How to Use Alliteration to Improve Your Writing

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Alliteration is a literary device using the repetition of sounds. Usually, the sound is the first consonant repeated in two or more neighboring words or syllables.

Here’s an example of alliteration with “w” and “th”:

  • Wild and woolly, threatening throngs.

Alliteration is all about sound, not just letters.

Sound is the ingredient, it doesn’t matter which letter you use to create the sound. For example, a hard “c” or a ”k” work equally. So, to create alliteration in your text, you need two or more words that begin with the same sound.

This means that two words beginning with the same letter, but not the same sound, are not alliterative. Here is an example of two words beginning with the same letter that are not alliterative:

Even though both words start with the letter “c,” the sounds are different so they are not alliteration.

peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers rhyme with alliteration highlighted

Alliteration emphasizes a passage and makes the thought or action easier to remember.

As a literary device, alliteration focuses the reader’s attention on a particular section of text. The sounds create rhythm and mood.

In addition, different consonants have particular connotations. For example, the hissing sound of the letter “s” suggests a snake-like quality, implying slyness or danger. It is the sound of a slithering snake slipping and sliding over the ground.

Recent studies demonstrate that various sounds, like those of consonants, have inherent emotional qualities for English speakers. What bards and poets have known for millennia is now confirmed by science. Your use of repetitive sounds in alliteration creates emotional responses in your reader.

what is alliteration, correct and incorrect examples

You might think that the phrase all about alliteration is an example of alliteration. But, remember alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds. All those “a’s” are not consonants. They are vowels.

Two other poetic devices for repetition are assonance and consonance.

Assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds in non-rhyming words used noticeably close together.

Consonance: the repetition of the same consonant sounds in a line of text. These similar sounds can appear anywhere in the word, but will usually be found at its end or middle, or at the end of the stressed syllable. The repetition occurs in quick succession.

So, the phrase with repetitive “a’s,” all about alliteration is an example of assonance.

All of the following examples show how you can use alliteration to emphasize text in just about any situation. Successful alliteration begins with understanding the effect of sounds at the beginning of words.

1. Match the Sound to the Mood

The emotions triggered by different consonant sounds create an emotional response in readers. Use these emotional triggers to elicit subtle responses in your reader.

Sounds that have a negative response may trigger a reader to take action. Sounds with a positive response generate good feelings about your topic.

Consonants that trigger a positive response: b, p, m, n.

  • Use words like become, benefit, popular, process, magnetize, nail, need.

Consonants that trigger a negative response: d, t, g, k, z, v, s, f.

  • Use words like dash, decide, take, toll, galvanize, keep, zip, venture, verify, scrutinize, fail, fight.

So, if you want to get your audience fired up to take action, use hard sounds like d, z, v. And if you want to draw out agreement, use softer consonants like b and m.

examples of positive and negative consonants

2. Use Consonant Sounds for Impact

Different consonant sounds come from the different physical actions we make as we vocalize the sound. A sound can be:

  • Voiced or voiceless (whether the vocal cords are used to make the sound)
  • Fricatives vs. stops (whether or not air is pushed from or stopped at the mouth)

English has a fairly large number of fricatives, and it has both voiced and voiceless fricatives.

The voiceless fricatives are s, f, sh, and th.

Here are some words beginning with voiceless fricatives:

Thin Think Frank
Thought Shoe Soft
Thank Full Shatter

The voiced fricatives are z, zs, v, and zh (does not start words in English).

Examples of voiced fricatives:

Zone Zip Voice
Zinc View Violent
Zeal Value Vision

Sibilants result when the space between the tongue and the roof of the mouth is closed. Some examples of sibilants in English are s, z, zs, and sh.

Examples of sibilants:

Silver Zebra Slither
Soon Zero Sad
Shadow Sit Zap

Soft consonant sounds elicit a more soothing tone. Other soft consonant sounds like s or z are sibilant, suggesting malice or slyness.

snake in the grass: the snake slyly slithers

Sometimes the affricates ch and j are also considered as sibilants.

Chew Joy Jasmine
Chuck Just Charming
Choose Joist Jazz

Hard consonants like k, b, and p have a vowel sound embedded in them. Hard consonant sounds have a plosive sound that can elicit a sense of authority or abruptness.

Call Kick Peremptory King
Bevy Kite Penance Cup
Billow Koala Carry Correct

examples of authoritative words: kick, call, boom

If you want to use alliteration in your writing but can’t think of the right words, try ProWritingAid’s Word Explorer. It will show you words that are commonly alliterated with your chosen word to help you find inspiration.

3. Grab Audience Attention

No matter what consonants and combinations of consonants you use, alliteration grabs audience attention. It works in advertising and marketing and creating character names in fiction.

Repeat hard consonants to break audience attention patterns and imply authority when you create headlines and subheads in articles or title learning units.

4. Use Alliteration for Emphasis and Impact

When writing prose, alliteration, used carefully, creates an impact for important sentences. By repeating consonants it helps the phrase or sentence stand out, emphasizing its importance.

For example, in business writing, you may emphasize the importance of a report or concept.

  • ABC Piping’s proposed solution is cost-effective, commercially astute, and convincing.

The repetition of c consonants stresses the importance of considering the proposal.

above example on a graphic

5. Spice Up Your Marketing and Advertising

Alliteration is a marketer’s best friend for the same reason. It calls attention to your message and it makes the message easy to remember.

At the top level, naming a business with alliteration makes a company name easy to remember. Skilled business namin

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