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          How to Write Euphonically
            By Nic Swaner

          Warning: This tutorial is half-learned and half-self-taught. I may use improper terms and techniques that I have found that just work (for me). If you study phonaesthetics, feel free to correct me.

          More and more I see young writers try their hand at poetry and prose, and what follows is a seemingness to forget and forego the artistic side of writing. While your writing could be bogged down in the dust and details, it could just as easily be euphonious, or beautiful-sounding. But how do you write euphonic literature? Doesn't it just happen, and don't I have to be specific or the reader will have no clue what I'm talking about? No, and no. Writing euphonically is a painstaking process in which you will have to have an ear for syllable sounds and an idea of the roots of words. But it is definitely worth it, as I will show you.

          Speaking of roots of words, to pend is derived from hang. Quick! In 5 seconds think of 5 words that also have the root word pend in them. Got those words down? Didn't cheat did you? Here are mine: Pendulum, dependent, pendant, append, and pendency. Quick! Use them all in a sentence! You got 5 seconds.

          Alright, here's mine: The pendency of a pendulum and a pendant is dependant on what we append.

          It's a tongue twister isn't it? So that's an easy way to make one. What you're hearing when you say that sentence aloud isn't exactly cacophony (the opposite of euphony), but it definitely isn't pleasant to hear. But watch what happens when I switch two words.

          The dependency of a pendulum and a pendant is pendent on what we append.

          Somehow, this sentence is just smoother (more on that later on). But what if I just took away most of the sentence and limited it to two to three similar sounding words? Let's see.

          It is pedantic to think that depending on the pendulum will play any role in our fate.

          As you may have noticed, this sentence is much more readable than the others, though not by much. Now give me an honest answer: do you know why? There are multiple elements at play here, and we will address each one individually.

          Table of Contents

          Hard and soft consonant sounds
          Long and short vowel sounds
          Types of meter


          Consonance in literature is defined by the repetition of the same consonant two or more times in short succession. An example using the letter L would be:

          Lily licked the lollipop while looking at the lake.

          Note that consonance and assonance are not to be confused with alliteration, which is two or more words that begin with the same letter. With consonance and assonance the consonant and vowel sounds can be located anywhere within the word.

          That being said, similar and subtly hidden consonants spread out through your sentence can help the words flow better. But inject too many and you will let the reader know what you are up to. With that out in the open, there are four things I want to discuss that I feel are most important regarding consonants, and they are all my own wild and personal theories, so agree with them if you like, and feel free to disagree on points, if at all.

          - Appropriate number of consonants
          - Impact and placement of consonants
          - Consonant Combinations
          - Hard and Soft vowel sounds

          How many of the same consonants do you want in a sentence? Is five of the same consonant sounds too much or too little? Well, let's break it down even further and discuss the first two points.

          My rule for alliteration is never more than three of the same consonant/vowel sounds, and for good reason too. The reasoning behind that is that sounds at the beginning of a word have more of an impact in a reader's mind that the rest of the sounds in the word. It's also very easy to pick up on a pattern of alliteration. Let's take a look at part of a stanza from a poem of mine:

          In the qualm of stillness the trees traded birds—
          Robins, swallows, whippoorwills, and cardinals.
          If you squinted hard enough at the sullen shrubbery,
          You could spot the caterpillar creeping to the underside of the leaf.

          In line 2, we have a repetition of the letter S, which is part of a smaller family of consonance known as sibilance. There are five S sounds located within the line, but they are not all adorned at the front of the word. Instead, we find most of them on the end of the words where they are located because of the words being plural. This is a cheap trick I employed, but it works nonetheless, though it has its flaws, like if your next word starts with the same letter, the words may blend together when read, and may be hard to pronounce or discern. This can be heard between the first and second word when reading line 2 aloud.

          But as to how many of the same consonant sounds are appropriate in the same sentence or line, my theory again is never more than three at the beginning of a word, but as far as letters further on in a word should be limited, I try to not go above five, but even then it can be difficult to work that many into a sentence, depending on the letter.  By doing this we are masking the presence of the consonants while using them to create a more harmonizing sentence.

          To further mask your use of consonants in short succession, sometimes it is appropriate to add another consonant into the mix. In line 2 we also see repetition of the letter L, but it is not used nearly as much as S. The letter N and W are also repeated. As more consonant sounds are added, their use should diminish, meaning one consonant sound is used more often than others, then not as much, then less than others, then consonant sounds that are only used once in the sentence. Thankfully, this usually comes about naturally in writing.

