If you’ve been tasked with improving the impact of her organization’s messages, one of the finest teachers you have the right to follow is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His intentional use of rhetorical gadgets adds power to his ideas and also strength come his words.

You are watching: Alliterations in the i have a dream speech

There’s no inquiry that King was among the most influential leaders of the 20th century and a brilliant orator. What ns hadn’t previously offered thought to, though, to be his fist to craft. Yes, he led a nation to change for the better, however it isn’t his courage and vision alone that we must seek come emulate, but additionally his composing craft.

On a recent pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. I found myself wandering alone top top a cold and rainy night with the boy name Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I had just perfect reading Mark Forsyth’s The aspects of Eloquence. And the hit me: nearly every method I had actually learned indigenous Forsyth had been perfect demonstrated in King’s speeches and also writing.

Forsyth’s publication is a quick and also quirky romp through the classic rhetorical devices that have actually been provided for century to aid cement good ideas right into our brains. (In fact, in the sentence alone, I supplied three that them: alliteration v “quick and also quirky,” assonance v “classical rhetorical,” and an allegory with “cement great ideas.”) The book is a great primer top top the tools of the communication trade that have been provided by famed writers from Shakespeare come Beyoncé.

Take a near look in ~ the devices King used.

Alliteration and Assonance

Definition: Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound. Both are powerful tools you deserve to use to connect the ear of your listener.

King uses alliteration in one of his most renowned lines, “I have actually a dream the my four little children will someday live in a nation where they will certainly not be judged by the color of your skin yet by the content of your character.”

He supplies assonance in his address to the national Press club in 1962: “The regulation may no change the heart, yet it have the right to restrain the heartless.”

Alliteration and assonance are component of the reason that nonprofit taglines like “Give a hoot. Nothing pollute.” and American love Association’s “Learn and also Live.” continue to be in our brains.



Definition: Antithesis swaps the contrary ideas. Not X, yet Y. Use this an approach to highlight your vision over the condition quo.

In his 1963 Strength to Love, King states:

The ultimate measure of a man is not wherein he stand in moment of comfort and also convenience, however where that stands at time of an obstacle and controversy.

It’s the same strategy we employed in arising this post for one of our clients, a structure that take away a pragmatic, long-term method to investing in addressing local economic disparities: We can’t make whatever right overnight, yet we deserve to make things much better over time. 

Antithesis contrasts two ideas and shows your vision to be the much more powerful the the two.


Definition: Allusion is a passing recommendation to a person, place, thing, or idea of common significance. With allusion, you can tie your article to other well-established and accepted concepts.

In his I have a Dream speech, King alludes to the declaration of freedom without clearly citing it.

I have actually a dream that sooner or later this country will climb up and live out the true definition of that is creed: We organize these truths to it is in self-evident that all guys are produced equal.

By doing so, that reminds his listeners of the promise they already believe in, and ties the famous paper to a powerful vision for the future.


Definition: Anaphora is the repetition of a native or expression at the beginning of successive clauses. You have the right to use the method in your messaging to construct energy, excitement, and interest.

Note exactly how King provides anaphora in his I have actually a Dream speech. (Bonus point out if you additionally note the places where he provides alliteration, assonance, and metaphor.)

Now is the time come make real the assures of democracy. Now is the moment to increase from the dark and also desolate sink of distinction to the sunlit course of gyeongju justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice come the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to do justice a reality for all of God’s children.


Definition: Diacope repeats a native or phrase after one intervening indigenous or phrase. This is another technique you have the right to use to construct energy and reinforce meaning.

At the conclusion that his I have a Dream speech, King alludes come a famous spiritual the is built on the technique of diacope.

…all the God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and also Gentiles, Protestants and also Catholics, will have the ability to join hands and also sing in the native of the old negro spiritual:

Free at last! free at last!

give thanks to God Almighty, we are free at last!

It is a method to usage sparingly, but when provided well, the sandwiching of language within a usual refrain is really powerful.



Definition: very closely related come antithesis, junxtap location is a flip-flopping that words and also ideas. King uses this method twice in Letter native Birmingham jail (while also employing an allegory in between.)

Injustice almost everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are captured in an inevitable network the mutuality, tied come a solitary garment of destiny. Every little thing affects one directly, affects every indirectly.

You can see just how he juxtaposes injustice and also justice, anywhere and everywhere, one and all, and also directly with indirectly.

It’s a method that is easy to incorporate right into your very own writing. We offered a comparable approach to arising these messages for an independent school:

Today’s students must be taught how to think, not what come think.

If we expect students to breakthrough as learners, we must development as educators.


Definition: The intentional use of a twin negative is a litote. That a technique that you can use to affirm something as true in an understated, quiet way. You express the affirmative by negating its contrary.

King uses this device in his I have actually a Dream speech.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come right here out of an excellent trials and tribulations.


Definition: The simple premise the a an allegory is the a complicated concept can be more readily understood when compared to a simple, visual idea.

For example:

We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a rock of hope.

In the non-profit space, you are constantly waging an uphill fight to have actually your mission and also programs it is in understood and also appreciated. Where countless nonprofits fall ago on facility jargon and also technical language, friend may find instead the you can get much higher comprehension and appreciation for your reason through the usage of metaphor.

Compare, because that example, the language the facility for Economic and also Social Justice offers to define the ide of society justice.

Social justice encompasses economic justice. Society justice is the virtue i beg your pardon guides united state in producing those organized person interactions we call institutions. In turn, society institutions, when justly organized, administer us with accessibility to what is great for the person, both individually and also in ours associations v others. Social justice also imposes on each of united state a an individual responsibility to job-related with others to design and also continually perfect our establishments as tools for an individual and society development.

Compare this v Dr. King’s use of metaphor to describe social justice in his I have actually a Dream Speech. I m sorry is more accessible? i m sorry inspires action?

It is evident today the America has actually defaulted ~ above this promissory note, insofar together her citizen of shade are concerned. Instead of honoring this spiritual obligation, America has offered the Negro human being a poor check, a check which has actually come back marked “insufficient funds.”

Note: I’m no trying to error CESJ. Over there is a value to having shared interpretations of complicated concepts. My suggest is that in vast communications, metaphor can aid you reach those who might not otherwise recognize or affix with your work.


Definition: sentence that are grammatically similar or identical in structure employ parallelism. Doing so create a rhythm that adds power and also can carry ideas together.

We will have the ability to work together, to pray together, to battle together, to walk to jail together, to stand up for liberty together… 

We work this method to construct this article for among our clients:

Long-term troubles require a permanent commitment.

 Making It work For You


Put it every together, and you may have actually one that Dr. King’s most brilliantly crafted phrases. In his 1963 Strength come Love, he writes,

Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, just love have the right to do that.

In 20 words, King has actually employed diacope, antithesis, metaphor, and juxtaposition.

King sandwiches “cannot drive out” between the native “darkness” and also again in between “hate.” that sandwiching of words is an instance of diacope.“Drive out” is metaphorical language.Darkness is the antithesis of light; hate through love.And together darkness and light are juxtaposed v hatred and love.

It’s brilliant.

The suggest being: examine your rhetoric and examples of your use, and your message will improve as a result. An excellent messages aren’t happenstance; they room the product of careful craft.

See more: How Many Pounds Must A Sandbag Weight To Test, Access Denied

(Bonus points come anyone that comments ~ above the three various rhetorical gadgets I offered in that last sentence.)

P.S. I looked in ~ dozens of sites together I do this blog post. Below are a few that were particularly helpful to me.