Taylor Swift’s Ancient Communication Tactic to Create Catchy Hooks
By Carmine Gallo
Wednesday, 8th May 2024

With the release of her 11th studio album, Taylor Swift added a new role to her impressive resume: chair of The Tortured Poets Department.

Of course, it’s not a real job title, and no such organization exists. But Swift’s album title and Instagram posts proclaiming herself as head of the club are perfectly on brand for a songwriter who has made metaphor a hallmark of her irresistible hooks.

A metaphor is a fancy language trick that says one thing is another. It’s an ancient rhetorical tool writers, poets, songwriters, and speakers use to communicate abstract ideas. And what are two of the most difficult emotions to convey? Every Swiftie knows the answer: love and heartbreak.

Swift draws inspiration from poets like Shakespeare, who painted vivid pictures with metaphors such as “Juliet is the sun.” Swift once revealed she was inspired to write her mega-hit “Love Story” after studying Romeo and Juliet in high school. The entire song acts as an extended metaphor by comparing her relationship to a fairytale romance.

Swift peppers metaphors throughout her speeches, too. For example, in her 2022 NYU commencement speech, she told graduates that everyone represents “a patchwork quilt” of people who have helped them reach their destination.

Swift launched a firehose of metaphors at the audience when she received the Songwriter of the Decade award in Nashville. She compared songwriting to “a magical cloud that floats down right in front of you in the form of an idea for a song…you shape it like clay... Prune it like a garden…and wish on every lucky star.”

Metaphors aren’t exclusively reserved for songwriters and novelists. Anyone can leverage power to write and deliver memorable hooks in their communication. Entrepreneurs, especially, should look for metaphors to explain new and novel ideas.

Bestselling author, keynote speaker, CEO Advisor, and Harvard Instructor

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