Are You Alliterate? Four Tips for Successful Alliteration

Are you alliterate? I don’t mean literate (that you can read) or illiterate (that you can’t read) but alliterate (that you can use alliteration: the repetition of similar sounds at the beginning of words). Are you prone to exercise alliteration when you write?

I am most fond of alliteration. I use it whenever possible; it is part of my writing voice. When done well, a cleverly alliterate phrase is memorable and impactful, which is precisely what we want our writing to accomplish.

I have, however, taken alliteration to extremes in some of my past writing. In recent years, I’ve pursued a more moderate approach to alliteration. No longer do I take literary pride in having penned an eight-word sentence, where seven of them began with S. That was too much.

Here are my tips for successful alliteration:

Use It: There are some in literary circles who dismiss alliteration as an ill-advised technique of novice writers. Personally, I think they’re just jealous they’re not alliterate. If there is any anti-alliterate bias, it is a mere trend. Use alliteration wisely to make our words soar.

Three Words Max: Seeing how many similarly sounding words we can string together may make for a good pastime, but it doesn’t make for good writing. Two-word alliteration is good, but stop at three. Four or more calls attention to the writer and distracts from the words written.

Don’t Sacrifice Meaning: I used to fall into the trap of exchanging clarity for the sake of alliteration. If a non-alliterate word communicates better than an alliterate alternative, always pick the one that speaks clearest.

Have Fun: Alliteration can be fun – when used in moderation. Enjoy it; relish it; perfect it. May you be an alliterate writer.

What are your thoughts on alliteration? Do you like it or avoid it?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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