Erin's Poetry Tips

40 tips to poetry and poetry forums

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance

1. The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables.

1. The repetition of similar vowels in the stressed syllables of successive words
2. The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables, with changes in the intervening consonants.
3. Rough similarity; approximate agreement.

1. The repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words, as in blank and think or strong and string.
2. The property of sounding harmonious

Now I realize this is pretty elementary terminology, and these are probably three of the most basic of poetic devices, but don’t email me about my “Poetry for Dummies” series just yet, ok? I want to delve into the uses of these three things, simply because I think most writers tend to use these without thinking much about it, and therefore, we become comfortable with them and don’t pass along to new writers just how or why they work, or don’t. Often we use them with so little conscious thought that even we don’t consider how they work, we just ‘get a feel’ for it, and off we go.

Alliteration is often over-used by less seasoned writers, leaving their readers as though they’ve come away from a tongue twister. She sells seashells on the seashore, The poor parched pooch perched on the post on the porch, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. No one wants to read, or for that matter write a poem that the reader can’t keep straight in his head. However there are ways to use alliteration that can lend a piece a complimentary effect. Personally, I find this true more with the softer consonant sounds, such as ‘s’ ‘z’ and ‘th’ as well as ‘j’ and the soft ‘g’ sound.

*Note that alliteration refers to the initial sound in a word, or the first letter/letter combination.

Assonance is a sort of ‘trick word’. Ask most newer or younger writers, and they couldn’t define the word, yet they tend to be the ones who use it most. They can write in rhyme, and not know they use assonance in their work.
*Note that assonance refers to the internal sound or letter/letter combination of the stressed syllable.

Consonance is useful when looking to create a staccato effect, as a drum beat. It’s probably the least utilized of these three. We tend to think more about the end of our poem than the end of our individual words.