What is Diction?
Jul 29, 2014
Educational videos. Hello everyone. This is mister Herman or hologram Herman coming at you like Tupac from the future. And I'm giving you guys a lesson today and something called diction. Diction is one of those skills that's going to help you better hone your writer's voice and let's get started by looking at present. The first question today, of course, is what is diction? Diction is how an author chooses words to best communicate their point of view. And everything with writing involves choice. So the question is, when you're writing out of all those thousands of words that you know, which word is best for which situation, you think about this when you're texting your Friends, you think about this when you're talking when you're writing an English website. So let's start examining this topic by looking at the difference between two words. Upset and furious. They both mean angry, but you wouldn't use one in a situation for the other. For instance, in the example below, I was upset when I found out you cheated on me with Lisa. Or I was furious when I found out you cheated on me with a list with listen. We got upset. And then we have furious. Depending on how you feel on certain moment, you may use one word over the other. I would guess that most people would be furious if they found out their significant honor was cheating as opposed to upset. Unless of course they weren't too into them the first place. That's what diction is all about. It's choosing one word over another for a very specific reason. If you want to show that you're really angry, you use furious. If you use upset in that scenario, the person doesn't think you're that angry. Now when you choose words, a few things come to mind. One of those things is denotation. Denotation is the dictionary definition of a word. It's the literal meaning of a word. So when you choose a word, there is the dictionary behind you. That's back. And you open with meaning. Let's take that example from the previous page. If you're upset, the dictionary defines that as just being nervous, irritable. But if you're furious, you are full of fury. You have a violent passion of rage, extremely angry. So that's how we figure out which words to choose. Diction is based part on denotation, the dictionary definition. But that's not it. There's also something called connotation. It's the emotional background of a word. The cultural feeling in different cultures there are different vibes behind words, and you have to choose them carefully. So even though one word may be defined in the dictionary as meaning one thing. We might know as a culture, it feels different. Let me give you an example. Imagine there's an old man at a restaurant trying to get the wages attention. He just finished his corned beef sandwich. And he says, pardon me, ma'am. Can I have my check? That's one way. But what if we replace man with pardon me toots? Can I have my check? Twitch has a totally different feeling than men. They both may be defined in dictionary being a woman, but man is polite, man has reverence for the lady, whereas tuts, it's a chauvinistic derogatory way. He might get slapped for calling that woman puts. Our culture is full of these differences in connotation. As a teacher, if I call my students, young people that shows that I'm being polite and I respect them. But if I call them young bulls, that is a word that shows that I think that they are inexperienced, I think that they may even be a little cowardly. So there's a big difference in word choice. Diction means a lot. It also means a lot when you're dealing with formal versus informal situations. Now a job interview is a formal situation. Let me show you what I mean by formal. Formal diction is when you contain when you have language that creates an elevated tone of elevated means higher, meaning fancier. Some scenarios like a job interview, like a English paper, they should be free of slang, they should be elegant in their word choice. You're going for something more efficient, like Barack Obama barrio given a speech. He's not going to use words like John. He's going to say American people. And things that are very formal. Now with informal language, that stuff that's more relaxed. You're hanging out with your Friends. You're on Twitter. You are texting someone. It's conversational. We use it every day. It's not bad, it's not good. It's just different than formal. Let's take a look at these two examples. This is taken from a website called Purdue island. It's a great way to find English writing resources. Now, when you're writing an essay for English class, you're probably going to be using formal language and creative writing, we're going to use both. But let's say English class. The original paragraph is more informal. When I started thinking about getting a new job, I was completely clueless. I knew I wanted to do something really cool, but I was lost about what might fit the bill. You want to have something more elevated as that definition tells us if you want to make it formal. You just got to change a few words. Got to change the diction. When I started thinking about getting in your job, I was overwhelmed by my options and unsure of what to choose. That's different than completely clueless. You sound fancier. While I knew I wanted to do something interesting, I was uncertain of what that might be. Really cool and interesting, obviously different. So depending on the situation, you're going to change your diction, depending on the connotation and denotation of word. You're going to change your diction. There's also something called strong diction versus weak diction. Now, in our culture, we've overused words. We've beaten them to death through overuse. And that makes them boring. So if you don't want your writing to be boring, you're going to substitute these weak words with strong words. Now if a boy threw his spaghetti on the walls, that's one thing. But if the boy painted the walls with his spaghetti, that's totally different. Just by changing that word painted, you're making the kids seem almost like he's a Picasso, like he's enjoying throwing his food upon the walls. Through doesn't give you as much of a visual idea behind it. So in this class, I'm going to teach you more about when to use words with certain connotations, the denotations of words, where there's formal and informal diction, and how to beef up your word choice. So you're writing is interesting because you're all interesting people and I want you ready to be that way too.