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Alliteration vs. Consonance

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Alliteration and consonance. Consonance and alliteration. What are they and how are they used? This lesson explores the definitions and examples of both literary devices and how writers use them in their work.

Literary Devices

Authors pay special attention to the words they write in their poems, short stories, and novels. In many instances, they use different writing techniques called literary devices. You can think of literary devices as special effects for writing. They're used for all sorts of things like creating feeling or meaning, setting a tone, or even making the reader giggle. Two common forms of literary devices include alliteration and consonance. While these two devices may seem pretty similar, there are a few differences that set them apart.

Alliteration

Read the three sentences below. What do they have in common?

  • She sells seashells by the seashore.
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • Rubber baby buggy bumpers.

You may have noticed that the majority of the words in each sentence begin with the same letter sound. These are all examples of alliteration. Alliteration happens when two or more words include the same consonant sound at the beginning of the word. As a refresher, consonants include all of the letters except for A, E, I, O, and U.

In most alliterations, words with the same consonant sound appear next to each other. For example, 'Peter Piper picked...' includes three words with the 'P' sound at the beginning. It's also common to see small breaks in the alliteration pattern: 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers'...notice how the 'P' pattern is interrupted by 'a'. The same thing happens in, 'She sells seashells by the seashore'. The phrase 'by the' interrupts the alliteration; however, it does not take away from the alliteration's affect.

At this point, you may be wondering why writers use alliteration in their writing. As a literary device, one of those little special effects for writing, alliterations can do many things:

  • Alliterations can create rhythm
  • Alliterations can set the tone or mood of a piece by using harsh or soft consonant sounds
  • Alliterations can create humor (think of all of the silly tongue twisters like 'Peter Piper'!)

Consonance

You can think of consonance as alliteration's close cousin. Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds; however, this happens a little differently than alliteration. Consonance usually occurs in the middle or end of a word. For example:

  • drink, drank, drunk
  • pitter-patter
  • easy peasy lemon squeezy

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