Diction - English 9

Pre-AP English 9
• The choice of words
and phrases in speech or
• Function: The words that
a writer chooses affect
the reader’s attitude
(mood) and conveys the
writer’s feelings toward
the subject (tone).
• Diction refers to the author's choice of
• Diction functions as the writer's basic tools:
– they create the color and texture of the written
– they both reflect and determine the level of
– they shape the reader's perceptions.
• Choosing words that are clear, concrete, and exact
shape a writer’s voice.
• Good writers do not use words such as pretty, nice,
bad, stuff, things, etc… Instead, they employ words
that will have as specific effect on the reader.
• A coat isn’t torn; it’s tattered.
• The United States Marines don’t want revenge; they are
thirsting for revenge.
• A door does not shut; it thuds.
Types of Diction
• High or Formal Diction characterized by learned
vocabulary, elevated language, sophisticated
vocabulary. Free of idioms, slang, and contractions.
• Neutral Diction uses standard language and
vocabulary without elaborate words.
• Low or Informal Diction is relaxed and closest to
everyday conversation. Characterized by simple
words, idioms, slang, contractions, etc…
Types of Informal Diction
• Colloquial expressions are nonstandard, often regional, ways of using
language appropriate to informal or conversational speech and writing.
The characteristic Californian word “stoked” and the classic Southern
term "y'all" are examples of colloquialisms.
• Slang refers to a group of recently coined words often used in informal
situations. Slang words often come and go quickly, passing in and out of
usage within months or years. “BAE,” “Photo bomb,” “Tweet.”
• Jargon consists of words and expressions characteristic of a particular
trade, profession, or pursuit. Some examples of jargon in footballtouchdown, territory, scrambling, loose ball, kickoff, man-in-motion, down,
end zone, goal line, hand-off, offside, picked off, recovery, audible, blitz.
• Idioms are commonly used expressions in a given language that are not
literally true. Idioms vary in different cultures and countries. Shakespeare is
credited with coining more than 2,000 words, infusing thousands more existing ones with electrifying new
meanings and forging idioms that would last for centuries. ‘A fool’s paradise,’ ‘at one fell swoop,’ ‘heart’s
content,’ ‘in a pickle,’ ‘send him packing,’ ‘too much of a good thing,’ ‘the game is up,’ ‘good riddance,’
‘love is blind,’ and ‘a sorry sight,’ to name a few. (David Wolman, Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde
English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling. Harper, 2010.)
• Concrete Diction – refers to words that stimulate
some kind of sensory response in the reader: as
we read the words, we can imaginatively use our
senses to experience what the words represent.
• Concrete words include….
Dog, Cat, Computer, Classroom, Tree, Candy Bar,
Car, Chair, Department Store, Radio, Pencil, Hat,
Clock, Rain, Ice Cube, Dr. Pepper, etc.
• Abstract Diction- refers to words that do not
appeal imaginatively to the reader's senses.
Abstract words create no "mental picture" or
any other imagined sensations for readers.
• Abstract words include . . .
Love, Hate, Feelings, Emotions, Temptation, Peace,
Seclusion, Alienation, Politics, Rights, Freedom,
Intelligence, Attitudes, Progress, Guilt, etc.
Connotation vs. Denotation
• When analyzing diction, you must understand both
denotation and connotation
• Denotation-literal meaning, dictionary
• Connotation- the meaning suggested or
implied by the word
•A word's power to produce a strong reaction
in the reader lies mainly in its connotative
• When a writer calls a character "slender," the word
evokes a different feeling than if he had called the
character "gaunt.“ Other synonyms that have different
connotations: “skinny,” “puny,” “thin,” “runt,” “slim.“
• Here is an example of a sentence with strong connotative
• The boy surveyed the class, congratulating
himself for snatching the highest grade on
the test.
• Two words are important here: surveyed and snatching. They
are the words with the strongest connotations.
• Low or Informal Diction?
• Elevated language or Formal Diction?
• Are the words monosyllabic (one syllable in length) or polysyllabic (more than
one syllable in length)? What impact does this have?
• Are the words mainly colloquial (slang), informal (conversational), formal
(literary) or old-fashioned? What impact does this have?
• Abstract and Concrete Diction?
• Are the words concrete (specific) or abstract (general)? What impact does
this have?
• Denotation and Connotation?
• Are the words mainly denotative (containing an exact meaning), e.g. dress, or
connotative (containing a suggested meaning), e.g. gown. What impact does
this have?
• Once you identify an author’s diction, you must analyze it. Then you will
write commentary about the word or phrase and the effect that the word
or phrase had on you. Synonyms for commentary are analysis and
• Diction commentary should talk specifically about the connotations and
impact of the words in the quotations.
• You must discuss the connotation of the word or phrase to do a good job of
diction analysis. You will comment on the reaction you had to the word
choice and what emotional response it brought out in you.
• Commentary:
• “Surveyed”
• Commentary #1: Conveys the idea of someone looking around as if he were a
king looking at slowly subjects.
• Commentary #2: The boy sees himself on a kind of Mt. Olympus, sitting with
other gods and looking down on lesser mortals.
• This last point of commentary is especially good because the writer made an allusion
to another bit of information—a reference to mythology.
The boy surveyed the class, congratulating
himself for snatching the highest grade on the
• Analyze the word “Snatching”
Low or Informal?
Elevated or Formal?
Abstract or Concrete?
Denotation? Connotation?
• Add 2 sentences of commentary:
• By using the word antidote,
what does the author imply
about the inability to feel
for another?
• If we changed the word
antidote to gift, what effect
would it have on the
meaning of the sentence?
1. Brainstorm a list of
medical terms.
2. Write a sentence using
one of these terms to
characterize art.
3. Explain the effect this
term has on the meaning
of the sentence.
• What kind of flame does
kindled imply? How does
this verb suit the purpose
of the sentence?
• Would the sentence be
strengthened or weakened
by changing the sun broke
weakly to the sun burst
through? Explain the effect
this change would have on
the use of the verb kindled.
Brainstorm a list of verbs
that demonstrate the
effects of sunlight.
• What picture is created
by the use of the word
• By understanding the
word connotation of the
word tattered, what do
we understand about
the character’s attitude
toward an aged man?
1. List 3 adjectives that
can be used to describe
a pair of shoes.
Each adjective should connote
a different feeling about the