While alliteration can be used in a number of different ways, it is often used to create emphasis and draw the attention of a reader to a particular idea or phrase. In both poetry and prose, alliteration can be used to make a particular line or phrase stand out to the reader from the surrounding text, allowing the poet or writer to more easily impose emphasis in a natural and subtle way. There are also uses of alliteration within specific contexts, including the use of alliteration to create onomatopoeia within a text and to make character names or other phrases more memorable.
Uses of alliteration can vary, depending on the particular style of a writer, the work in which it occurs, and the way in which it is used. One of the most common uses of alliteration in any type of written work is to emphasize a particular idea or phrase. This can be done in both poetry and prose, which makes alliteration a versatile and useful linguistic device for a writer to understand and utilize. When used properly, the alliterative phrase typically stands out among the surrounding text, as the reader comes to the repeating vowel or consonant sounds and leaves with a distinct impression.
There are also some uses of alliteration that are somewhat more specific, usually within a particular context or type of writing. Onomatopoeia is a poetic device in which language is used to emulate a particular sound, either through direct mimicry, such as “bang,” or by more subtle methods. There are some uses of alliteration in poetry that allow alliterative words to create onomatopoeia without directly stating the sound trying to be conveyed. If a poet, for example, writes “the serpent slithered slowly,” then the phrase not only stands out among surrounding text, but also emulates the hissing sound often associated with a snake, creating a subtle form of onomatopoeia.
Some uses of alliteration are a bit more incidental, and serve to make a phrase or name more memorable without a particular context. Character names, for example, are often created using alliteration to make the name stand out and easy to remember. These include names such as Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Peter Parker, Reed Richards, and stage names like Harry Houdini and Marilyn Monroe. Common phrases or sayings often feature uses of alliteration to make them more memorable, including phrases like “bed and breakfast,” “over and out,” and “safe and sound.”