ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Dangers and Benefits of Using Anaphora in Your Writing

Updated on May 11, 2013
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


There are many writing techniques that have been used down through the ages. Most have risen and fallen in popularity and even have found themselves being used incorrectly. One such technique is the anaphora.

What is Anaphora

See results

What is Anaphora?

Anaphora is simply the repeating of a word or phrase. The best way to describe it is to give her a great example from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

“It was the best times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….”

The anaphora here is “It was the”. Over and over it is repeated.

Great Examples of Anaphora Use

I’ve just shown you one great example from A Tale of Two Cities. Another well-known one can be found in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes (NIV) chapter 3.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

The anaphora is easily seen here: “a time to”. It is repeated over and over throughout the selection.

In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech, “I have a dream” is the anaphora that is repeated over and over.

How It is Used in Fiction Writing

Anaphora obviously is used in creative writing, but why? What is the purpose of repeating a phrase over and over again? Doesn’t that go against what we are taught in writing? Well, yes, it does seem to go against the grain, but there is a very good reason for it: emphasis.

Look back at King’s speech. The whole thing is centered around having a dream: “I have a dream.” He didn’t just say he had a dream and move on. He repeated it over and over because it was the theme. It was important.

In the selection from Ecclesiastes, there “is a time to” do about anything. It is important that the reader understand that the words are about more than just death, life, laughter, dancing, morning, war, and peace. It is all about there being a right time for them all. It is the theme. It is important.

Dickens’ selection is emphasizing that the time was many different things at one time. It wasn’t black and white. It was chaotic. It needed emphasis.

Dangers of Using Anaphora

So, as a writer, should you just start using anaphoras everywhere? No! There are several dangers to using them if you are not careful.

The norm in writing is to vary the words. Repeating words over and over can be dull and boring. Readers don’t want you starting every sentence with “She said.” That is not a good use of anaphora. It is laziness on the side of the author. It shows a lack of creativity from the author as well as a lack of vocabulary.

Using too many anaphoras and using incorrect ones makes a writer look bad and lowers the quality of the writing. You want to make sure you use them deliberately and at the right time.

Benefits of Anaphora

Using anaphora can draw attention to a selected text. It should be used when you want to emphasize something and highlight its importance. Anaphora that is used correctly is remembered long after the book is read. It stands out. That means you want to be very selective in what section of your writing you put the literary device. It can be a speech, a poem, a lecture, or anything you want the reader to remember and refer to later.

Think of the anaphora as a big neon sign to the reader pointing to the words saying, “Hey, you! Pay attention. This is important.”

Literary devices are there to help you get the message across to the reader in a stronger and more poetic manner. An anaphora is easy to remember and fun to use. Just don’t over use it.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Doris Dancy profile image

      Doris H. Dancy 

      5 years ago from Yorktown, Virginia

      This is a very useful hub. I have used anaphora and even taught its use. This is exceptionally useful because of the excellent examples that you use as well as you very clear explanation of this technique. Great hub.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      An interesting insight to suing the repetition of words as mentioned and frankly I didn't give this one much thought until I read this hub you definitely opened my eyes to The Dangers and Benefits of Using Anaphora in Your Writing, thanks for the helpful information.

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 

      6 years ago

      I've also never heard of this term before but I know about the repeating of words or phrases like in Martin Luther's "I have a dream" speech. I didn't know there was actually a term for repeating those words and phrases in writing. It can add to your writing to use anaphora like in emphasizing something important but you're right that it shouldn't be overused because it might just lose its impact and just become dull and boring.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      I had never heard of this term before. Thank you for enlightening me! I found your hub interesting and enlightening.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good Hub. Interesting and informative. I have occasionally used anaphora in a poem, but I didn't know there was a special word for it. And now I know "epistrophe" too. Sharing.


    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)