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Diction Notes

Page history last edited by Jayson Yeagley 13 years, 2 months ago



Levels of Diction


1.    High or formal -         

a.    Usually creates an elevated tone

b.    Free of slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and contractions

c.    Often has polysyllabic words, sophisticated syntax, and elegant word choice

Example: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter


2.    Neutral –

a.    Uses standard language and vocab without elaborate words

b.    May include contractions

Example: Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea


3.    Informal or low –

a.    The language of everyday use (vernacular)

b.    Relaxed, conversational

c.    Includes simple words, idioms, slang, jargon, and contractions

Example: Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye


Types of Diction


Slang = recently coined words used in informal situations

         Come and go quickly

         Examples: phat, rad, heads (headbangers), etc.


Colloquialisms = (or colloquial expressions) conversational words

nonstandard, often regional

Example: the southern “y’all”; Pittsburgh “yinz”


Jargon = words and expressions of a particular trade, profession, or pursuit

         Examples: TV News (the “talent”), nautical terms, medical terms, etc.


Idioms = an expression whose meaning cannot be derived from the

definitions and arrangement of its parts

         Examples: “keeping tabs on,” “hang on,” “on the line”



Dialect = regional variation of a language with its own vocab and grammar

         Often used in fiction to reveal a character’s social/economic class

         Example: “Sho, there’s ticks a-plenty.”


Concrete = specific words that describe physical qualities or conditions.



Abstract = language of ideas, emotions, conditions, and other intangible concepts

         Examples: impenetrable, incredible, justice, anger, etc.


Denotation = literal definition


Connotation = implicit or associated meaning of a word

         Includes emotional overtones


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