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Can you get away with near rhymes?

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Does anybody have thoughts on using "near rhymes"?

I know they're generally frowned upon, but where do you draw the line?

For example, I recently wrote something where I rhymed "eating" and "reading". Someone pointed out to me that editors would probably have a problem with that.
#1 - April 22, 2008, 04:49 PM
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Harrietthespy

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Probably - but depends on how you handled the rest of the piece and the strength of the manuscript. Hard to tell. But I suspect it won't sit well.  I've gotten away with again and rain and was actually explaining to kids at a presentation last night that it was a "close call."  Also seem and team.  But eating and reading seem a bit off.

Can you adjust the rhyme to make it work better? 
#2 - April 22, 2008, 05:25 PM

T. Pierce

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I agree with Harrietthespy.  If you absolutley can't figure out an alternative, I'd suggest at the very least putting it at the very end of the piece, and keep it to only once incident. I took Anastasia Suen's poetry class a few years back, where we read 100 rhyming books in a month, and I was shocked at how often near rhyme crept up at the very end of the book (which was also where rhythm fell off--almost as if the writers got lazy near the end of their story).

Best of luck,
Terry P.
#3 - April 22, 2008, 06:01 PM

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Terry and Harriet -- Thanks for the advice. That was the final nudge I needed to go ahead and change it. I will try to be more aware of that in the future.

It's funny, they sound like an exact match to my ear but I probably have a weird accent or something.

I can't imagine "seem" and "team" would be a problem though. Right? Those are pronounced exactly the same.
#4 - April 22, 2008, 08:39 PM
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Harrietthespy

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They're not - except at the early reader stage when the rhyme spelling is more critical because it's part of the "learning" to read and decode strategy.

In "zany" picture books, though, I've seen authors get away with a lot of stuff (even make up words).  What you can get away with sometimes depends on a particular editor.  Maybe catch them when they're tired. :lol2

Mostly I go back to the drawing board and reconfigure the sentence to keep the theme but make the rhyme fit.  I just had a session with kids asking them to guess the rhyming word that comes next.  Kids are great at coming up with things I didn't think of.  When in doubt, quiz some silly kids!   :goodluck
#5 - April 22, 2008, 09:43 PM

SimplyFi

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[blink, blink] ... seem and team aren't perfect rhymes?  :butbutbut  I just made peace with fire, orange, and squirrel.  :faint

My rhyming dictionary doesn't separate the -eem and -eam words, and they sound like perfect rhymes to my ear. Is it a regional thing, do you think?  I'm trying to imagine how they could sound different, but I can't come up with anything remotely plausible.  Harriet, can you write them phonetically so we can try and get an idea of what you're hearing?  This is so interesting.

...and are see and tea perfect rhymes to you?  How about see and sea?
#6 - April 22, 2008, 11:41 PM

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I'm trying to imagine how they could sound different, but I can't come up with anything remotely plausible.  Harriet, can you write them phonetically so we can try and get an idea of what you're hearing? 
...and are see and tea perfect rhymes to you?  How about see and sea?

Exactly what I was going to ask. How are these not perfect rhymes?
#7 - April 23, 2008, 04:47 AM
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[blink, blink] ... seem and team aren't perfect rhymes?    I just made peace with fire, orange, and squirrel. 
        hee hee, SimplyFi you're too funny. :dr

I'm anxious to hear, too.  I wonder if HarriettheSpy is still referring to the original rhyme in question of "eating/reading"???

Susie :D
#8 - April 23, 2008, 05:12 AM

IMO, if you must use a near rhyme, I find them far less offensive if they are NOT at the end, but in the beginning instead. If you've set up a pattern of perfect rhyme all the way through the text, then you end with a near rhyme, it's a total downer, because your ear has been conditioned to expect that perfect rhyme.

But seem and team...sounds perfect to me. Maybe I need a Q-tip!!

And I have some very wacky rhymes in my early reader that have vastly different spellings that my editor loved. So the "sound" of the words is critical for kids trying to read "new" and "big" words. It depends on the publisher, but I rhymed:

already-spaghetti (works unless you're British)
knew-achoo
go-dough
#9 - April 23, 2008, 05:34 AM
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 05:40 AM by LRM »
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Sarah Miller

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If you absolutley can't figure out an alternative, I'd suggest at the very least putting it at the very end of the piece, and keep it to only once incident.

