Puns, rhymes and alliteration in writing: The dos and don’ts

This trio of techniques can distract readers if not used properly. Heed this advice.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

1. Alliteration

I enjoy reading and writing alliterative prose. When overused, alliteration can backfire, because it might lead readers to focus on the messenger rather than on the message. In moderation, however, it is a proven strategy for entertaining while informing. But it is rarely appropriate for formal writing or when a serious tone is required, so be careful not to introduce it on purpose or by accident in such contexts, such as in the statement “There are multiple methods for maintaining mortality records.”

2. Pun

Away from the keyboard, I’m an unrepentant punster, but because punning is the most intrusive of these three techniques, I generally avoid it in writing; even in light-hearted content, it can be obtrusive. Beware of unintended punning in such remarks as “If we were in his shoes, we’d sell our souls for the opportunity,” where readers might read souls as soles.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.