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Diction

Diction is a concept that can be used in order to describe and/or categorize the way that a given person writes or speaks. For example, it could be said that Hemingway has a sparse diction, or that Fitzgerald has a lyrical diction. It can also be said that one person as a smooth or flowing diction in his speech, whereas another person has a careful or abrupt diction.

Diction defined

Diction has two meanings: 1) the clearness of a person’s speech, and 2) the manner in which words are used in speech or writing. When a person speaks, diction determines how well that speech might be understood by a stranger, assuming that stranger knows the language which is being spoken fluently. The crisp consonants and fully pronounced vowels of clearly pronounced words are called diction, or enunciation. A person with good diction is easy to understand when speaking. A person with poor diction, on the other hand, is more difficult to understand. Diction in writing and speech is the author’s or speaker’s choice of words with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness for the subject.

Rules for speakers and writers

Diction is important for both speakers and writers in order to increase audience understanding and interpretation of ideas being presented. Here are some example of diction being used in a sentence.

Example 1: “That singer’s diction was horrible! I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. She’s not going to make it to The Voice.”

Example 2: The paper was riddled with careless diction; its meaning was hard to decipher.

Example 3: The diction in the New York Times Bestseller is excellent; the southern drawl of the protagonist shines through and transports the reader to the Georgia in 1952.

Diction or word choice is a good way to tell bad writing from good writing. There are three basic needs concerning word choice for good writing, and they are as follows: 1) accurate and correct words; 2) appropriate words for the context; and 3) words which are easy for an audience to understand. Without proper diction or word choice, the message of the author or speaker can be lost or confused, leading to misinterpretations.

Diction used in written work

The diction with which people speak often varies, as does slang, lingo, and dialect, with the particular settings and contexts they are in. For instance, many people speak differently when they are at work or before authority than when they are with close friends or family. A work situation is usually considered “formal” and an event with family and friends is “informal.” Some very formal situations where extremely correct diction is required might be a press conference, a presidential State of the Union address, or an award acceptance speech. An informal conversation where diction is not so important might be a night out with friends at a restaurant or a club, for instance.

Authors and speakers, just like anyone else, alter their diction based on the topics they are writing about. Colloquial diction is the use of the words a person might use in everyday speech. Epic poetry often uses formal diction, as do odes. For instance, in Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn, formal diction serves to formalize the occasion and imply ancient origins through the use of “ye” instead of “you.”

Robert Burns is a dialectical user of diction, whose poems almost need to be read aloud to be understood – as if listening to someone with a heavy accent. Here is an example from The Night was Still, and o’er the Hill: “Sae merrily they danc’d the ring, frae e’enin till the cocks did craw, and aye the owerword o’ the spring was Irvine’s bairns are bonie a’.”

E. A. Robinson was one of the first poets to use informality in a poem to the extent that he did in Aunt Imogen, although today many poets feel informality gives poetry more reality and grit.

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