Assonance

Assonance

Assonance is when nearby words repeat the same vowel sound.

Easy Examples of Assonance

  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease. (English proverb)
  • The early bird catches the worm. (English proverb)

Real-Life Examples of Assonance

To create assonance, we need two or more words that stress the same vowel sound. (It is important to focus on the sound rather than the letter because it's the sound that creates the effect.)
  • "Hear the mellow wedding bells" (Extract from "The Bells" by American writer Edgar Allen Poe)
  • "I must confess that in my quest I felt depressed and restless." (Extract from "With Love" by rock group Thin Lizzy)
Assonance will sometimes rhyme, but not always.
  • Hear, not fear, the wisdom of wizards.
  • (Here, the first pairing rhymes, but the second doesn't.)

Why Should I Care about Assonance?

Assonance is a common literary technique used by poets and song writers because it can add rhythm and musicality to writing. It can also be used to set the mood, typically by influencing the reading pace. Assonance with O and A sounds usually slows the reading pace (making it useful for thought-provoking or sombre texts), while assonance with I and E sounds usually speeds up the reading pace (adding vibrancy).

Let's look at the fourth line of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by English poet William Wordsworth.
  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high oer vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils
The assonance created by the O sounds in the fourth line slows the reader, setting the right mood for wandering.

Of interest, Wordsworth's original version (written circa 1804) used dancing daffodils instead of golden daffodils. (This was one of several revisions made in 1815.) This means that Wordsworth eventually opted for assonance over alliteration (the repetition of the same initial letter in successive words).

Let's think about why he might have made that change. The term dancing daffodils is quite upbeat because of the alliteration, while golden daffodils is dreamy because the assonance. (Hey, perhaps Wordsworth fluked the assonance and was just trying to avoid an alliteration that any six-year-old schoolkid could've concocted.)

Using assonance will certainly portray you as more sophisticated than using alliteration, but using assonance, because it is often so subtle, carries a risk of your readers not crediting you with its use, even if they've been affected by it (e.g., by having their reading pace slowed and their mood set).

As you'd expect, assonance is less common in prose (especially business writing) than in poetry, but used less subtly than Wordsworth's example it can be useful for emphasis or for making a message more memorable.
  • Wait another day as patience always pays.

Key Points

Use assonance to:
  • Insert rhythm without using alliteration.
  • Dictate the pace of your readers' reading.
  • Deliver a memorable message.
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