How to Alliterate

Two Parts:Learning How to AlliterateDeciding When to Alliterate

Alliteration is commonly found in tongue twisters, poetry, songs, and speeches. It can be used to persuade, amuse, beautify, or make something memorable. Use alliteration to add contour, flair, and pithiness to your writing.

Part 1
Learning How to Alliterate

  1. 1
    Pay attention to the initial sounds. Alliteration occurs when the same initial sound is repeated in a phrase.[1] For example:
    • “Dastardly deception and depravity” all share the same first letter and sound, “d.” This is a classic example of simple alliteration.
    • Remember, alliteration has to do with sounds and not letters. Therefore, “cracked center” is not alliteration, even though they both share the same first letter. However, “frank phonetics” is alliteration, because they share the same initial sound—an “f” sound.[2]
  2. 2
    Pay attention to the beginning syllables. Alliteration can also occur when the same initial syllable is repeated. For example:
    • “Booming boomsticks boomeranged on the boomtown.” The “boom” sound is repeated throughout. Since more than the initial letter is repeated, this is a more complex example of alliteration.
    • “Alluring allusions of aloofness” all share the “alu” sound. Remember, the sounds and not the letters create the alliteration.
  3. 3
    Alliterate consecutively and nonconsecutively. Consecutive alliteration, or immediate juxtaposition, occurs when the all of the words with the shared sound occur one after the other, or consecutively. Nonconsecutive alliteration, or non-immediate juxtaposition, occurs when they are separated.[3] For instance:
    • “Dunkin Donuts” is consecutive alliteration, while “do or die” is nonconsecutive.
  4. 4
    Distinguish alliteration, assonance, and consonance. Alliteration only refers to shared initial sounds and syllables. When the shared sounds occur later in the word, they are either assonance or consonance.[4]
    • Assonance describes repeated vowel sounds.[5] “Row the boat slow” is an example of assonance, because the words share the “o” sound.
    • Consonance describes repeated consonant sounds.[6] “Pick a book of jokes” is an example of consonance, because the words share the “k” sound.
    • Assonance, consonance, and alliteration can all be combined in various ways. “The cold bowl was sold” is an example of assonance and consonance combined, because they all share the “ol” sound.[7] “Cold coal” is an example of all three combined, because they all begin with the “k” sound and share the “ol” sound.

Part 2
Deciding When to Alliterate

  1. 1
    Alliterate to achieve a humorous effect. Through some quirk of the human thought process, alliteration can create a humorous effect where a non-alliterated phrase would not. It is not clear why this is. For example:
    • “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is funnier than “Peter the lute player gathered some peppers soaked in vinegar and other miscellaneous spices.”
  2. 2
    Alliterate to make a phrase memorable or catchy. Alliterative phrases are more memorable than non-alliterative phrases, which is why so many brand names are alliterative.[8] Examples include:
    • Coca-Cola
    • Frosted Flakes
    • Stanley Steamer
    • Krispy Kreme
  3. 3
    Alliterate to persuade. Alliteration works very well as a persuasive rhetorical device, and shows up in speeches and sales pitches all the time.[9] Some famous examples include:
    • John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”[10] The “y,” “k,” “d,” “w,” “f” and “a” sounds are all repeated. In fact, the only non-alliterated word in the line is “not,” which serves to emphasize the force of the command.
    • One of the many examples of alliteration in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”[11] The “c,” “L” “n” and “d” sounds are all repeated.
    • “The Ballot or the Bullet,” by Malcom X. The “b” sound is repeated.[12]
    • In Franklin Roosevelt’s speech about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, alliteration is used over and over, to great effect.[13] Examples in include a “date which will live in infamy,” with the repetition of the “d” and “in” sounds. Later on in the speech, the phrase “last night, the Japanese forces attacked…” is repeated three times in a row.

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