          Hard and Soft Consonant Sounds

          'Hard and Soft consonant sounds' is a theory of mine that goes as follows: there are two types of consonant sounds, and each should be used at different times, depending on the meter and other consonant sounds present. A quick Google search will tell you there are more than 2 consonant sounds, but again, this was just something I noticed over time and have since developed into my style. I define Hard consonant sounds as sounds that cannot be made consistently with your mouth (indicating a pause after them when said). A soft consonant sound can be made continuously. I have tried to contain as many consonant sounds as I can think of, but there is bound to be something I haven't thought of. The following Hard and Soft consonant sounds are listed in alphabetical order:

          Hard Consonant Sounds

          B, BL, BR, D, DR, G, GL, GR, J, K, KL, LM, KR, KW, KS, P, PL, PR, SL, SM, ST, R, T, W,

          Soft Consonant Sounds

          CH, F, FL, FR, H, L, M, N, S, SH, TH*, THH**, V, WH, Z, ZH,

          *TH as used in the word theory. **THH as used in the word this. THH vibrates, or hums.

          Now, all we have to do is examine an excerpt of writing material to determine when and where which sounds are appropriate.  Let's reexamine the excerpt from earlier:

          In the qualm of stillness the trees traded birds—

          There's something about this line that doesn't quite fit, and to me, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It has never sat well with me, and I believe it never will. If you are meticulous over your word choice, it should be obvious. The third word, qualm, doesn't quite fit. If I take it out however—

          In the stillness the trees traded birds—

          In my opinion, this is a much more pleasant sentence— at the cost of ruining the meter, but it doesn't convey a crucial part of my poem, which is a sense of foreboding. So it's time to finally put this to rest; I need a consonant choice that fits the mood and meter. And to find a word, let's determine why qualm does not fit within the sentence. The word qualm consists of two hard consonant sounds: KW and LM. Since we can tell the word doesn't quite fit, it could be because of the hard consonants, so we can search for other words which have softer consonants. I ultimately settled on the word 'hushed' to replace qualm.

          In the hushed stillness the trees traded birds—

          Hushed has two soft consonants followed by a hard consonant, which seems to help balance the word out, and ultimately, the sentence.


          Assonance is the repeated use of a vowel sound, whether at the front of the word or not. It is assonance which creates the phenomenon known as rhyme. So let's cut to the quick. We have long and short vowel sounds, which follow the similar rules as hard and soft consonant sounds. Long vowel sounds are more pronounced than their short vowel counterparts. Examples:

          Long Vowel Sounds

          A, E, I, O, U, OU

          Bait, Beet, Bite, Boat, Butte, Bout

          Short Vowel Sounds

          a, e, i, o, u,

          Bat, Bet, Bit, Bought, But

          You can use this knowledge to your advantage when writing, in much the same way consonance is applied.


          As I mentioned before, assonance is vital to rhyming. Let's use the words cat and mat as our two rhyming words.  When used together in two lines, the rhyme is fairly obvious, like so:

          Please don't wake the cat;
Wipe your shoes on the mat.

          I could go on and on with that rhyme scheme of –at and all I will sound like is Dr. Seuss. To optimally use rhyme, try using variations on the ending of a word. Instead of mat, let's try mast.

          Please don't wake the cat;
          Wipe your shoes on the mast.

          It's still quite obvious, but the rhyme isn't as harsh as it sounded originally. The way I see it there are several aspects that make up a rhyme:

          - Vowel Sound
          - Consonants Involved
          - Syllable length
          - Meter

Different vowel sounds provoke different emotions, and some are not as common as others. It can be subjective, as personally, I avoid the long A sound as much as possible. To me, it doesn't sound pleasant when repeated two to three times in a line, it sounds like an unbearable presence in the sentence. The vowel sound is essentially the root of your rhyme, so when choosing a word to rhyme with, you should always choose the same root vowel sound. Matching up the consonants is not a priority, and is not recommended either. So if we have the short a sound as our root vowel sound, then we will need to choose words that also have that same vowel sounds.

          When choosing your rhyming word, look at the consonants of your first word. This will help you determine the best consonant sounds to rhyme with. For example say our word is castor. We could choose the word master to rhyme with; however, that creates a perfect rhyme, and it is my personal belief that perfect rhymes attract too much attention, and overusing them is frequently seen in many writers' works.

          To avoid this, look for words that have similar sounds in their consonants. Castor is similar to the words pasture, cracker, and even luster.

