This is the second in a series of blogs that look at dubious practices that have entered our preaching. All these questionable traditions are addressed in Talbot’s Doctor of Ministry track in “Advanced Biblical Preaching.”

Alliteration, Part 2

(View Part 1 of this posting on "Alliteration".)

Alliteration runs a third danger. Not only may it lead the speaker to be unclear or unbiblical, it also suggests to the listeners that the most important thing in the message to remember is the outline. It subtly says to the listener, “Get this outline! Remember it!”

But what the listeners really need to “get” is the central take-home truth and its relevance for their lives. He should walk away from the message, not with an outline, but with an aware-ness of how a biblical truth bears on his life. His mind should be engaged, not with “points,” but with how he, in some concrete way, is going to think or act differently as a result of his time with God.

Worse yet, the alliterated outline, which has been unwisely highlighted, all too often is “content-less”—it communicates no content. If the listeners do manage to remember it, they still doesn’t know anything.


I. The process for preaching

II. The practice in preaching

III. The product of preaching

Taken from I Thessalonians 1:4-8, the speaker’s message conveys the following thoughts:

  • When preaching the gospel, we must remember that God elects and the power of the Spirit saves.
  • We must practice what we preach.
  • The gospel cuts through human suffering, causing joy and growth.

But none of these thoughts are accessible by remembering the outline. The alliterated outline terms are unnecessary “middle-men” which the listener must mentally jump over in order to form the concepts in his mind.

If remembering the outline is important, a non-alliterated, “content-full” set of points (i.e., in complete declarative sentences) would be more effective:


I. We don’t need to sell it.

II. But we must live it.

III. It will change lives.

The final “bad thing” that can happen when we alliterate is that the listeners’ attention may be drawn more to our cuteness and cleverness than to the truth of God’s word. They may appreciate our skill more than they absorb God’s message.

The words of an ancient divine still ring true: “No man can at one and the same time give the impression that he is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.”

Alliteration? We could say:

  • It misproffers
  • It misleads
  • It misdirects
  • It mishonors

But it seems better to say:

  • It may be unclear.
  • It may be unbiblical.
  • It may highlight the outline more than the truth.
  • It may draw attention to the cleverness of the speaker.

Previous Blog Posts

Coming Blog Posts:

  • Biblical Examples
  • Scriptures on PowerPoint
  • Quotes, Poems
  • Illustrations
  • Double Introductions
  • Bulletin Outline Inserts
  • Short Book Series
  • Music Before the Message
  • Reading the Whole Passage Before the Message
  • Podiums, “The Sacred Desk”