How to Increase Retention, Repartee, and Readership

snape

I love the Harry Potter character Severus Snape. Maybe my infatuation is because I’m a huge Alan Rickman fan (Alan, if you’re available, call me). But another reason I love Severus Snape is that I find his name, like the character, amusing and memorable. Why is that? One word.

Alliteration.

What is alliteration?

(Hint: Other alliterative names in Harry Potter are Minerva McGonagall, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin.)

The Urban Dictionary definition:

“Alliteration articulates an artistic approach aimed at annotating and arranging alphabetic accoutrements as alarmingly affective alignments. Alliteration allows aspiring authors abilities above average approaches. Alliterative adroitness accentuates accomplishments (an appealing aspect appalling artistic arrangements attempt abominably).”

WT@!?

In simpler terms according to Merriam Webster:

Alliteration is “Repetition of consonant sounds in two or more neighbouring words or syllables.”

Essentially this writing technique uses a series of words that all start with the same sound. The words don’t have to start with the same letter, but they must have the same sound. For example fun and phone are alliterative; whereas, cat and chair are not.

Why use Alliteration?

Alliteration can increase retention. Think about names, expressions, and titles that you remember. For example, how about the tongue twister Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers? If you’ve seen or read The Hobbit, which character comes to mind? Is it Bilbo Baggins? Yes, Bilbo is a central character, but his name might also be memorable because it’s alliterative. An improv exercise that helps to remember people’s names uses alliteration.

Alliteration can also add humor through its sound effect. Consider the following two sentences.

  • Fred watched the crowd of attractive women on the beach.
  • Bert oggled the bevy of beautiful babes on the beach.

The second sentence has a lyrical sound that is more likely to cause a smile. For an even longer example of alliteration in use, check out the following blog post:

Alliteration Gone Wild to Humorous Effect

If you use alliteration to make your writing memorable and funny, people reading it will talk about it and readership should increase as a result.

Test your Alliteration Acumen

To warm up your alliteration spotting skills, read through the sentences under How to Identify Alliteration. Now test your identification skills and see whether you can score 100% on this Alliteration Quiz.

Warning: You have 60 seconds to select the answers to ten questions. The timer starts as soon as you open the link.

How did you do? (Confession: I didn’t get a perfect score.)

More Examples

The following example is a slogan from the British military known as the 7 Ps:

“Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance.”

If you read my “Power of Three” post, you might guess I’m a fan of John Cleese, which is how I discovered this gem:

“It is with ferocious fanfare, fabulous fireworks, fantastic fantasy, tantalising timing, trepidous tenacity, and fecund felicitousness, that I announce my new website!!!”

With the mentorship of ZEDS Comic Communications in Calgary, I launched the following meetup in December 2013:

Wit and Writing for Women in Whitby (say that five times fast)

I also found these adjective-noun combinations that use alliteration amusing:

“witless wordmonger”

“tiresome twaddle”

“mundane milquetoast metaphor”

How to Use Alliteration

Alliteration is a useful and valuable way to add fun to reading, help make text memorable, or use as a branding technique to make your product or service stand out. You can use it in book titles, blog posts, fictitious names, brand names, jokes, policies and procedures, tongue twisters, and even rap songs.

For fun, listen to Epic Lloyd sing a an ‘L’ inspired rap song, L Verse. (brilliant)

Epic_Lloyd

If John Cleese is using alliteration, then I’m adding it to my writing arsenal. It might not get me a call from Alan Rickman, but maybe he’ll read this blog post.

Advertisements