          Also, the more syllables you can match up with perfect vowel sounds and similar consonants creates a smoother and more pleasing read. Enter another example:

          I figure when I make it to the heavenly gates
          They'll be working on my car and playing seventy-eights.

          ~Buck 65 – Wicked and Weird

          The rhyme scheme here spans up to half of the lines:

          make it to the heavenly gates
          playing seventy-eights.

          Also the more syllables you work with, the easier it is to cheat and add in passive syllables that don't affect much, such as seen in the first line of the example compared to the second (make it to the compared to playing).

          Some more advice: pick words that have a lot of weight and pull in the connotations department. Meaning, pick up a word that details something in specific, don't throw around generic words like love, happy, sad, or eyes (Seriously, that word is misused). Alternatively, you could use relationship, euphoric, gloomy, or iris. So, for writing's sake, be as specific as possible when writing, don't offer a summary of how you feel in one sentence; capture a snapshot of the way you're responding to how you feel. In other words, show, don't tell.

          There really is no set way to show and not tell, it's all up to the writer's style and technique.


          I will go over this one quickly, as it is not utilized as much in modern poetry, but some knowledge on the subject will benefit the reader when trying to evoke emotion.

          Double, double toil and trouble;
          Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

          ~Shakespeare – Macbeth

          I normally don't quote Shakespeare as I am really not all that fond of his work, but this is a truly wonderful example of manipulating meter to get your mood across to the reader.

          The meter used in the example is trochaic tetrameter, which when broken down means this:

          Trochaic – A stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.
          Tetrameter – the line has a total of 4 meters, or 8 syllables.

          Two syllables form a poetic meter, and the meters in total determine part of the type of meter.

          Here's a quick rundown on when and where to apply which kinds of meter:

          Iambic – consists of unaccented syllable followed by an accented. This is the normal rhythm of human speech.

          Trochaic – consists of an accented syllable followed by an unaccented. This type of meter sounds unnatural and wicked.  

          Dactylic – consists of an accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables. Sounds similar to both Anapestic and Trochaic meter.

          Anapestic – consists of two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable. This is most often used in limericks and creates a "bouncy" feel.

          Spondaic – consists of two accented syllables.  

          Pyrrhic – consists of two unaccented syllables.  


          Etymology comes in very handy when trying to find similar sounding words. If you know your etymology well enough, you will be able to strip down words to find other words as well as creating your own words that have a plausible meaning.

          Etymology is the study of the history and origins of words. As far as I know, there are three basic parts of a word: prefix, root, and suffix. IT is up to the writer to combine these three parts of a word to their advantage to find similar words or create new ones, as mentioned before.

          To find similar words, look up the etymology of the root part of the word, which is what we did in the intro to this tutorial.

          To create new words, take a root word, usually something basic, then find a prefix or suffix that fits the context of your word. I have used this to create words such as paintless, and effortful, etc. Doing this pushes the limit of your writing ability and helps you become more familiar with how words were formed to begin with and how to forge new words for the future.

          For suggestions to add to this tutorial/guide, please comment. Thanks to all who have viewed, read, favorited and commented on my work, it is much appreciated, this is my way of giving back to the community. Written by Nic Swaner. To claim otherwise is plagiarism.
          For suggestions to add to this tutorial/guide, please comment. Thanks to all who have viewed, read, favorited and commented on my work, it is much appreciated, this is my way of giving back to the community. Written by Nic Swaner. To claim otherwise is plagiarism.

Only as Old "Frail bones predict what fragile minds can't detect,"
He trailed off slowly, "And my bones are achin'."
The air around me hung low and depressed,
Sticking to the back of my throat like a stormy syrup
I'd tried to swallow down.

I peered out the kitchen window
And caught an inklet of patched-over-grey sky;
I wondered what was in store for the day.

Impartial to the gloom outside, we stepped out onto the back porch;
Grandpa wobbled out with his cane in hand and we waited.
In the qualm of stillness the trees traded birds—
Robins, swallows, whippoorwills, and cardinals.
If you squinted hard enough at the sullen shrubbery,
The Other Color With an inhalation of breath and mind he realized
He had always found it effortful to depict
And portray the apperception of the paints
And the ethos of the ink to another
Individual who had wandered out of room.

But they were not out of mind, and the premise
To call their presence nearer was an undeniable
Determinant in his whirling to look behind him,
Finding nothing but the morning dust lurking like
A ghost that had misplaced its haunting.
But the dust offered no criticism, response,
Or interpretation. He turned back to his work,
And the music that eavesdropped on his inspiration
Traipsed on, changing tracks.

