How to Write in Iambic Pentameter

This article explains,

     1. What is Iambic Pentameter
          – Definition, Structure, Examples

     2. How to Write in Iambic Pentameter
          – Decide the Topic
          – List the Words
          – Make a Rough Draft
          – Make Adjustments

What is Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is one of the most common meters used in English poetry. In iambic pentameter, each line consists of ten syllables. These ten syllables are made of five iambs. An iamb consists of two syllables: an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Thus each line written with iambic pentameter has five alternating pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables.

The rhythm in each line sounds like:

ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM

Given below is an example of iambic pentameter in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”

“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound…”

Many of you may find writing poems difficult. However, writing in iambic pentameter is considerably easier than using other rhyming schemes. This is because iambic pentameter is close to natural speech patterns. Writing in iambic pentameter only involves writing five alternating pairs of unstressed syllables and stressed syllables. You don’t have to worry about the rhyming scheme at all.  This is also commonly used in blank verse.

Read about the Relationship between Iambic Pentameter and Blank Verse

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How to Write in Iambic Pentameter

Decide the Topic

First, decide what your poem is going to be about. If you have been already given a topic, think about the specific things you want to write in the poem.

List the Words

Write down a list of words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs that remind you about the topic, and specific images related to the topic. Try to list down synonyms of the words you have already written down. This might later help you to create the rhyme scheme.

Make a Rough Draft

Now that you have a rough idea of the content of the poem write a rough draft of the poem. You don’t have to worry about rhyme scheme; you can always write a blank verse which only has a regular meter. But try to have 10 syllables in each line.

Make Adjustments

Reread the rough draft. Do the lines have an iambic pentameter? If the lines don’t have the correct syllable pattern – five alternating unstressed and stressed syllables, try using the synonyms you found earlier. You can also use rearranging the sentence structure.

Read Aloud               

Reading the words aloud is the best method to make sure that you have used the iambic pentameter.

How to Write in Iambic Pentameter - 1

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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