What Is Alliteration? (with Examples)
AlliterationAlliteration is a stylistic literary technique in which nearby words repeat the same initial consonant sound. Alliteration is used to make writing more rhythmic (in poetry, for example) or more memorable (in a business document, for example).
Do not confuse alliteration with consonance. Alliteration refers to only the beginning sound of the word, while consonance refers to any part of a word.
- He's going to gut the golden goose.
- Veni, vidi, vici (Emperor Julius Caesar) (I came, I saw, I conquered)
- Veni, vidi, Visa (I came, I saw, I spent)
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. (A peck is one quarter of a bushel. Did that help? No? A bushel is 64 dry pints. So, a peck is 16 dry pints.)
More Alliteration ExamplesHere are more examples of alliteration:
- I can't say what my wife does.
Why? Is it a secret?
No, she sells seashells by the seashore.
- Keep fully focused on finishing first.
- She had a respectable teeth-to-tattoo ratio.
More about AlliterationHere are four useful points about alliteration:
(1) Alliteration and consonance are often seen together.
Alliteration and consonance are often used together. For example:
- Peter Piper picked pints aplenty, 16 precisely, of pickled peppers. (In this example, the alliterative string features the word "aplenty," which has the repeated "p" sound at a stressed syllable within the word. "Aplenty" can be considered part of the alliteration, but, technically, it is an example of consonance because it does not start with the repeated "p" sound.)
- It's a furry amphibian from Africa.
Alliteration is often most effective when it sounds natural. Making alliteration sound natural nearly always means using words that are not alliterative. So, do not doggedly avoid words (especially short words like prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns) that start with a different letter. For example:
- The westerly winds whistle wildly, wrecking the Westport waterside. (This sounds contrived.)
- In Westport, the wild westerly winds ravage the coast. (This sounds more natural.)
Alliteration is often short and subtle. For example:
- Nothing says home like the smell of the sea.
- Finishing first requires just three things: practice, practice, and practice.
Remember that it is the sound that creates the alliteration. So, letters that sound the same can be used to create alliteration. For example:
- Keep it clean. (In this example, "k" and "c" create the alliteration, even though they're different letters.)
- Fun-filled phenomena (Here, "f" and "ph" create the alliteration.)
A Video SummaryHere is a video summarizing this lesson on alliteration.
Why Should I Care about Alliteration?Alliteration is used for emphasis or to make a sentence more pleasing to the ear. It is used in everyday language, poetry, literature, and business writing.
Here are three good reasons to care about alliteration.
(Reason 1) Grab your audience's attention.Alliteration is a useful technique for poets and song writers as it focuses their audience's attention on the alliterative words. Typically, alliteration is used to create mood or rhythm. Often, the effect suggests an additional meaning. For example, repeating an "s" sound suggests snake-like stealth, and repeating a "b" sound can beget a banging base beat.
(Reason 2) Use alliteration for emphasis and impact.Used sparingly in business writing (e.g., once in a document), alliteration can:
- Be used for emphasis.
- Be memorable.
- Make an impact.
- Make you look confident.
- The second proposed solution was commercially astute, cost effective, and convincing.