DICTION: DEFINED
• The choice and use of words and
phrases in speech or in writing.
Word choice is the most powerful
eleme...
DICTION: WHAT DOES IT DO?
• affects the clarity and impact of
your message
WHAT MAKES THIS PASSAGE FROM THE
BOOK THIEF SO EFFECTIVE?
“You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness
attempting to be...
THE WORD CHOICE
“You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness
attempting to be cheerful about this whole
topic, thought ...
ZUSAK’S GENIUS:
• He follows “die” with “cheerful”.
• Contrast that makes sense.
• He contrasts cheerful, amiable, affable...
WHAT MAKES THIS PASSAGE FROM
CUTTING FOR STONE BY ABRAHAM
VERGESE EFFECTIVE?
“According to Shiva, life is in the end
about...
VERGHESE’S GENIUS:
• Poetic
• Rich vocabulary
• Multiple layers of meaning
HOW DO WE DESCRIBE DICTION?
High  low
Formal  informal
HIGH/FORMAL DICTION
• Dignified, elevated, and often
impersonal.
• Elaborate, or sophisticated
vocabulary.
• Polysyllabic.
LOW/INFORMAL DICTION
• Plain language of everyday
• slang, jargon, vulgarity, and dialect.
• Monosyllabic.
MIDDLE/NEUTRAL DICTION
• Follows rules of grammar and uses
common, unexceptional
vocabulary.
• Grammar and vocabulary is m...
DON’T PASS JUDGMENT!
No type of diction is “bad.”
Each is appropriate in different
writing situations.
DESCRIBE THE DICTION
“'Guys like us, that work on ranches,
are the loneliest guys in the world.
They got no family. They d...
DESCRIBE THE DICTION
DESCRIBE THE DICTION
“You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness
attempting to be cheerful about this whole
topic, tho...
DESCRIBE THE DICTION
“According to Shiva, life is in the end
about fixing holes. Shiva didn't speak in
metaphors. fixing h...
WORDS
See the excerpt from The Practice of
Creative Writing by Heather Sellers.
DENOTATIO
N
The dictionary
definition
CONNOTATI
ON
The emotional
overtones of a word
Typically described
using “positive”,...
WHY DO THESE MATTER?
• Understanding both the
connotations and denotations of a
word is essential for clear, effective
wri...
CONNOTATIONS
• Context matters:
•aggressive vs. hostile
•hard-hitting vs. aggressive
•aggressive man vs. aggressive
woman
LET’S PLAY WITH WORDS…
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS W/ STYLE
Style: a series of choices –words,
sentence length and structure, figures of
speech, tone, v...
CHOOSE LEAN SENTENCES OVER
FLABBY ONES
• Eliminate unneeded words
• Wordy writing annoys readers
because they have to wade...
DON’T BE A BROKEN RECORD.
• Don’t say the same thing twice.
• Redundant:
•The editor was looking forward to the
book’s fin...
BE ACTIVE.
• Make passive sentences active.
• Your subject should perform the
action, instead of being acted upon.
• Passi...
YOUR TASK: LE MOT JUSTE
Gustave Flaubert, a 19th-century
novelist, coined this French phrase
meaning “the right word”. Fla...
Cw word choice
Cw word choice
Cw word choice
Cw word choice
Cw word choice
Cw word choice
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Cw word choice

  1. 1. DICTION: DEFINED • The choice and use of words and phrases in speech or in writing. Word choice is the most powerful element of style for you to understand.
  2. 2. DICTION: WHAT DOES IT DO? • affects the clarity and impact of your message
  3. 3. WHAT MAKES THIS PASSAGE FROM THE BOOK THIEF SO EFFECTIVE? “You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, thought most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter what my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me” (Zusak 3).
  4. 4. THE WORD CHOICE “You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, thought most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter what my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me” (Zusak 3).
