Evidence from The Owl and the Nightingale shows that Alfred was known in his lifetime for composing proverbs. Alfred also composed ecclesiastical material that has survived (The Pastoral Care preface, for example, was his own composition), and he was a writer of skill. Furthermore, the proverbs are not out of keeping with the character of Alfred as a king, so it is probable that some of the proverbs in the collection are authentic. It is possible, indeed, that they all are, though that would be remarkable, since there are no Anglo-Saxon indications that such a collection was known to Alfred's contemporaries. Furthermore, some of the proverbs in the Proverbs of Alfred appear elsewhere under another name (Hendyng, which may itself be less of a proper name than an adjective).
The proverbs are in alliterative verse, but the verse does not adhere to the rules of true Anglo-Saxon poetry. Caesurae are present in every line, but the lines are broken in two (cf. Pearl). The collection shows signs of transition in verse form from the earlier Anglo-Saxon alliterative form to the new Norman rhyme form, for rhyme occasionally occurs in the poetry. Late in the poem, the verse even picks up Norman meter and something like a couplet form. At the same time, the proverbs resemble the gnomic compositions of earlier Anglo-Saxon instruction. The proverbs are expressed as highly compressed metaphors that are halfway to the poetry found in the Anglo-Saxon riddle and Gnomic Verses. Collections of sayings and precepts were common in Latin as well, but the distinctive compression of the Alfredian proverbs is clearly a sign of their Anglo-Saxon origin.
Given that it is most likely that the author and his antecedents gathered up proverbs over time and that many of the proverbs do not belong to Alfred himself, the heterogeneous contents of the book are predictable. The proverbs contain popular wisdom, religious instruction, and advice on the wickedness of women. The latter is most likely a scribal interpolation.