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All About Alliteration

By Judy Vorfeld

Have you ever wanted to become an expert on allit­er­a­tion? If noth­ing else, it’s a beau­ti­ful word! Seriously, when one uses allit­er­a­tion prop­erly – espe­cially in pub­li­ca­tions – it is sub­tly effective.

If you work on Web sites, ezines, or print pub­li­ca­tion, this may be a good time for you to brush up on the amaz­ing world of alliteration.

Main Entry: al·lit·er·a·tion (pro­nounced uh-lit-tuh-RA-shun)
Function: noun — Date: circa 1656
Etymology: ad– + Latin lit­tera let­ter
: the rep­e­ti­tion of usu­ally ini­tial con­so­nant sounds in two or more neigh­bor­ing words or syl­la­bles (as wild and woolly, threat­en­ing throngs) — called also head rhyme, ini­tial rhyme

Generally one can use allit­er­a­tion in busi­ness: in head­ings, head­lines, and (very care­fully) in let­ters, pro­pos­als, reports, etc.

Here’s some allit­er­a­tion used by my local news­pa­per, The Arizona Republic, in one day’s main section:

  1. Gaming talks a big gam­ble (bet­ter than …Gaming talks a big risk.)
  2. Fisher hunt feeds tales for camp­fire (bet­ter than …hunt gen­er­ates tales…)
  3. Pope asks pres­i­dent to spare McVeigh (bet­ter than …Pope asks Bush to…)
  4. Death spurs Ecstasy debate (bet­ter than …spurs Ecstasy wrangle…)
  5. Tiny tribe in Conn… (bet­ter than …Mashantucket Pequot Tribe in Conn…)
  6. Mexican Congress changes (bet­ter than …Mexican Congress shifts…)
  7. …threat­ens power and pop­u­lar­ity (bet­ter than …threat­ens strength and pop­u­lar­ity… or …threat­ens power and reputation.)

In allit­er­a­tion, the rhyming words don’t need to be next to each other; they just need to be in the same group­ing of words. And the words used don’t need to begin with the same let­ter: they need to have a sim­i­lar ini­tial sound. Examples: night / knight … no / know … cede / seed … cell / sell.

*By per­mis­sion.
From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary at www.m-w.com by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.


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