LightswitchSimple, powerful, vivid words and analogies. They’re critical if you want people to understand you; even more important if you want to inspire action.

Notice what’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts are using simple words to encourage understanding (why we need to stay home) and action (staying home, using a mask, social distancing). And they use relatable analogies like similes, which show how two things are alike using “like” or “as,” and metaphors, which do the same without the word “like.”

For example, isn’t COVID-19 like the flu? Why should we be taking such radical actions? Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the U.S., spells it out:

“This is ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu. I think that’s something that people can get their arms around and understand.”

When asked when he expects social distancing orders to be relaxed so the U.S. can get back to business, Dr. Fauci also had a relatable analogy:

“It isn’t like a light switch, on and off. It’s a gradual pulling back.”

New York governor Andrew Cuomo often refers to COVID-19 as “the enemy;” first responders and healthcare professionals are “troops” on a “rescue mission to save lives.”

Ventilators are to this war what missiles were to World War II,” he has said.

As for “flattening the curve” of the incidence of COVID-19, the governor likened it to an ocean wave:

“That curve is going to turn into a wave and the wave is going to crash into the hospital system.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, delivers updates and advice in simple, clear, relatable words and analogies:

“Coming down the #COVID19 epidemic curve will be like making our way down a mountain in the darkness. We must not rush or let go of our safety measures, else the fall will be hard and unforgiving.”

As for when we can stop social distancing and get back to a new normal, Dr. Tam says:

“Though we all wish this could be a sprint to the finish, it is NOT. This will be a MARATHON and there are no rewards for quitting early.”

Have you noticed any memorable explanations related to the pandemic? Please share in the comments.

Image: Thanks to Seth Hoffman and Unsplash.

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