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Chapter Nine. ''Secrets'' of the Pros > Tongue-twisting repetition

Tongue-twisting repetition

Repetition in various forms can be effective if used with reasonable restraint. Alliteration is one form of repetition that ought to be used with special care. Alliteration is the repetition of several similar sounds in sequence, which is itself an example of alliteration. The late Spiro Agnew, who was Richard Nixon's first vice president, was famous for a speech in which he criticized pessimists for being ''nattering nabobs of negativism.''

New York Times columnist William Safire, who at that time was a speech writer in the Nixon White House, claims to have originated that phrase, and I assume it served its purpose. Alliteration, however, is difficult to read and may cause even a seasoned speaker to stumble. Occasional alliteration included on purpose is fine, but alliteration that is accidental can be troublesome. I might have said that a good speech writer will ''always avoid any accidental alliteration.'' Try reading that aloud.


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