ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Alliteration - makes poetry out of prose

Updated on March 21, 2013

And Songs out of Speeches

Have you noticed J K Rowling's extensive use of alliteration? That figure of speech must be one of the many tricks up her sleeve. Here are some examples for you from her:

1. ...flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four.

2. ...he had hidden himself behind a large hydrangea bush...

3. ...vanished from view before Uncle Vernon's voice...

4. ...smoking on street corners and throwing stones at passing cars

5. Eyes streaming, he swayed, trying to focus on the street to spot the
source of the noise, but he had barely staggered upright...

6. ...resisted the temptation to tie his trunk to his broomstick and set off

7...hiding in flowerbeds in the hope of hearing something

All the above were from the first few pages of the Order of the Phoenix. Did you notice the recurring sounds? That's alliteration. Read the lines aloud and you will see that prose can take on a lyrical quality when such figures of speech are employed. The last example from Rowling, also has rhyme which is alliteration at the end of words and lines: hiding, hearing, something. Alliteration normally occurs, or is used, for first syllables, but not always. Though some call them 'front rhymes.'

"The sibilant sermons of the snake as she discoursed upon the disposition of my sinner's soul seemed ceaseless." Gregory Kirschling, The Gargoyle.

Here are two clever tricks combined. Apart from the shameless alliteration, there is the line aloud please. When you read it aloud, you would appear to speak in parseltongue like Harry Potter! You hiss, due to the profuseness of the sibilants in that sentence. Profuseness of the sibilants in that sentence? Horrors, I seem to have been infected too.

J K Rowling Photo: Sjhill (Steven Hill)
J K Rowling Photo: Sjhill (Steven Hill)

Whomping Willows and Dudley Dursley

In the humourous tradition of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, J K Rowling gives many of her characters alliterative names: Dedalus Diggle, Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff... These lend the characters a spoof-like, stylized quality, and, of course, make them funny. Methinks she overindulges in them, though she gives readers a lot of fun.

Aliiterative names make the characters unreal and flat, reminding me that I'm in a story, a farce, not in real life. Just when I get really lost in that world. But she is wise enough not to give her important characters such names. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley... They are fleshed out characters, real persons, you know.

Tongue Twisters and Tennyson's Treats

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. That's one of the earliest examples of alliteration I picked up and a tongue twister. And this one: Betty Botter bought a bit of butter...

Alfred Tennyson was known to spend hours and sometimes days to get a line just right. Just right and without the strain and pain showing. Check this out:

Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet
Myriads of rivulets, hurrying through the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.

Close your eyes and repeat the lines and you can see the rivulets hurrying through the lawn and hear the bees hum. Those lines are the last lines of his Come down, O Maid.

That's not overuse or misuse of alliteration, since it is verse, and contributes to an onomatopoeiac experience. We have to restrain ourselves in prose, and be very, very careful when we want to convey seriousness.

That is the warning implied: Overdo your alliteration, and your prose becomes unreal and frivolous, twisting the tongues of your readers to the bargain. But use it wisely, along with rhyme or onomatopoeia and your writing can be set to music.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)