At about 4:30 this morning, I awoke to hear a friendly bird outside my window. My heart brimmed with whimsy as I whisked off my quilt to begin the day!


Image courtesy of Bumble Button

Okay, clever girl, did you catch the literary device I employed in the sentence above?

It was neither alliteration nor hyperbole,

not metaphor or simile …

So, what could it be?

The repeating short “i” sound I used to describe my morning is an example of assonance, a rather tricky technique involving the repetition of words that share vowel sounds but have different beginning and end consonants.

Told you it was tricky. And I’m not even sure I have it right.

It can be tough to pin down instances of assonance (it probably slips right past most of us), but ambitious writers have been known to rely on this device to set the mood of their text. Long vowel sounds tend to s-l-o-w the energy of a passage, making the tone more somber, while short vowel sounds lend a literary lift.

Assonance has been used by all sorts of famous wordsmiths …


“He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.”


“Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore.”


“Poetry is old, ancient, goes back far. It is among the oldest of living things. So old it is that no man knows how and why the first poems came.”

Do you dare to come up with a line or two of your own using assonance?


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Whoa, fascinating! This is tricky and I have been sitting here trying to “get” it and I am still not sure I understand from the examples given. The child’s book photo sentences and Frost have this cadence that seems to run the flow of the sentence thoughts so I don’t understand which vowels are being highlighted. Poe has the “o” repeated but again, it all is tied up with the rhyme and cadence. Sandburg completely throws a monkey wrench in my understanding. But, this is really interesting and challenging to try and figure out. Great poetry lesson for a Tuesday morning!

  2. Karlyne says:

    In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I crack up every time when Edmund calls Eustace out for his using an assothingy and tells Lucy to pay no attention to him. But as far as thinking one up, it might tax my brain too much for a hot summer day!

  3. Ok, fess up ,MaryJane , do you sleep with the Webster’s unabridged by your bedside? My parents did, they were avid crossword workers and actually had 2 on the bedside tables , the British and the American editions. My stepfather actually wrote and published ( in the New York Times) crossword puzzles as a hobby and his specialty was double anacrostics. ( another level of h–l in the crossword world) If it made my mother cry in frustration to work it , it was a winner !

    • MaryJane says:

      I still use a hardbound dictionary rather than something online and when I was a kid I used to read it page by page. I also love my Rodale thesaurus (The Synonym Finder), a gift from my daughter from many years ago. My mother devoured crossword puzzles, but I don’t indulge, maybe when I’m old and ancient and have the time. That’s amazing that your father wrote crossword puzzles at the level he did!!!! Impressive.

    • Karlyne says:

      We tried to write crosswords for our book club once, and it was amazingly and surprisingly difficult even for those of us who actually do them. They were simple little puzzles and they took us forever. So I am very impressed with your parents!

      • Yes Karlyne,definitely not easy to do. It was my stepfather who wrote them – one of the smartest people I ever knew.And you didn’t want to tangle with our family when we played scrabble. As a kid I memorized the wood grain of the blanks and high scoring letters ( we put the pieces upside down on a board to choose them)- no one could figure how such a small child was beating them!
        I love my thesaurus , have 2 kinds, can’t write without them.

  4. Karlyne says:

    Oh, for heaven’s sake! Is that why my dad painted the backs of all the Scrabble pieces?!?

  5. Karlyne says:

    I have no idea why he painted them, but that sounds like a good guess!

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