The following explanation and example was excerpted from A Concise Guide for Writers (third edition) by Louis Glorfeld, David Lauerman and Norman Stageberg. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1963, 1974, pages 134-135.
An analogy is a special kind of comparison. The items compared are usually things that one considers quite unlike in most respects, such as an automobile engine and the human body, a garden and a college, a house and a book. An analogy often proceeds, point by point, for considerable length.
Topic: The structure of a book.
Development: Similarities between the architecture of a house
and the structure of a book are discussed.
A book is like a single house. It is a mansion of many rooms‑rooms on different levels, of different sizes and shapes, with different outlooks, rooms with different functions to perform. These rooms are independent, in part. Each has its own structure and interior decoration. But they are not absolutely independent and separate. They are connected by doors and arches, by corridors and stairways. Because they are connected, the partial function which each performs contributes its share to the usefulness of the whole house. Otherwise the house would not be genuinely livable.
The architectural analogy is almost perfect. A good book, like a good house, is an orderly arrangement of parts. Each major part has a certain amount of independence. As we shall see, it may have an interior structure of its own. But it must also be connected with the other parts‑that is, related to them functionally‑for otherwise it could not contribute its share to the intelligibility of the whole.
As houses are more or less livable, so books are more or less readable. The most readable book is an architectural achievement on the part of the author. The best books are those that have the most intelligible structure and, I might add, the most apparent.
Students are often confounded by the prospect of writing an essay for the first time. I tell them that the process of writing an essay is not much different than the process of building a fence around a yard. Both the fence and the essay are structures, systems composed of interrelated parts that function as a whole. First one determines the need for the structure, gauging whether it will help to solve some problem one has identified or make matters worse. Next will come some kind of rough plan and a determination of necessary parts and equipment. At about this stage, the writer or builder generally stops to ponder whether the project will be worth what it costs. If he’s still game, he’ll draft more specific plans, and start gathering the materials and the tools. Depending on what he’s building, he’ll probably have to discover if parts have to go together in any certain order or if certain relationships have to be consistent throughout. The careful craftsman measures twice and cuts once, which means, as the thing goes together, lots of re-examination of how parts fit together and how they are joined. The basic foundation parts go up first, and then substantial identifying parts of the structure are added, and finally the whole is finished, polished up, as it were, to give the casual observer the impression that it is a single, unified, coherent whole.
Some high school students fear that the study of grammar is going to be repressive, having in mind some overbearing mother surrogate telling them what they can say and can’t say. But grammar isn’t a system of rules that one has to follow. It has more in common with the parts and overhaul manual for a washing machine or an automobile. In fact, a grammar is a very mechanical description of a language consisting of a listing of its parts and an explanation of how they fit together in common or typical usage. Just as parts and overhaul manuals for cars and washers don’t always describe precisely a specific machine--they are meant to apply to several different models which have similar parts--neither does a grammar describe a specific language. No one speaks or writes the language described in any given grammar book, but speakers of any and all variations of that language can use the grammar to decode the sentences of any other. Like the overhaul manuals, grammars often show “exploded views” of subsystems like clauses and phrases, and have “trouble-shooting” sections that detail how to fix common problems like split infinitives and dangling participles.