What Is Assonance?

Definition of "Assonance"

Assonance is when nearby words repeat the same vowel sound.

Assonance is a stylistic literary technique used for emphasis or to make a sentence more pleasing to the ear. It is used in everyday language, poetry, and literature. To form assonance, we need two or more words that stress the same vowel sound. It's important to focus on the sound rather than the letter because it is the sound that catches the audience's attention.

Table of Contents

  • Easy Examples of Assonance
  • More Assonance Examples
  • Real-Life Examples of Assonance
  • Why Assonance Is Important
  • Test Time!
assonance example

Easy Examples of Assonance

  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease. (English proverb)
  • The early bird catches the worm. (English proverb)
  • A mad bat circled the room.
  • (In this example, the "A" sound is repeated in mad and bat creating the assonance.)
  • The troop tried to salute without his boot.
  • (This example repeats the vowel sound "O" throughout the words troop, salute, and boot to form the assonance. This also highlights the importance of listening to the sounds as not all the letters are the same, yet they form the same sound.)
  • Hear, not fear, the wisdom of wizards.
  • (We can see multiple instances of assonance in this example. The "E" sound is first matched and later the "I" sound.)

More Assonance Examples

Below are more examples of assonance:
  • His fleet feet seem impossible to beat.
  • Love lunges from the heart.
  • I kept my eye on the prize.
  • The actor took a bow for the crowd.

Real-Life Examples of Assonance

Remember that it is important to focus on the sound rather than the letter because it's the sound that creates the effect.
  • "Hear the mellow wedding bells" (Extract from "The Bells" by American writer Edgar Allen Poe)
  • "I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless." (Extract from "With Love" by rock group Thin Lizzy)
Assonance will sometimes rhyme, but not always.
  • Hear, not fear, the wisdom of wizards.
  • (Here, the first pairing rhymes, but the second doesn't.)

Why Assonance Is Important

Here are three good reasons to care about assonance.

(Reason 1) Insert some rhythm into your text and set the mood.

Assonance is a common literary technique used by poets and song writers because it can add rhythm and musicality to writing. It can also be used to set the mood, typically by influencing the reading pace. Assonance with O and A sounds usually slows the reading pace (making it useful for thought-provoking or sombre texts), while assonance with I and E sounds usually speeds up the reading pace (adding vibrancy). Let's look at the fourth line of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by English poet William Wordsworth.
  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils
The assonance created by the O sounds in the fourth line slows the reader, setting the right mood for wandering.

Of interest, Wordsworth's original version (written circa 1804) used dancing daffodils instead of golden daffodils. (This was one of several revisions made in 1815.) This means that Wordsworth eventually opted for assonance over alliteration (the repetition of the same initial letter in successive words).

Let's think about why he might have made that change. The term dancing daffodils is quite upbeat because of the alliteration, while golden daffodils is dreamy because of the assonance.

(Reason 2) Assonance is more subtle than alliteration.

Using assonance will certainly portray you as more sophisticated than using alliteration, but using assonance, because it is often so subtle, carries a risk of your readers not crediting you with its use, even if they've been affected by it (e.g., by having their reading pace slowed and their mood set).

So, if you're going to invest time in creating assonance, make sure it's obvious enough to be noticed.

(Reason 3) Assonance can be impactful.

As you'd expect, assonance is less common in prose (especially business writing) than in poetry, but used sparingly in business writing (e.g., once in a document), assonance can:
  • Be used for emphasis.
  • Be memorable.
  • Make an impact.
  • Make you look confident.
Here are two examples of how assonance might look in a business document:
  • A heavy levy is best evaded.
  • Wait another day as patience always pays.
While assonance can be a great way to make your business prose memorable, overuse might portray your work as flippant. Use assonance sparingly to ensure it stays effective.

Key Points

author logo

This page was written by Craig Shrives.