I'm wary of near rhymes in general, but I'd be very hesitant to put a near rhyme at the end of a poem or ms. If there's a chance the rhyme will sound 'off' to some readers, you don't want that rhyme to be the final note in your piece -- you run the risk of souring the whole thing and leaving some/all of your readers with a bad taste in their mouth. Slipping a near rhyme into the middle gives you space to redeem yourself or cover your tracks, so to speak.


ps: I'm puzzled about seem and team as well.
#10 - April 23, 2008, 05:36 AM

graywolf

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I think it does depend on the strength of your story - (zany themes also allow for leeway in rhyme, as someone else said). I've been reading lots of poetry websites during this National Poetry Month and have seen many near rhymes by celebrated poets.  I was actually looking for near rhymes since they're so frowned upon in children's poetry. The near rhymes often work because the poet's story/theme is so compelling that you don't fixate on the perfection of the rhyme.  The less interesting the story, the more the rhyme stands out.  I also agree that sprinkling in near rhymes is best in the middle of a poem.
#11 - April 23, 2008, 05:45 AM

I've been reading lots of poetry websites during this National Poetry Month and have seen many near rhymes by celebrated poets. 

Yes, near rhymes definitely have their place, especially in heavier-themed pieces, adult work, or as mentioned earlier, really zany stories because a perfectly placed and deliberate near rhyme, key word being deliberate, helps to eliminate the sing-songy-ness that is very hard to avoid with perfect rhymes.
#12 - April 23, 2008, 06:13 AM
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graywolf said:

The less interesting the story, the more the rhyme stands out.

Exactly....and there is more. I use near rhyme (slant rhyme) in my picture books. In fact, I use it quite a lot, often more than once in a very short (106 word) book. Preschoolers are very sophisticated listeners and there are often good reasons to use slant rhyme. For instance,  if you set up an expectation and then do not meet it, it causes the hearer to be slightly uncomfortable, to take note. Sounds have power. Here are some examples from published or sold books:

from Firefighters to the Rescue, used for drama:

“…Through the dark
through the smoke,
a bright red hat,
a yellow coat…”

from Red Truck, used to evoke the grinding of gears:

"Down shift
pedal floored,
tires spin,
Red Truck
roars!"

Used in Police Patrol, to emphasis the feeling that something is wrong:

This little boy
can't find
his mom.

Who will
help him?

Who will come?


BUT! I would never use slant rhyme if it were not the right word to achieve the effect I want.  I have published books in perfect rhyme, too. I think the point is this: use words powerfully and intentionally. Never settle.


 


#13 - April 23, 2008, 08:28 AM

SimplyFi

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"I think the point is this: use words powerfully and intentionally. Never settle."

 :yup Well said. The challenge, of course, is knowing when you're doing which. The more rhyme you write, the more obvious it becomes.

There are a lot of folks who don't know they're settling...including some published authors. Some published rhyme I've seen makes me shake my head and ask: Why did the author stop working this piece? and Why didn't the editor push the author from settling to powerful? 
#14 - April 23, 2008, 09:05 AM

Harrietthespy

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Clarification: seem and team are acceptable rhymes.  My comment was that I try to avoid them in early readers for the school and library market where children are still earning to "decode."  They are perfectly fine in a Picture Book which is a different market - or, in my case, a book aimed at 2nd and 3rd graders where those words are already in their active vocabulary.  But I was stuck and got away with the words above because of the context. 
#15 - April 23, 2008, 10:33 AM

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Great examples, Aunty!

Recently, Julie Larios gave a wonderful talk on writing poetry at our local SCBWI.  She spoke of using near or slanted rhymes deliberately, for effect.  She has picture books (Imaginary Menagerie; Yellow Elephant) that are exactly like that.

Vijaya

#16 - April 23, 2008, 10:45 AM
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Thank you, Vijaya -- I will be teaching on picture books at the Handsprings SCBWI conference in Albuquerque next weekend. I just ordered Julie Larios books -- I hope to be able to use them as well as my own when I talk about rhyme.
#17 - April 23, 2008, 11:59 AM

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Good luck with your talk, Aunty.  I loved Julie's talk because she gave us time to play with words.
Another person to check out is Janet Wong.
Vijaya
#18 - April 23, 2008, 12:12 PM
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Boy, am I glad I asked.

This gives me a lot to think about. Thanks!
#19 - April 23, 2008, 01:24 PM
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 04:08 PM by luna5000 »
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Harrietthespy

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I think the point is this: use words powerfully and intentionally. Never settle.


Yeah!  Nicely said.  Ultimately it's the writing that sells.
#20 - April 23, 2008, 04:12 PM

smichel

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If in doubt whether two words are slant rhymes or perfect rhymes, I consult my rhyming dictionary.  The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary is great 

Good examples of near rhyme, Aunty, but I think you need to be skilled at writing poetry and using rhyme to use near rhyme effectively.  I see a lot of near rhymes, even in poetry books by established authors.  I recently read Doug Florian's book, Handsprings, to my second graders and the very first poem in the book began with a near rhyme. I like most of his poetry but it grated on my ear and the kids noticed it, too.

