WoW: The Allure of Alliteration

Welcome to Wordsmithing on Wednesdays, where we discuss ways to take our writing to the next level.



It’s a favorite device in my writing repertoire.

What is it? My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “the repetition of usu. initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables (as wild and wooly, threatening throngs)–called also head rhyme, initial rhyme.”

This literary device is one we often learn as children. Think tongue twisters: She sells seashells by the seashore.

Alliteration is a sound device. (Sound, as in what we hear as opposed to showing good judgment, although a writer does need to exercise sound judgment when using alliteration. :-))

Because alliteration is focused on what we hear rather than what we see, the words on the page don’t create the rhythm and pace. The sounds themselves do.

Final phase, noble knight, and writing repertoire work, even though the words don’t begin with the same letter. However, city council doesn’t because the initial letter takes a different sound in each word.

One can go overboard and produce writing reminiscent of tongue twisters. In an early version of a story I wrote, one of my readers pointed out a paragraph in which my use of alliteration made her pause. Since it’s such a good bad example, I’ll be brave and bare my writerly failings.

A canopy bed was pushed against the far wall.  It had a ruffled pink top and side curtains that were drawn back at each of the bedposts to puddle on the floor in a profusion of soft folds.  The peony patterned quilt on the bed featured a plethora of dark pink and red flowers in forest green baskets.  Pink curtains the color of the bed draperies were pulled back at the windows to reveal a pleasing picture of the perfectly manicured garden below.

Lesson learned: a little alliteration goes a long way. 🙂

• • • • •

I wanna know . . .

Is alliteration a device you like to use?

Do you have a good example you’d like to share from your own writing?

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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7 Responses to WoW: The Allure of Alliteration

  1. Liz Selvig says:

    Hi Keli!
    I love literary devices like alliteration (almost some there-lol). I like percussive alliteration when I have an action scene. I love soft s-sounds when I have a romantic scene. I also like stand out devices like starting several sentences with the same word or phrase.

    I got the biggest kick out of your early paragraph – isn’t it so cool how we learn by trying things out. I just read an entry into a contest I sent out four years ago. It was so embarrassing. I thought it was terrific. No alliteration, though, just a plethora of adjectives.

    Love this topic–it just shows how powerful and fun writing can be!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great examples, Keli! Thanks for the reminder to use sparingly. 🙂

  3. Anne Barton says:

    whoops, that was me earlier. Didn’t mean to be anon!

  4. Theresa Ragan says:

    Hi Keli!

    Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers! That’s what I thought of when I read, “pleasing picture of perfectly manicured garden….” at least you didn’t say pleasing picture of perfectly planted purple pansies!”

    I do love this post. I also love words and alliterations. I’m wondering if I use alliteration in my writing…?? I must go check. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!


  5. Susan Mason says:


    You’re so right. Alliteration is great .. in small doses. Just enough to emphasize what you want emphasized!

    I love Theresa’s version! LOL.

    Have a great day!


  6. Alliteration is something I do often without thinking. I notice it during revisions. I see alliteration is there when I didn’t put it there purposefully. Of course, it should be used to accomplish something. Since alliteration appeared so profusely in the paragraph you showed us, perhaps your mind, like mine, plunks in pretty, pleasing, words perfunctorily. Blessings…

  7. territiffany says:

    I had to smile at your lovely P words:)) I have never intentionally used alliteration. I think I try to avoid it usually??

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