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What is Repetition

What is Repetition in Writing? Examples, Definitions, and How to Create Them

What is Repetition

Repetition, or epistrophe, is when you use the same words or phrases more than once in your writing. It can be used to emphasize certain points or ideas, but it can also get really annoying, really quickly. So use it sparingly, or you risk making your reader want to hit theskip button. A famous example is theroses are red, violets are blue of the classic Valentine‘s Day poem.

The Purpose of Repetition in Writing

Repetition serves various functions in writing. It can be the salt in the soup, the cherry on top, or the annoying fly buzzing around the reader’s head. Let’s explore some of the key reasons why writers choose to use repetition:

Emphasis on a Point

Sometimes, a point is so important that it deserves a bit of extra attention. Repetition can help drive home the point and make sure it sticks in the reader’s mind like gum on a shoe.

Establishing Rhythm and Flow

Repetition can help create a sense of rhythm and flow in writing, much like the steady beat of a drum in a song. It can make the words dance on the page and keep the reader engaged.

Setting a Mood or Tone

Repeating words or phrases can also help to set a particular mood or tone. Like a foghorn in the distance, repetition can evoke feelings of suspense, anticipation, or even unease.

Unifying Ideas

Repetition can serve as a thread that ties together different ideas or themes in a piece of writing. It can be the glue that holds the entire piece together, providing a sense of cohesion and unity.

Types of Repetition

Repetition comes in many flavors, each with its unique taste. Here are a few types of repetition that writers often use:


Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses or sentences. It can make a point resonate like the sound of a gong, echoing through the reader’s mind. For example:

To survive, they needed food. To survive, they needed water. To survive, they needed shelter.


Epiphora, also known as epistrophe, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of consecutive clauses or sentences. It’s like a drum roll leading to a big finale. For example:

He wanted to go on an adventure, but fear held him back. He wanted to chase his dreams, but fear held him back. He wanted to live life to the fullest, but fear held him back.


Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. It can make a sentence feel as smooth as a river stone or as jagged as a mountain peak. For example:

Silly Sally swiftly shooed seven sneaky snakes.


Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in words. Like a warm cup of cocoa on a chilly night, it can create a comforting sense of harmony. For example:

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.

Examples of Repetition in Literature

To see how repetition works its magic, let’s dive into some examples from literature:

Example 1: “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

In this classic poem, Poe uses the word “nevermore” as a refrain. The repetition of this word helps to create a haunting, melancholic atmosphere.

“Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.'”

Example 2: “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

In the opening lines of this novel, Dickens uses anaphora to emphasize the contrasts between two cities during a tumultuous time in history:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

Example 3: “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

Thomas employs repetition in this poem to create a sense of urgency and defiance:

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

How to Create Repetition in Writing

Now that we’ve seen repetition in action, let’s explore some tips for adding a sprinkle of repetition to your own writing:

1. Identify the Purpose

Before using repetition, consider the purpose it will serve. Is it for emphasis, rhythm, mood, or unity? Knowing the purpose will help guide you in choosing the right type of repetition.

2. Keep It Simple

Repetition works best when it’s clear and straightforward. Don’t overcomplicate things or try to be too clever. Simplicity is the key to making repetition effective.

3. Use It Sparingly

Like hot sauce on a taco, a little repetition goes a long way. Too much repetition can become tiresome or annoying to the reader. Use it judiciously to keep the reader engaged and interested.

4. Vary Your Repetition

Mix it up by using different types of repetition throughout your writing. This will keep things fresh and prevent the reader from becoming bored with the same kind of repetition over and over.

5. Revise and Edit

After writing your piece, go back and review your use of repetition. Make sure it’s serving its intended purpose and not detracting from the overall quality of your writing.

In conclusion, repetition can be a powerful tool in a writer’s toolbox when used with care and intention. By understanding its purpose, types, and how to use it effectively, you can create memorable, engaging pieces that resonate with readers. Now, go forth and repeat—just not too much!

If you’re thirsty for more writing knowledge, head over here to learn all 74 literary devices.

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