' (and a little rewording) would leave you with

My entire life had consisted on hiding hard-ons.

Obviously it includes the 'feels like my life's about this' sense, but clearly your narrator is a young boy going through puberty (or older than that, even). I could believe that this would be a perception he might have or a statement he might make, however ridiculous it might sound.

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