  5. 5. ZUSAK’S GENIUS: • He follows “die” with “cheerful”. • Contrast that makes sense. • He contrasts cheerful, amiable, affable, and agreeable with nice. • Contrast that doesn’t initially make sense. • Makes readers consider the denotations & connotations of each word.
  6. 6. WHAT MAKES THIS PASSAGE FROM CUTTING FOR STONE BY ABRAHAM VERGESE EFFECTIVE? “According to Shiva, life is in the end about fixing holes. Shiva didn't speak in metaphors. fixing holes is precisely what he did. Still, it's an apt metaphor for our profession. But there's another kind of hole, and that is the wound that divides family. Sometimes this wound occurs at the moment of birth, sometimes it happens later. We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation.”
  7. 7. VERGHESE’S GENIUS: • Poetic • Rich vocabulary • Multiple layers of meaning
  8. 8. HOW DO WE DESCRIBE DICTION? High  low Formal  informal
  9. 9. HIGH/FORMAL DICTION • Dignified, elevated, and often impersonal. • Elaborate, or sophisticated vocabulary. • Polysyllabic.
  10. 10. LOW/INFORMAL DICTION • Plain language of everyday • slang, jargon, vulgarity, and dialect. • Monosyllabic.
  11. 11. MIDDLE/NEUTRAL DICTION • Follows rules of grammar and uses common, unexceptional vocabulary. • Grammar and vocabulary is meant to be transparent, easily understood.
  12. 12. DON’T PASS JUDGMENT! No type of diction is “bad.” Each is appropriate in different writing situations.
  13. 13. DESCRIBE THE DICTION “'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place. They come to a ranch an' work up a stake, and the first thing you know they're poundin' their tail on some other ranch. They ain't got nothing to look ahead to.’”
  14. 14. DESCRIBE THE DICTION
  15. 15. DESCRIBE THE DICTION “You are going to die. I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, thought most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter what my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s. Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me” (Zusak 3).
  16. 16. DESCRIBE THE DICTION “According to Shiva, life is in the end about fixing holes. Shiva didn't speak in metaphors. fixing holes is precisely what he did. Still, it's an apt metaphor for our profession. But there's another kind of hole, and that is the wound that divides family. Sometimes this wound occurs at the moment of birth, sometimes it happens later. We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime. We'll leave much unfinished for the next generation.”
  17. 17. WORDS See the excerpt from The Practice of Creative Writing by Heather Sellers.
  18. 18. DENOTATIO N The dictionary definition CONNOTATI ON The emotional overtones of a word Typically described using “positive”, “negative”, and “neutral”.
  19. 19. WHY DO THESE MATTER? • Understanding both the connotations and denotations of a word is essential for clear, effective writing. • Avoid unintentional insults or results. • These meanings create responses in your readers.
  20. 20. CONNOTATIONS • Context matters: •aggressive vs. hostile •hard-hitting vs. aggressive •aggressive man vs. aggressive woman
  21. 21. LET’S PLAY WITH WORDS…
  22. 22. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS W/ STYLE Style: a series of choices –words, sentence length and structure, figures of speech, tone, voice, diction, and overall structure. • It changes from piece to piece. • Depends on purpose, audience, and appropriateness.
  23. 23. CHOOSE LEAN SENTENCES OVER FLABBY ONES • Eliminate unneeded words • Wordy writing annoys readers because they have to wade through the verbiage to find your meaning
  24. 24. DON’T BE A BROKEN RECORD. • Don’t say the same thing twice. • Redundant: •The editor was looking forward to the book’s final completion. • Better: •The editor was looking forward to the book’s completion.
  25. 25. BE ACTIVE. • Make passive sentences active. • Your subject should perform the action, instead of being acted upon. • Passive: •Ten pages were completed in one day by the writer. •The writer completed ten pages in one day.
  26. 26. YOUR TASK: LE MOT JUSTE Gustave Flaubert, a 19th-century novelist, coined this French phrase meaning “the right word”. Flaubert is said to have spent weeks looking for “le mot juste”. See handout.

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