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Diction & Tone. Diction refers to the author’s choice of words. Tone is the attitude or feeling that the writer’s words express. Diction is a direct vehicle for the author's voice and can be broken down into a several levels

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slide2
Diction refers to the author’s choice of words.Tone is the attitude or feeling that the writer’s words express.
slide3

Diction is a direct vehicle for the author's voice and can be broken down into a several levels

  • High or formal diction usually contains language that creates an elevated tone. It is free of slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and contractions. Is often contains polysyllabic words, sophisticated syntax, and elegant word choice.
high or formal diction
High or Formal Diction
  • The following passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter uses formal diction
  • “Discerning the impracticable state of poor a culprit’s mind…”
neutral diction
Neutral Diction

uses standard language and vocabulary without elaborate words and may include contractions.

neutral diction1
Neutral Diction

An example of neutral diction is taken from Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

  • “The shark swung over and the old man saw his eye was not alive and then he swung over once again, wrapping himself in two loops of the rope.”
informal or low diction
Informal or low diction

is the language of everyday use. It is relaxed and conversational. It often includes common and simple words, idioms, slang, and contractions.

The following passage from The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison uses informal diction:

  • “I don’t mind folks coming in and getting what they want, but three quarts of milk!”
types of informal diction
Types of Informal Diction
  • 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.
  • Colloquial expressions are nonstandard, often regional, ways of using language appropriate to informal or conversational speech and writing. The characteristic “Ayah” of the Maine resident or the southern word “y’all” are examples of colloquialisms.
  • Jargon consists of words and expressions characteristic of a particular trade, profession, or pursuit. Some examples of nautical jargon from The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad are “cuddy, “taffrail,” “mizzen,” and “binnacle.”
  • Dialect is a nonstandard subgroup of a language with its own vocabulary and grammatical features. Writers often use regional dialects or dialects that reveal a person’s economic or social class. Mark Twain makes use of dialect in the following passage from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:“Becuz you know mighty well you can’t.”
when discussing diction
When Discussing Diction

Words can be:

  • Monosyllabic (Single)
  • Polysyllabic (Many)
  • Euphonious (Pleasant)
  • Cacophonous (Harsh)

Laugh, guffaw, chuckle, titter, giggle, cackle, snicker, roar, proud, conceited, egotistical, house, home, hut, shack, mansion, haughty, chalet

Shanty, domicile, residence

when analyzing diction consider such questions as
When analyzing diction, consider such questions as:
  • Is the language concrete or abstract?
  • Are the words monosyllabic or polysyllabic?
  • Do the words have interesting connotations?
  • Is the diction formal or colloquial?
  • Is there any change in the level of diction in the passage?
  • What can the reader infer about the speaker or the speaker’s attitude from the word choice?
what are some of the conclusions we can draw from these answers
Concrete?

Abstract?

Monosyllabic words

Polysyllabic words

Formal

Colloquial

Change in type of diction?

Childlike

Mature thinking

Intellectually inferior

Sophisticated

Educated

Illiterate

Does this indicate an epiphany?

What are some of the conclusions we can draw from these answers?
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Denotation means the literal, dictionary definition of the word – plump and obese both mean caloricly challengedConnotation means the implied or suggested meaning attached to a word, or the emotional “tag” that goes along with the word.Corpulent, plump, obese, heavy set, fleshy, fat, paunchy, burly, over-weight, roly poly, bulky, portly, weighty, pudgyWhich word do we use to insult someone?Which one do we use to describe someone we like?Which one do we use to describe a cute little baby?

slide14

Tone is the attitude or feeling that the writer’s words express. An author usually doesn't state this outright, we have to use clues to figure out how he or she feels about a topic. Those clues come in the forms of:

  • syntax
  • diction
  • figurative language
  • rhetorical devices
  • structure
when discussing tone consider such questions as
When discussing tone, consider such questions as:
  • What seems to be the speaker’s attitude in the passage?
  • Is more than one attitude or point of view expressed?
  • Does the passage have a noticeable emotional mood or atmosphere?
  • Can anything in the passage be described as irony?
how might the tone be different in these two articles
How might the tone be different in these two articles?

In writing, the New York Times and the New York Post may cover the same story, but their headlines are likely to be quite different. For example, when Ike Turner died, the New York Times had a straightforward headline: "Ike Turner, Musician and Songwriter in Duo With Tina Turner, Dies at 76"; whereas the New York Post went for a bad pun: "Ike 'Beats' Tina to Death.“

  • What might that suggest about the style of these two publications?
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To identify tone, you need to consider all of the stylistic evidence you can gather from a text.

  • Consider stylistic choices: word choice, formality or informality, adherence or non-adherence to strict grammar, even sentence length
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Never, Ever, ever discuss tone or diction without attaching an* adjective in front of it!

  • The ______, _______ diction contributes to a _____, _____ tone.

* one is ok, but two is better. When using two, do not merely pair synonyms, but try to expose the different facets that the author is employing.

  • Diction depends on audience, purpose, source and occasion
madam and the rent man
Madam and the Rent Man

Back window’s cracked,

Kitchen floor squeaks,

There’s rats in the cellar,

And the attic leaks.

He said, Madam,

It’s not up to me.

I’m just the agent,

Don’t you see?

I said, Naturally,

You pass the buck.

If it’s money you want

You’re out of luck.

He said, Madam,

I ain’t pleased!

I said, Neither am I.

