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Alliteration: Definition, How It Works & Examples In Writing

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Alliteration is the jingle of literary devices.

It creates memorable phrases that stick in people’s heads.

The most common use of alliteration is in titles such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, PayPal, Best Buy, and more.

One of the best ways to get a phrase stuck in your head is by employing an alliterative phrase.

But are you able to access advanced alliteration aptitude?

Let’s find out.

What Is an Alliteration?

The Oxford dictionary defines alliteration as “the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.”

All types of writers can benefit from alliteration, from SEO creators to musicians.

Also Known As

  • Initial Rhyme
  • Head Rhyme
  • Beginning Rhyme

Simple Definition: How to Explain Alliteration to a Child

Words like “poodle” and “doodle” rhyme because the words share letters at the end.

Words like “racing” and “rabbit” are alliterative because they share letters at the beginning.

That’s why alliteration is also called “beginning rhyme.”

Why Is Alliteration Used?

The human brain likes patterns or anything that gives wording a lyrical lilt.

Alliteration applies a pulse to your writing that most people will find appealing.

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to write a blog post or create song lyrics, alliteration can create a playful and memorable tone in your work.

Types of Alliteration

There isn’t simply one type of alliteration, just like there isn’t simply one type of writing!

Different uses of alliteration can allow you to add rhythm and fun to your writing and help create internal synchrony within sentences.

1. General Alliteration

General alliteration is a tongue twister.

It is a series of sequential words starting with similar syllables. 

2. Consonant Alliteration

Consonance alliteration is the repetition of similar sounds written in any place within the idiom.

General alliteration is a repeated first letter while consonant alliteration is a repeated syllable contained within the words.

3. Assonance Alliteration

Assonance alliteration is the repetition of intermittent description that doesn’t rhyme explicitly but allows recognition of the pattern.

“Mike’s bike has bright white stripes,” is an example of assonance.

4. Unvoiced Alliteration

Writers often employ unvoiced alliteration when there is a silent letter in a word.

“The King’s Knight,” for example, has two words beginning with “K,” but only one uses the sound.

How Do You Identify Alliteration?

This is a good question because alliteration appears in many different content types.

You never know when the next play on words will appear.

Identifying alliteration can sometimes be as easy as looking at the first letter, but if in doubt, try reading the line out loud.

The crux of the cadence is usually clearer that way.

How Do You Use Alliteration in a Sentence?

There are already an extreme number of examples evident of employing alliteration in your writing.

There are a thousand things to write about, but alliteration is about how you write it.

If you want a sentence with a sense of style, simply seek out the swing and stress of the syllables you’ve selected.

Use a singsong tone in your head.

Be playful with it.

What is the Most Popular Example of Alliteration?

Alliteration is most often employed in titles because of its catchy nature.

Things like “March Madness” and “The Fast and the Furious” not only look great visually as titles because of the repeated first letters that you can call attention to on a poster, but they roll off the tongue.

1. Other Famous Examples of Alliteration

It’s no wonder this literary device is found everywhere.

We live in a world where catchy things that stick in your head are worth their word count in gold.

2. Marvel Names

If you’ve ever read a Stan Lee comic or are into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may recognize character names like Matt Murdock (also known as Daredevil, which is also alliterative in its own right), Susan Storm, and Peter Parker.

These characters each have first and last names that begin with the same letter.

3. Tongue Twisters

If you’ve ever taken a speech class there’s a good chance you’ve been given tongue twisters to work on.

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is useful for practicing your pronunciation, but it’s also an excellent and famous example of alliteration.

4. Rap Lyrics

As a musical genre, rap is all about wit and wordplay.

It might have a reputation for being a little bit low-brow, but so did Shakespeare in his day.

The truth is that there is a lot of cleverness that goes into some of the turns of phrases you can find within the genre.

Other Modern Examples of Alliteration

Alliteration is all over the place in our society.

Catchy things stick in your head and then you’re more likely to remember them at the store or when you’re browsing Netflix.

Alliteration is very useful for marketing, and as a result, you can find it almost anywhere.

Alliteration for Kids

Children are excellent at finding patterns in things, especially speech.

  • Cereal Brands: Are you Coocoo for Coco Puffs?
  • Remember the look of a Cookie Crisp box?
  • Golden Grahams? Frosted Flakes?
  • There’s a reason they name them like that.
  • Book Titles: Every one of the Series of Unfortunate Events books has an alliterative title.
    The Reptile Room?
    The Bad Beginning?
    Take a look at a shelf of children’s books and you’re certain to find more examples.
  • TV Titles: Paw Patrol. Bob the Builder.
    Sesame Street.
    Thomas the Tank Engine.
    So many kids’ shows employ alliterative titles to make themselves memorable to the munchkins.

Alliteration in Speech

Children aren’t the only ones good at recognizing patterns.

Humans like patterns at every stage of our lives.

