Things You Learned in School – Accents

What’s an accent?

An accent is the stress on one syllable, in a word of one or more syllables. The syllable that is accented is the one that’s emphasized when you say the word.

For example:

  • in the word “cat”, “cat” is accented.
  • in the word “panther”, “pan” is accented.
  • in the word “crocodile”, “croc” is accented.

Why does this matter?

Well, when you’re putting together words, the accents and where they fall in your writing can affect whether it reads badly or it flows. You see, when people read something silently, they are also hearing the way it would sound; and if the accents fall in awkward patterns, the writing will also be awkward.

Thus “Because I could not stop for Death” (Emily Dickinson), reads better and stronger than “death dropped by while I was busy with other things…”.

In writing, where is this important?

  • In poetry.
  • In certain specific types of poetry, such as sonnets.
  • In musical lyrics. In music, there are certain notes that are emphasized and certain that are not. When writing lyrics, the accented syllables in the words need to match up with the emphasized notes or the song becomes unsingable.
  • In writing in general.

It’s good to stop every now and then when you’re writing, and read what you’ve written aloud. You’ll be able to hear the accents in your words, and if they come together to make your writing flow.

And, when you give some thought to where the accents fall, your writing gets  better.

Catherine Kane


This entry was posted in Poetry, Prose, Terms and Definitions, The Process of Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Things You Learned in School – Accents

  1. Pingback: Things You Learned in School – Iambic Pentameter | catherinekanewrites

  2. Pingback: Things You Learn in School – Sonnets and Rhyme Schemes | catherinekanewrites

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