Saturday, April 16, 2011

m is for melody

melody is what gives your words and sentences cadence. If you read your work aloud you will hear when you're getting it right - and when you're not. Here are a few devices and examples:

Assonance; the repetition of vowel sounds, like this : "On the fifteenth of May, In the Jungle of Nool, In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool..." Dr. Seuss/Horton Hears a Who (my personal favorite).

Rhyme: an exact correspondence between the last syllables of words, like this: "There's too many kids in this tub. There's too many elbows to scrub. I just washed a behind, That I'm sure wasn't mine, There's too many kids in this tub. Shel Silverstein/A light in the Attic.

Alliteration; the repetition of the initial sound - one or more letters - of words in a phrase or sentence, like this: She sells sea shells down by the sea shore.

Onomatopoeia; literally meaning 'name-making' this is when the sound of the word defines it, like Jaberwocky and Bandersnatch (Louis Carol), the Shrike (Dan Simmons/Hyperion), or the Grinch (Dr. Seuss).

* Constance Hale/Sin and Sintax - another great book that will teach you 'how to craft wickedly effective prose.'


  1. Onomatopoeia has got to be one of my most favourite of words!!

    Thanks for the handy explanations of these linguistic devices! Take care

  2. Whoa, weird... I *just* taught my students this stuff in our poetry unit this past week. :-D

    I always tell them, to read their work out loud to help with revision.

  3. Language is like music. Just talking about it got my foot tapping. And, gawd, I love Shel Silverstein.

  4. Thanks for the book recommendation.

    Yes, saying it out loud really helps you realize if it's flowing right.

  5. Love this post. I love the literary forms you have presented so well. And I love your blog. You live about as far as you can from me north to south in the US because I am in south Florida. Amazing. I will be back.

  6. Fantastic. I think melody is something that isn't discussed enough in relation to prose.

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