Stella
#21 - April 26, 2008, 08:45 AM
« Last Edit: April 26, 2008, 04:47 PM by smichel »

Diana, there was a pretty lengthy thread on this topic not that long ago.  Check out:

http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=25169.0
#22 - May 01, 2008, 03:49 PM

Good question.  I've heard you can have ONE per story, as a rhymer and fellow lover of rhyme, I try to avoid near rhymes and have had to rewrite entire stanzas but I have friends that I know that have used near rhymes and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
#23 - May 01, 2008, 04:45 PM
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Bob, thanks for the tip. Great link! Don't know how I missed that. (nice poems, by the way)

As you said in the other thread (and smichel and others here too) there's a noticeable difference between using near rhymes because you don't know any better, and using near rhymes in a purposeful, clever way. And I have seen instances of both.

I'll try to be aware of when I use them and take everything into consideration.

OK, maybe "reading" and "eating" was pushing it. I don't exactly speak the Queen's English here in the Bronx.

#24 - May 01, 2008, 05:20 PM
« Last Edit: May 21, 2008, 07:51 AM by Diana Murray »
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Slendah

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You may be able to get away with one near rhyme, but if your poem is full of them, it can be a turn-off.  :rejection
#25 - December 07, 2008, 08:09 AM

In my opinion, if you're going to use a near rhyme, make the whole poem "near rhyme." If you're going to use perfect rhyme, make the whole poem "perfect rhyme."

Or if you're not going to do that, at least make the near rhymes appear in expected places, such as in a refrain.
#26 - December 28, 2008, 08:39 PM
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I am not experienced in writing in rhyme but I am curious about something.  When I say the word "eating" it sounds like "eading", which would rhyme with reading I think.  Do other people enunciate the "t" in eating? 
#27 - December 28, 2008, 10:08 PM

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Me too, Psychwriter! Well, at least I'm not the only one. Are you from New York?

Elliah, I have seen lots of examples of near rhymes used in published books (mixed in with perfect rhymes). That's what makes it so confusing to me. Probably makes it a tougher sell though, generally speaking. (I like your new photo, by the way)

My favorite use of a near rhyme in a book was "fast" and "task". Although that's really a stretch, it worked in context because the line was "...is no easy task" so it was almost like a wink at the reader to say that finding a rhyme was no easy task either.
#28 - December 29, 2008, 08:24 AM
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Diane,

No, I'm not from New York.  I grew up in Pennsylvania but have lived all over.  I took a voice and diction class in college and my proffessor said that proper diction does not always involve enunciating every sound (but I've not seen or read that anywhere else though and it's been so long since I took the class that I don't remember when that rule applies.)  I do remember him discussing lazy speech though.  So maybe I am being lazy by not enunciating the "t".   I suppose the way children learn words may be different from the way we speak words as adults.  I'm not sure. 

I've read many rhyming stories to my son and near rhymes don't bother me nearly as much as awkward rhythm.  I've only recently tried writing rhyming stories of my own and I found, as someone mentioned before, that going for the perfect rhyme does force me to be more creative.  Although, in a story I'm working on, I've used a near rhyme: first and dessert.  I just like the stanza so much I'm loathe to change it.  But I'm brainstorming alternatives in case it doesn't go over well.
#29 - December 29, 2008, 08:45 AM

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Clarification: seem and team are acceptable rhymes.  My comment was that I try to avoid them in early readers for the school and library market where children are still earning to "decode."  They are perfectly fine in a Picture Book which is a different market - or, in my case, a book aimed at 2nd and 3rd graders where those words are already in their active vocabulary.  But I was stuck and got away with the words above because of the context. 

This is a great point, Harriet--it does depend on your target audience. That said, reading levels vary widely in a single classroom, so unless you're writing specifically for kids who are just learning to read, I don't know that avoiding rhyming words like "team" and "seem" is necessary. As a former K and 1st grade teacher (and current mother of a 1st grader :)) "team" and "seem" would work well if I were teaching the long e sound, because both words follow the rule: "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" (meaning that usually the name of the first vowel is heard and the second one is silent). So with "team" and "seem" I would simply point out that both words follow this rule. Just don't throw in words like "spread" and "bed" please unless it's intended as a read-aloud or a read-it-yourself book for slightly older kids.  ;)
#30 - December 29, 2008, 09:38 AM
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