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Diction . Literature and the choice of words. Diction. Words have three levels, and are selected based on their efficiency in these three areas:. Word choice, or general character of the language used by the author. Appearance Sound Meaning. Mono vs. Poly. 1 syllable vs. multi syllable

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Literature and the choice of words



Words have three levels, and are selected based on their efficiency in these three areas:

Word choice, or general character of the language used by the author.

  • Appearance
  • Sound
  • Meaning
mono vs poly
Mono vs. Poly
  • 1 syllable vs. multi syllable
  • “It is the lark that sings so out of tune”
  • “Straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps”
    • (Act 3 Scene 5. Romeo and Juliet)

Romeo and Juliet

euphonious vs cacophonous
Euphonious vs. Cacophonous
  • Pleasant Sounding vs. Harsh Sounding
  • "Ms. Connors looks so eager. I like the sensation of succeeding brilliantly at somehting...” brilliantly= euhponious
  • "By lunch time, my stomach boils with anger.” boil= cacophonous

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

literal vs figurative
Literal vs. Figurative
  • Accurate with out embellishment vs. comparison creating pictorial effect.
  • “But not her maid since she is envious”(Literal- act 2. Sc. 2)
  • “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun” (Figurative- act. 2 sc. 2)

Romeo and Juliet

denotative vs connotative
Denotative vs. connotative
  • Exact meaning vs. Suggest, emotional meaning
  • “I really love you. I’m crazy about you...”
  • The doctor was a thin quiet little man who seemed disturbed by the war”

A Farewell to Arms

objective vs subjective
Objective vs. Subjective

Objective: Impersonal and unemotional language

Example: “The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile” (The Great Gatsby, page 6).


Subjective: Personal and emotional language

Example: There was a slow, pleasant movement in the air, scarcely a wind, promising a cool, lovely day. (The Great Gatsby, page 152)

active vs passive states action vs states being
Example of Active Diction from Hard Times, by Charles Dickens: “Mr. Gradgrind walked homeward from the school in a state of considerable satisfaction”(Pg 8).

Example of Passive Diction from To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee: “John Hale Finch was ten years younger than my father” (Pg 5).

Active vs. PassiveStates Action vs. States Being
concrete vs abstract tangible specific vs conceptual philosophical
Example of Concrete Diction from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: “Lady Lynn was a large and stout personage of forty: very erect, very haughty-looking, richly dressed in a satin robe of changeful sheen” (Pg 185).

Example of Abstract Diction from Picture Perfect, by Jodi Piccoult: “It was the undisguised emotion in his eyes that made Cassie put her fear aside” (Pg 341).

Concrete vs. AbstractTangible, Specific vs. Conceptual Philosophical
hyperbole vs understated deliberate exaggeration of facts vs deliberate misinterpretation of less
Example of a Hyperbole from The Odyssey by Homer: “We’re men of Atrides Agamemnon, whose fame is the proudest thing on Earth”(Pg 245).

Example of Understated Diction from Hard Times, by Charles Dickens: “He sunk into a chair and moved once all that night”(Pg 67).

Hyperbole vs. UnderstatedDeliberate exaggeration of facts vs. Deliberate misinterpretation of less
pedestrian vs pedantic layman s terms vs borish inflated language intending to display importance
Example of Pedestrian Language from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: “Ain’t everybody’s daddy the deadest shot in Maycomb County” (Pg 112).

Example of Pedantic Diction from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: “Madam allow me an instant. You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls, is not to accustom them to habits of luxury and imdulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying” (Pg 64).

Pedestrian vs. PedanticLayman’s terms vs. Borish inflated language intending to display importance

This is a type of non standard diction.

Vulgarity is language that is deficient in taste and refinement.

Example: “Goddamn FBI don't respect nothin’” (Sonny, in The Godfather).

  • Vernacular speech, sometimes humorous
  • “Don’t play booty with me.”
    • Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist
  • “He’s game enough now,

I’ll engage.”

    • Toby on Bill Sikes
  • Regional/ provincial language
  • “Bloody hell!”

~Ronald Weasley

From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

(statement indigenous to the English)

  • Language specific to a field or position
  • “Late in the second quarter, he decided against a field goal on a fourth-and-one...drove 82 yards for a touchdown and a 20-19 lead at half-time.”

By Chris Foster, L.A. Times Sports Section

(football jargon)

  • Figurative language that has lost its freshness and clarity
  • “Everything that has happened for me since moving here has just been icing on the cake. ”
    • Emeril Lagasse

(A trite expression used to show how easily a task can be completed.)

informal standard diction
Informal/Standard Diction

This type of diction is language that is correct but conversational. It is used in casual situations, but still states accurate facts.

Example: “We’ve heard names. That’s Johnny. Those two- they’re twins, Sam ‘n Eric” (Lord of the Flies, page 21).

Formal/ Literate Diction
  • This type of diction is the language that is appropriate in more formal occasions. Example: “You are all kindness, Madame; but I believe we must abide by our original plan” (Pride and Prejudice, page 143).
  • Repetition of similar vowel sounds in closely associated words
  • Example: “Through the balmy air of night How they ring out their delight!” “The Bells” by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Repetition of similar consonant sounds in closely associated words.
  • Example: “He gives his harness bells a shakeTo ask if there is some mistake.“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

By Robert Frost

  • Repetition of initial consonant sounds in closely associated words.
  • Example: “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet”

“Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost

  • Words whose sounds suggest their meaning.
  • Example: She heard the buzzing of the bee.
works cited
Works Cited
  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Minneapolis: Dover Publications, Incorporated, 1995. 143.
  • Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. 6.
  • The Godfather. Dir. Francis F. Coppola. Perf. Al Pacino, James Caan, and Marlon Brando. 1972.
  • Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. New York: Perigee Trade, 2001. 21.
  • Bront, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. David Levithan. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004.
  • Charles, and Robert D. Spector. Hard Times. New York: Bantam Classics, 1982.
  • Robert, trans. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.
  • Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
  • Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind. Grand Rapids: Grand Central, 1993.
  • Picoult, Jodi. Picture Perfect. New York: Berkley Trade, 2002.