Alliteration:  Does it Articulate, Arouse or Just Aggravate Your Audience?

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“Alliteration is a device that many writers employ to create a treasure trove of tried-and-true, bread-and-butter, bigger-and-better, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, do-or-die, footloose-and-fancy-free, larger-than-life, cream-of-the-crop titles.”  Edwin Newman quoted by Jim Fisher in The Writer’s Quotebook: 500 Authors on Creativity, Craft, and the Writing Life. Rutgers Univ. Press, 2006)

Interesting Idioms Intrigue Our Readers

Alliteration is derived from Latin’s “Latira”meaning,“letters of alphabet”. It is a writing style in which a number of words, having the same first consonant sound, occur close together in a series.alliteration-3

Titles are you first opportunity to capture your reader’s attention. Alliteration in your title is an excellent way to add interest. Still, titles pose a challenge; some writers have a title in mind and then create the article, and others wait until the article is finished to determine if the title reflects the contents. Either way, a title is key to getting readers initially engaged and interested.

Even the best writers can produce a killer end sentence; however, if the title does not capture the reader, the article will not get read. 

Using alliteration is a quick way to engage your readers, meaning that they actually might make it to the end of your article. Toby Fulwiler and Alan R. Hayakawa, writing in The Blair Handbook,  list the following as ways to hone in on your title.

  1. Use one strong short phrase from your article
  2. Present a question that your article answers
  3. State the answer to the question or issue your article will explore
  4. Use a clear or catchy image from your article
  5. Use a famous quotation
  6. Write a one-word title (or a two-word title, a three-word-title, and so on)
  7. Begin your title with the word On
  8. Begin your title with a gerund (-ing word)

Famous, Favorite and Finely-tuned Alliterative Titles

Each writer finds their voice, or their particular style of writing emerges with each piece they write.  Your perspective may be expository, descriptive, persuasive or narrative writing. Becoming familiar with these four styles will help you develop your writing talents; however, all four types or categories can use alliteration.

Think it’s only desperate or amateur writers who use alliteration? No, we’ve all read or studied many authors who have effectively used alliteration in their titles. Goodreads gives us the top 100 titles that use alliteration, but here are some examples.

  • Angela’s Ashes
  • East of Eden
  • Gone Girl
  • Love’s Labors Lost
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Remember that alliteration is as much about the feel of the words as it is the repetition of a specific letter.  JK Rowling uses alliteration in character names as well as anyone.  Who can forget:

  • Helga Hufflepuff
  • Rowena Ravenclaw
  • Godric Gryffindor
  • Salazar Slytherin

Think it’s only for kids?  Hemingway,Capote and Fitzgerald used alliteration in passages:

“Women and kids were in the carts crouched with mattresses, mirrors, sewing machines, bundles.”

“Then, starting home, he walked  toward the trees and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Laundry List of Awesome Alliterations

Now that you know that alliteration isn’t always cheesy, sleazy and second-rate, and you’re stumped for a title, check out a site dedicated to alliteration. It might just be the prompt you need to include alliteration in your article.

Challenge: What Will You Write?

Taking a stab at alliteration, here’s my offering. If you comment, make it alliterative; thanks.tired-at-computer

“Writers write well-written words of wisdom, wit and wonder. Who knew it would be this wearisome waiting on wages?” ~Marilyn L. Davis

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

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7 comments

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, LM Burns. Also, I appreciate you reinforcing how gerunds amp up a title. I see that you’ve used them in some of your Linkedin posts as well.

      As a teacher, I’m sure you realize that if we don’t capture them with the title, we’re probably not going to get them to read the content, so I think that alliteration is sometimes a quick way to get students, and in my case, readers, interested.

      Again, thanks for adding to the intent of the post.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Trish. I appreciate the reblog. There is a poetry to alliteration, and for a non-fiction writer like myself, that’s about as close as I can get some days. But that’s like horse shoes and hand grenades isn’t it?

      Again, thanks for commenting and promoting.

      Liked by 1 person

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