Figurative language and figures of speech are used to evoke emotion and to imply meanings in writing by means of making comparisons and allusions to familiar objects and ideas that can help a reader to relate to what the author is trying to say.
Alliteration is a figure of speech that is related to onomatopoeia in that it involves the sense of sound. For an author, representing sounds with words can be quite difficult to do effectively. Alliteration refers to a group of words that start with the same consonant sound. An example of alliteration is “Charlie carefully counted coins,” where the “C” sound is repeated throughout the phrase. Not only do alliterative words portray sounds and engage a person’s auditory senses, but they can also be used to emphasize groups or words and to provide moods and connotations to provide greater insight into an author’s words.
Alliteration is use frequently in prose in order to emphasize a phrase or group of words. One way in which alliterative words do this is through the visual look of the words. A group of words that starts with the same letters is quite noticeable and stands out against the rest of the text. Alliterative words are also aurally distinct and will be quickly noticed as someone reads the phrase to himself or out loud. Knowing that these phrases stand out against the rest of the body of the text allows authors to place important ideas and messages in strategic places throughout the writing. A common example of this is in movie titles, persuasive writing, and newspaper headlines. These phrases are attention grabbing and roll off the tongue easily, allowing them to remain in the memory of the reader for a long time.
Although alliteration is used often in prose, its use really shines in poetry. In poetry, an author is freer to use words and phrases to evoke emotions and ideas on a more esoteric level. In the English language, certain consonant sounds are reminiscent of particular ideas. For example, the “S” sound recalls the hissing sound that a snake makes with its tongue. If a poet is writing a poem about a snake or a serpent, he may make use of words beginning with the letter “S” to reinforce this idea. An “H” sound is similar to a hush and can be used to make the reader feel a sense of calm and quiet. The author can also use these consonant sounds more literally, using phrases that mimic the sounds and feelings that some actions create. For example, the phrase, “crumbly cookie,” makes use of the hard “C” sound that emphasizes the hardness of the cookie and its brittleness.
Writing is about conveying messages and stories and in order to do so, authors frequently use figurative language and figures of speech to better relate to their readers. Alliteration is a powerful tool that can add emphasis to phrases, evoke sounds, and provide insight into an author’s words.