So we agrees.

The rent man knocked.

He said, Howdy-do?

I said, What

Can I do for you?

He said, You know

Your rent is due.

I said, Listen

Before I’d pay

I’d go to Hades

And rot away!

The sink is broke,

The water don’t run,

And you ain’t done a thing

You promised to’ve done.

What is the tone of this piece?

The tone is:

It makes us feel _______ (that's the mood)

Which words makes you think that?

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Bouncing into the room, she lit up the vicinity with a joyous glow on her face as she told about her fiancé and their wedding plans.What are the specific words that create the feeling of the sentence? What words did the author use to create the feeling of the sentence?

slide22

Bouncing into the room, she lit up the vicinity with a joyousglow on her face as she told about her fiancé and their wedding plans.Bouncing – lit – joyous – glow – fiancé - weddingWhat kind of words are these?

slide23

Bouncing into the room, she lit up the vicinity with a joyousglow on her face as she told about her fiancé and their wedding plans.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

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Bouncing into the room, she lit up the vicinity with a joyousglow on her face as she told about her fiancé and their wedding plans.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.Cheerful diction contributes to the euphoric tone.Or uplifting diction contributes to the joyful tone.

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She huddled in the corner, clutching her tattered blanket and shakingconvulsively, as she feverishly searched the room for the unknowndangers that awaited her.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

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She huddled in the corner, clutching her tattered blanket and shakingconvulsively, as she feverishly searched the room for the unknowndangers that awaited her.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone. frightening diction contributes to the alarming tone.

slide27

She lay on the couch in a white evening dress, whispering softly in the ear of her fiancé, running her fingers through his hair and gently nibbling his earlobe.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide28

She lay on the couch in a white evening dress, whispering softly in the ear of her fiancé, running her fingers through his hair and gently nibbling his earlobe.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone. suggestive diction contributes to the seductive tone.

slide29

Harvard accepted her, allowing this child the opportunity to study in the same halls as the many famous scholars before her, giving her the chance to excel in her field in the best college in the United States.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide30

Harvard accepted her, allowing this child the opportunity to study in the same halls as the many famous scholars before her, giving her the chance to excel in her field in the best college in the United States.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone. lofty diction contributes to the elevated tone.

slide31

Bursting through the door, the flustered mother hollereduncontrollably at the innocent teacher who gave her child an F.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide32

Bursting through the door, the flustered mother hollereduncontrollably at the innocent teacher who gave her child an F.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.fierce diction contributes to the antagonistic tone.

slide33

Drawing the attention of his classmates, as well as his teacher, the student dared to experiment with his professor’sintelligence by interrogating him about the Bible.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide34

Drawing the attention of his classmates, as well as his teacher, the student dared to experiment with his professor’sintelligence by interrogating him about the Bible.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.challenging diction contributes to the confrontational tone.

slide35

He furtively glanced behind him, for fear of his imaginedpursuers, then hurriedly walked on, jumping at the slightest sound, even of a leaf crackling under his own foot.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide36

He furtively glanced behind him, for fear of his imaginedpursuers, then hurriedly walked on, jumping at the slightest sound, even of a leaf crackling under his own foot.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.threatening diction contributes to the frantic tone.

slide37

Gentlysmiling, her mother tenderlytucked the covers up around the child’s neck, and carefully, quietly, left the room, making sure to leave a comforting ray of light shining through the opened door should the child awake.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide38

Gentlysmiling, her mother tenderlytucked the covers up around the child’s neck, and carefully, quietly, left the room, making sure to leave a comforting ray of light shining through the opened door should the child awake.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.loving diction contributes to the serene tone.

slide39

The laughing wind skipped through the village, teasing the trees until they danced with anger and cajoling the grass into fighting itself, blade slapping blade, as the silly dog with golfball eyes and flopping, tongue bounded across the lawn.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.

slide40

The laughing wind skipped through the village, teasing the trees until they danced with anger and cajoling the grass into fighting itself, blade slapping blade, as the silly dog with golfball eyes and flopping, tongue bounded across the lawn.____ diction contributes to the ____ tone.humorous diction contributes to the happy-go-lucky tone.

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Abhorrent abrupt accusing accusatory admonitory bantering bitter boring brash bucolic calm cautious childish coarse cold colloquial concerned despairing desperate disdainful disgusted ecstatic effusive elated elegiac eloquent embittered erudite exuberant foreboding gloomy harsh haughty hopeful humbleindignant inflammatory irreverent irritated ironicjoking joyful light loving miserable melancholicnervous nostalgic optimistic outraged paranoid passionate patronizing pedantic peaceful pessimistic pitiful pleasant playful proud pompous pretentious questioning reflective reminiscent resigned romantic sadsanctimonious sarcastic sardonic scornful sentimentalserene serious sharp shocked silly solemn somber soothing snobbish snooty sympathetic taunting turgid vexedvibrant whimsical angry anxious appreciative apologetic arrogant audacious condemning dark condescending contemptuous dreamy mocking moralistic mournful persuasive piquant cynical compassionate confidant

slide43
See…………

The more words you know to describe passages, the more sophisticated your descriptions will be when you analyze authors’ writing

slide44

And one last tip………..Never, never, never, never, never say:“the author uses diction”do you mean – the author chooses words?Well, duh!!!!!!Always say:the author uses ______(what kind of) dictionindignant? dark? euphoric?Describe it!!!!!!