How do you write in iambic pentameter?


Quick Answer

To write in iambic pentameter, count the number of syllables in each line of your poem, and adjust the poem until each line has 10 syllables. Choose words that alternate between unstressed syllables and stressed syllables so that each line has five pairs of unstressed syllables followed by stressed ones.

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Full Answer

  1. Write a rough draft of your poem

    Put together a draft of your poem, doing your best to have 10 syllables in each line. Remember that iambic pentameter does not require any particular rhyme pattern at the end of each line, so getting to between eight and twelve syllables per line is a solid start.

  2. Get a thesaurus

    Consider your word choices in your rough draft, and use a thesaurus to find words that fit in the syllable pattern, which is 10 syllables per line alternating between unstressed syllables and stressed syllables. Compare your work with this line from Shakespeare: "If music be the food of love, play on," and see if your syllables alternate in the same manner.

  3. Use alterations as emphasis

    Note that poets sometimes invert the order of unstressed-stressed to highlight a point. Look at the opening of this soliloquy from Shakespeare's play "Richard III": "Now is the winter of our discontent," noting that the emphasis comes on "Now" in front of two unstressed syllables ("is the") before the typical alternation continues. Use tools like this to enrich your own poetry.

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