That was wh
Sojourner I.

Salt in the cemetery licked at the lacking and
Lacquered ribcages of centuries old hulls—
Hulls and albatrosses overhead like
Broken ribs and severed sternums.

Masts akimbo and off-kilter, wood stained
To the marrow by the fresh saltwater from the shore
Of the Aral Sea; beached, sunk in the speckled
Sand, like the words of a guilted verdict,
A flotilla of past-flown ships and craft
Plunge further into the pebbles and topsoil.

The decay of humanity and humus emergent,
Each vessel was a well-rested relic reliant on
The sun to circumnavigate the pearlescent skies,
For the vessels could no longer circumvent the
Dusk t
Add a Comment:
pinballwitch Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2012
Congrats on the DLD :) Lovely & thanks for sharing! Good stuff to keep in mind...
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! I'm glad you found it useful. =)
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2012
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by DLD (Daily Literature Deviations) in a news article that can be found here [link] Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by :+fav:ing the News Article.

Keep writing and keep creating.
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I'm glad that such an informative piece of mine found its way into the DLD's. =D Always a pleasure to see writing tutorials and tips from others.
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2012
We're pleased to feature it! :)
Senthrax Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2011  Student Artist
You got what it takes Pack! Keep flowin' ;)
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks Sen!
MichelleShannon Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2011  Student General Artist
I believe this is the best tutorial I have seen about writing poetry that is true to form. All together too often I have witnessed perfectly good authors write free verse poetry that while inspiring , doesn't truly capture the beauty that is the english language- in other words, the words only travel skin deep. What you have written here enables us to truly understand the hard work that goes into creating a "true poem". Aphorisms,simile, metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole,alliteration...all these elements of literature combine to form something far more substantial than mere sentences. Although we know perfectly well what to write, the effort must be made to learn how to write. Only then can we truly become masters of our craft. Sorry for rambling, this tutorial just made my day and I had to inform you, the author about it=) I thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting the time and effort into creating this guide- not only did it provide helpful tips, it also turned my thoughts towards my inner drive to become a writer. Oftentimes, people do not understand my ambition, nor do they grasp my love of words. However, in you I have discovered a kindred spirit, akin to my own. Truly you are one who realizes that words are the building blocks of creativity and life- without them we cannot survive. (P.S I am adding you to my DeviantWatch=D
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the kind words. Your comment has made my day. = D Thanks for the watch, and if you feel like it, check out some of my writing if you have the time. =)
beeinthebottle Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011   Writer
I think this piece provides a very good overview. I didn't necessarily agree with it all :), but it still was helpful to me.

I have a quibble about what you state about rhyme, though. ;)

I don't agree with your statement that slant rhymes ("mast" versus "mat") are optimal. I think that slant rhymes work best when they are internal to a line, although they can be effective as end rhymes when used consistently throughout a poem.

So, what might I state about rhyming, instead? That it's best to go with words that are less obvious (e.g., not "moon, june, tune, loon").Plus, that the most effective end rhyming is where the word choice is unexpected and the rhyming words have a variety of complexity and number of syllables. A good example of this aspect is your example:

I figure when I make it to the heavenly gates
They'll be working on my car and playing seventy-eights.

The rhythm feels "off" to me in these lines, though. Which is an issue for another day. :)

These are just my thoughts, since you requested comments. Please keep in mind that they are worth exactly what you paid for them. :D

Again, overall very good work. Thanks for doing this tutorial!
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I'm glad you took time out to provide feedback, and about the rhyme thing, that's probably a preference of mine, but I find it holds true for other works as well. and it's perfectly fine to cross opinions with me, that's why I had the disclaimer near the top.
riparii Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
I think anything that gets any writer to approach their craft more thoughtfully is a grand thing,
and you've presented some important points. I think it's also worth mentioning that beauty of language doesn't supersede the need to make sense, and that the task of the poet is to create
verse that is coherent as well as lovely.
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
"I think it's also worth mentioning that beauty of language doesn't supersede the need to make sense,"

I find that there are ways to create a healthy balance between the two, but yes, the beauty of the language should never be held above the need to make sense.

riparii Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
I think that's the challenge of writing
good poetry, getting all those things
together at the same time in the same place. :)
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
You make it sound like photography. And it is in some way. =)
riparii Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
I suppose it is, though I don't think
like a photographer as a rule.
Honestly I think visual art has more leeway
than poetry.
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