Should we avoid "nonsensical" or "unclear" metaphors? I am not sure if this is a case of "nonsensical" or "unclear" metaphor, but sometimes you have certain phrases that doesn't seem to be suited for a particular metaphor.

For example:

They drifted out of the room like small clouds in a sunny sky.

Now "drifted out of the room" doesn't make sense for clouds, because clouds just drift away, so is this a case of "nonsensical" or "unclear" metaphors that should be avoided? Because it sounds much better if we use it in a different but similar sentence.

For example:

They drifted off into the distance like small clouds in a sunny sky.

So what do you think? I am not an native English speaker, so I am unsure how "nonsensical" or "unclear" the former sentence sounded like.

  • 1
    "They were like clouds on a sunny day: not there."
    – wetcircuit
    Jun 13, 2019 at 2:02
  • Welcome to Writing.SE blackbird. Please check out our tour and help center. Please stick around, answer questions if you like, and read.
    – Cyn
    Jun 13, 2019 at 2:57
  • I think your question demonstrates that the issue isn't whether to avoid metaphors that are nonsensical or unclear; it's figuring out which ones those are in the first place... which is very hard to answer about :-) But, if there's va phrase that's bothering you -- that's your taste and your call -- go right bahead and change it! :-)
    – Standback
    Jun 13, 2019 at 2:58
  • 1
    @wetcircuit small puffy clouds can be part of a sunny day. If the cloud's shadow isn't where you are, you'll have full sunshine. And the small ones are too small to cast a shadow anyway if they're high enough.
    – Cyn
    Jun 13, 2019 at 3:01
  • Oh that's weird, I could have sworn there was a "1" by your name, blackbird. My vision must be obscured by shadows... You're still very welcome, you're not just new.
    – Cyn
    Jun 13, 2019 at 3:03

1 Answer 1


You can't drift off into the distance when you leave a room. Unless it's a really big room.

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You can drift out of a room, but you disappear rather suddenly, when the line of sight through the doorway is broken. Clouds don't disappear suddenly, unless they go behind buildings or mountains.

Your English is fine here. The sentences make grammatical sense. But the logical sense is slightly off.

Use a metaphor to create an image or emotion in the reader's head. If your reader has to stop and think about what you mean, you're dead in the water. The lines you cite are okay. But what's the idea you're creating? Is it about a slow leave-taking? Or the gradualness of the departure? Or are you trying to evoke a beautiful perfect day? Maybe the idea is that the departure is natural and no cause for stress or alarm?

Get at the core of what you're trying to convey and play around with different ways to describe it. With or without a metaphor. If you're not sure what you're trying to say, the reader won't be either.


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