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So you want to know more
about using alliteration eh?

by Ed Thomason

What is alliteration?
"For preaching purposes, it is the repetition of words that start with the same letter or prefix."

An example: 
Suppose you are preaching from Colossians 1:12-20 and you wish to stress three things about Christ that are taught in that passage. Your major points (using alliteration) might be 1) The Power of Jesus --Col. 1:16-17.   2) The Preeminence of Jesus --Col 1:18-19.  3) The Peace of Jesus --Col. 1:20. (Notice the repetition of the "P" words. - - that's alliteration.)

Or perhaps you could confine the passage to just two aspects of Jesus that are taught in the passage: 1) The Pre-existence of Christ --Col. 1:16-17.  2) The Pre-eminence of Christ -- Col. 1:18-19. (Here you used the prefix along with an "e" word -- that's alliteration.)

Why alliteration?
Using "alliteration" is both fun and useful. It certainly aids in the memorizing of key points and it brings a delightful freshness to the sermon outline. 

Are there any problems?
Yes there is a caution flag that needs to be waved as you work thru this process. When it works well, it makes the sermon a work of art... but when it doesn't work well (and seems contrived), the work of art suddenly becomes a contrived "dud." Like too much starch in a shirt... the sermon suddenly seems stiff as if the points were being coerced from the text rather than flowing natural.

What tools do you need?
One of the best helps for using alliteration is a simple pocket size speller. I have a "Webster's New World Speller Divider" with 33,000 of the most used words. Since it omits the definitions, you can quickly thumb thru several pages quickly scanning the words and looking for the key words that suit the points you are making.

Another helpful tool is the Thesaurus. You can also purchase one of these in a pocket size for just a few bucks. But many word processor programs have a Thesaurus built in which gives you a handy tool. (You can highlight a key word and use the Thesaurus to see what other words with similar meanings might be used. If you looking at the word authority and hoping to find a "P" word that would alliterate with other "P" words in your outline and suddenly the word "power" pops up... you know you are on your way!

For me, the "P" words and "C" words are the easiest to work with because there are so many to choose from.

Sometimes a passage will have several key words that already begin with the same letters. In the above passage of Colossians the word "Preeminence" is already in the text and so is the word "Peace." That makes it easy and natural. Look for such words and then use your Thesaurus or Speller to find other words.  Keep asking the question, "What are the key points in these verses." Jot all of them down. Then ask, what key words stand out. Use the Thesaurus to look up other similar meaning words (using the method described above). If you have two words already starting with "P" look for the key thought in the other verses that might start with a "P" also (like "power" in the above illustration.)

Again, it can be fun and makes a great looking outline. Good luck.

Other samples:
For a look at sermon outlines that use alliteration go to: Sermon Seeds by Jack Peters. This is a Baptist minister's site who makes good use of the idea of alliteration.

Additional links for further study:
Dave Redick has some helpful insights on his web site newsletter archive called The Preacher's Study Ezine.

"3 John 2"
Ed Thomason


2003 Thomason Enterprises