  • Tongue Twisters: These have come up before, but adults still reference “She sells seashells by the sea shore” just because of how catchy it is (and how fun it is to say).
  • Actual Speeches: Pay attention the next time you see someone speaking in front of a crowd.
    There’s a good chance they’ll be using alliteration at least somewhere in their speech because it’s catchy and memorable.
  • Teasing: Wordplay comes into play a lot when humans tease each other! Think about some common insults thrown around between friends (or maybe those who are not quite friends). Loser Larry and things far more vicious.

Alliteration in Literature

Of course, you’re going to find alliteration in literature, that was primarily what it was made for!

  • Shakespeare: William Shakespeare was famous for witty wordplay and genital jests. “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” as that Scottish play says. There are many other examples in his body of work, especially in his Comedies.
  • Titles: Why yes, the classics and books for grown-ups employ this, too. Have you read The Great Gatsby, by chance?
  • Poetry: Much like rap music, poems are all about wordplay and liberally use literary devices. Even poetry with a reputation for being sophisticated rather than childish can employ alliterative devices, and it often does, such as Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Lost Lenore’.

Notable Writers Who Used Alliteration

As one of the easiest and most effective literary devices, it would probably be impossible to find a writer who has never employed alliteration, but we’ll stick to those who made it a staple in their work.

Edgar Allan Poe

As just mentioned above, Edgar Allan Poe employed quite a bit of alliteration in his poetry and even in his short stories, which you can catch if you’re paying attention.

End rhymes are not the only way to create a cadence in your work, and he was a true master of this.

William Shakespeare

Again, this man was famous for being accessible to the people, which means using a lot of low-brow humor in his writing.

More importantly, it also means he wrote in a lot of easily accessible literary devices.

Writing to the masses means doing it in a catchy manner, and alliteration is one of the best ways to do that.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

You might not recognize this man’s name unless you were one of the hundreds of schoolchildren traumatized by having to study a poem called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in high school, but I’m willing to bet you’re familiar with the phrase “water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

This use of internal rhyme creates a fantastic pulse throughout the poem.

What Is the Opposite of Alliteration?

Technically other kinds of rhyme would be in opposition to alliteration.

If alliteration is the repetition of a first letter, then the repetition of the last sound would be somewhat opposite.

However, most rhyme is simply in a category of its own since there are so many ways to achieve it.

Another literary opposite to alliteration is assonance.

There is assonance alliteration, which is the repetition of patterns, but assonance itself is slightly different than alliteration.

Alliteration vs Assonance

Neither alliteration nor assonance are really rhymes, but they fill a similar niche.

Assonance is specifically a repeated vowel sound, while alliteration can use vowels or consonants.

You are more likely to find assonance in internal rhyme, while alliteration typically occurs at the beginning of phrases.

Other Related Literary Devices to Know

Alliteration is not alone in the arsenal of tools at a writer’s disposal.

Here are some other useful literary devices and writing tips to reach for when you’re working on building your writing muscles.

  • Consonance: Unlikely to sound like a rhyme at all, consonance is the repetition of a consonant within adjacent words.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the first letter or cluster of letters in consecutive words to create cadence.
  • Irony: Irony is the controlled use of opposing language to interject a little bit of humor into your descriptions.
  • Anticipation: Anticipation creates the expectation of what is to come before it actually arrives so that the reader anticipates what is about to happen.
  • Colloquialism: Colloquialism is a local turn of phrase or an informal way of saying something.

Alliteration Writing Tools to Help You Out

Whether you’re trying to write for the web or writing for yourself, there are many resources available to help you keep up with the wild world of writing.

They range from simple grammar and spelling checkers to services that can create content for your brand.

Check these writing tools out to save yourself some time and money.

  • Writing Helpers: If you’re looking for something to help streamline the process for yourself, you might consider employing a helper for writing.
  • AI Writing Software: Whether you’re looking for something to check your spelling and grammar or spice up what you’ve already done, AI writing software might be able to help you out. These programs can also provide prompts to give you a jump start on your work.
  • Grammar Checkers: Hiring someone to copyedit your work can be costly and time-consuming, and we are often blind to our errors after having looked at a page for so long. Here are some of the best grammar checkers available.
  • Content Creators: There are a lot of different ways to generate content without spending hours picking over it manually.
    Content creators can help provide or produce ideas and even ghostwrite full pieces of content.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about alliteration?

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about this literary device.

What part of speech is alliteration?

The word ‘alliteration’ is a noun, though the phenomena it represents can be applied to any other part of speech and still qualify.

It has to do with the sounds the words are making more than with their meanings, after all.

Does alliteration have to rhyme?

No, alliteration does not have to rhyme, and often it should not.

Having to rhyme both the beginning and ends of your words would make your text unnecessarily bulky, and proper rhymes and alliterations serve similar but distinctly different functions in a text.

Both are aesthetic, but they give off a different context.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, alliteration can be an excellent way to create a catchy cadence for your composition.

If you want to flex your wit and make your piece memorable, a little bit of alliteration as a spice can be both fun and useful.

Things that people remember will keep them coming back, and that’s good for writing and business alike.

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