I’ve never been fond of them, except when employed by Douglas Adams.
I don’t have any particular reason for my distaste, I just find them generally annoying. But here’s a good argument for avoiding them (if you didn’t already clue in to the danger after all of that Gulag nonsense): if you use a simile or metaphor, some idiot out there is going to take you literally. Case in point — this is what Hoagie had to say yesterday after someone made the mistake of using a simile to describe materials found on Tempel 1:
Now, examine carefully Chick Woodward’s extremely tantalizing statement: “[the] silicates … might even be similar to the beach sand here in Hawaii ….”
Why choose THAT particular comparison … unless you meant it?
“Beach sand” is a highly specific, very weathered end product of a long history of planetary sedimentary processes … which can take place only on highly evolved, Earth-like (or, Mars-like) planets (with lots of flowing, liquid water)! To make that specific comparison, as a scientist, one can only think that Woodward was directly hinting at the “exploded planet hypothesis” itself … but without naming it as such–
This is where I bash my head into a brick wall. Repeatedly. (Actually, it got a good chuckle out of me. That and a whole lot of head shaking.)
P.S. If there’s anyone out there that abuses italics more than I do, it’s this guy. And please, Richard… quit it with the scare quotes. If there’s one thing I hate more than similes or metaphors, it’s the incorrect use of quotation marks.