Spice up your writing with rhyme

Like marmite, most people either love or hate poetry. But using techniques from poetry can help you become a better business writer.

Good poems are effective because they: 

• Are brief and only say what needs to be said
• Use punctuation and short sentences to highlight key words and phrases
• Have a definite beginning, middle and end
• Only include the most interesting events
• Are highly expressive
• Repeat key words and phrases for effect
• Make great use of literary techniques

And these characteristics are the same ones that make any piece of writing good – even a dense report, sales copy or a letter to shareholders.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate poetry into your work is to use rhymes.

Here’s a quick run-down of the main types of rhyme:

Perfect rhymes are formed when two words have the same vowel sounds and the consonants after the vowel also sound the same (even if the words are spelt differently). For example, ‘soon’ and ‘moon’, ‘love’ and ‘dove’.

Family rhymes are formed when two words have the same vowel sounds but different consonant sounds after the vowel. For example, ‘fine’ and ‘time’, ‘thud’ and ‘duck’, ‘dove’ and ‘blush’, ‘strum’ and ‘hung’.

Assonance rhymes are internal rhymes where vowel sounds are repeated within the words but the consonants are completely different. For example, rise, time, hide, fire and aisle are all assonance rhymes.

And finally, there is consonant rhyme which is probably the most useful for copy, and can totally transform your writing. This is where only the consonants at the end of two words rhyme e.g. ‘time’ and ‘come’, ‘give’ and ‘love’, ‘take’ and ‘bike’. This kind of rhyme is very incomplete so we feel as though there’s no resolution.

The phrase ‘I get the feeling I’m falling behind’ uses consonant rhyme and makes it seem as though there isn’t going to be a resolution to this feeling. But it also brings the words to life and makes them jump off the page.

Exercise: Listening out for rhymes

If you start to actively listen for them, you’ll notice that rhymes are everywhere.

  • Listen to some pop songs and jingles on the radio and notice which rhymes the singers use.
  • Next time you’re at the cinema, notice if any of the actors use alliterative rhyme or other types of rhymes.
  • When you read books or magazines see what rhymes you can spot.
  • Listen to famous speeches (such as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ or Barack Obama’s inaugural speech) and see what rhymes you can hear.
  • Finally, write down five ways that you can use rhyme in your own writing.

Once you’ve mastered all these rhymes you can also use them to great effect in your writing. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that you will use litter your work with perfect and family rhymes but all rhymes are very useful when used in the right places.

Perfect rhymes are particularly useful for names of people and places (you’ve probably seen journalists refer to bankers as ‘city fat cats’). Consonant rhymes are very useful for when you’re writing something emotional and want to convey that it’s not over yet. In adverts and jingles, rhymes are also excellent as they make words catchy and easy to remember.  For this reason, they’re also good in headlines.

Play around with rhymes and see where you can best use them. But make sure you use them sparingly. Think of rhymes as being like salt and pepper, a little on your food makes it taste a lot better, but too much ruins the dish altogether.


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