Spice Up Your Writing: Alliteration, Assonance, and Onomatopoeia

Poets often use alliteration and assonance, but prose writers use these figures of speech too. I enjoy using them so much that I have to watch myself because I tend to use them too much.

Definition of Alliteration

The repetition of a word’s initial consonant sound or syllable.


Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

Definition of Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds in words.

There was a Young Lady of Niger

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

In this limerick, attributed to William Cosmo Monkhouse (1840-1901), the “I” sound is repeated.

Reasons For Using Alliteration and Assonance

  • To create rhythm and music in our prose.
  • To set the mood.

Example of Mood

Look at the first line of Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He repeats the “d” sound and the “h” sound.

It was a dark and soundless day near the end of the year, and clouds were hanging low in the  heavens.



Onomatopoeias imitate sounds to the things they refer to. Sometimes they’re called figures of sound instead of a figure of speech. They’re good to use as a sensory detail, which helps bring our prose to life.  


Buzz, hiss, chug, puff

The train puffed and chugged up the steep track.

The coffee kettle hissed.

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