Alliteration is the repetition of consonant, and sometimes vowel, sounds at the beginning of words or on stressed syllables. The repetition of sounds creates an internal rhythm in the sentences.
“pleasure-place of an opulent family”
In this example, the letter P is repeated, as well as the hard “puh” and P-L sounds.
Alliteration relies on the sound a letter makes. In the following example, the “ess” sound is repeated using the letter S and the letter C.
“…an immortal spirit that sung its song unceasingly and without heeding the vicissitudes…”
Once you start noticing alliteration, it’s hard to stop! Keep in mind that not all alliteration is on purpose. In any sentence you can find repetition of certain sounds. In the previous sentence, the “ess” sound is again repeated using S and C, but that is not intentional, just a coincidence.
So how do you know when Alliteration is intentional? Here are some tips:
Alliteration draws the reader’s attention to the language by creating an obvious rhythm. If you see the sounds stacking up, re-read the passage for meaning and ask yourself if it is important.
Alliteration can also create a smooth musical quality that writers (especially fiction writers) like to use to build descriptions. If the alliteration you’re picking up on is in a description, odds are it was intentional.
Consider the type of writing that you are reading; textbooks don’t usually try to use alliteration. Alliteration appears in tongue twisters, jingles, poetry, fiction, creative writing, sometimes it even appears in journalism (especially headlines).
There are two sub-types of alliteration: Consonance and Assonance.
Consonance: repetition of consonant sounds before and after different vowels (sometimes called an “eye-rhyme” because the words look like they should rhyme).
Assonance: repetition of vowel sounds regardless of what consonants surround them.