Reasons We Use Alliteration
Alliteration, the repetition of letters in words near each other, draws attention to a particular line of text, such as with the repetition of the "r" and "s" sounds in this sentence: "She relaxed in the restoring beams of regal sun rays." The appearance of repeated letters signifies that these words are important, or that an important message is being conveyed beyond simply the dictionary meanings of the individuals words themselves. Alliteration is commonly viewed as a trope of literature, but we see alliteration all around us every day in a variety of textual media where a writer tries to get the reader's attention, from newspaper headlines proclaiming a "Mysterious Murder" to advertisements promising "Moonlight Madness."
To Create Mood
The repetition of "b," "j," "ch," "tch" and both hard and soft "g's" -- all harsh, jarring sounds -- create a discordant, chilling effect in the nonsensical poem "Jabberwocky," by Lewis Carroll. Many of the words in the poem are made up, but the poet's use of alliteration is so effective that a reader can still apply meaning, even without knowing the definition of the words, and almost hear the terrible "Jabberwock" come stomping and snorting to meet his death.
To Create Rhythm
Gwendolyn Brooks' simple poem "We Real Cool" uses alliteration to help establish a firm beat. "Lurk late," "Sing sin," and "Jazz June" are all alliterative phrases that make the poem sound like rap and aid in creating the identities of the pool players, who think they are "Real Cool." Unfortunately for them, their "cool" lives end quickly and on a non-alliterative note, "We Die soon," suggesting the insignificance of their brief and trivial lives.
To Make You Laugh
Every child laughs at the silly alliterative nursery rhyme "Peter Piper Picked a Pack of Pickled Peppers." TV and film titles and characters often use alliteration for a comical effect, such as "Beavis and Butthead," "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Woody Woodpecker," "Betty Boop," and "Mini Me." Names like these signal to the viewer that the show or movie is a comedy. "Pooper-Scooper" is a humorous brand name that employs alliteration -- and rhyme to boot -- to add a light touch to an otherwise gross product, enhancing its appeal.
To Help You Remember
Many idiomatic expression that we remember have an alliterative spelling, such as "dull as dirt" or "the bigger the better." Famous terms that journalists first use also often catch on because of their alliterative effect, such as "baby boomer" and "Nascar nation." Companies choose alliterative business and brand names so consumers won't forget them, such as "Google," "Twitter," "Burt's Bees" and "Tater Tots." Children also remember alliterative phrases easily, so entertainment geared toward them makes creative use of names like "Bob the Builder" and "Mickey Mouse."
Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.