Types of Diction (7 Examples in literature)

Diction Definition

Originated in 1540 from the late Latin word ‘dictionem

A writer’s choice of words, phrases, sentence structure, and figurative language, which are combined to create meaning. Diction consists of a dignified, impersonal and elevated use of language. It follows the syntax rules and is often portrayed by complex words with lofty tone. It is termed as a unique style of the writer which indicates the intention of the writer that what atmosphere he wants to create or what tone he wants to adopt in his work. There are different types of diction such as, middle, formal, informal, poetic, slang, pedantic, colloquial, abstract and concrete.

Purpose of writing diction

  • To create an explicit mode which helps the writer to support his purpose of writing.
  • Gives information about the setting and atmosphere of the story
  • To tell readers about some specific character
  • To establish the voice and tone of the story

Types of Diction

  • Middle
  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Poetic
  • Slang
  • Pedantic
  • Colloquial
  • Abstract
  • Concrete

Middle Diction: It maintains the correct use of language, but is fewer eminent than formal diction.

Formal Diction:    It reflects the way most educated people speak. The main focus is on grammatical rules and this type of diction is often used in office documents, business documents and legal documents.

Informal Diction:  It is used in simple language of everyday use, and often contains idiomatic expressions, contradictions and many plain and general words. This type of diction is often used in short stories and novel.  

Poetic Diction:     It is used by the poets to deviate from the common speech of their time and choosing words for the supposed inherent poetic qualities. Since the eighteen century, poets have been incorporating all kinds of diction in their work and now there is no big difference in poetic language or everyday speech.

Slang Diction:      The words that originated within a specific culture but now they use in routine life by the people. ‘Slang Diction’ can be a new word, abbreviation or short form of ancient word. For example, BAE stands for Before anyone else and LOL stands for lots of love.

Pedantic Diction: This diction is used when writer has to introduce the character who possesses high academic knowledge or research.        

Colloquial Diction: The words used in this diction are of informal type which represents the specific region or time. It creates colourful effect in writing.

Abstract Diction: Poets use this diction in order to express some idea or emotion in his work. It does not contain material detail and reader has not experienced these words earlier.

Concrete Diction: This diction is used without changing the meaning of words. In other words, words are used according to their literal meaning which often appeal to the reader senses. For example, “I drink water”. In this sentence, the sense of a sentence creates only one meaning.

Examples in Literature

“Lyrical Ballads” (by William Wordsworth)

“A selection of the language really used by men”

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (by Thomas Grey)

Full many a sprightly race, Disporting on thy margent green  The paths of pleasure trace; Who foremost now delight to cleave,   With pliant arm thy glassy wave?  To captive linnet which enthrall?   Whey idle progeny succeed,   To chase the rolling circle’s speed, Or urge the flying ball?

An Commerce of the Old and New” (by T.S. Eliot)

“The common word exact without vulgarity, The formal word precise but not pedantic”

On a Raised Beach” (by Hugh Maciarmid’s)

“All is lithogenesis-or lochia, Carpolite fruit of the forbidden tree, Stones blacker than any in the Caaba, Cream-coloured caen-stone, chatoyant pieces, Celadon and corbeau, bistre and beige, Glaucous, hoar, enfouldered, cyathiform, Making mere faculae of the sun and moon, I study you glout and gloss, but ha’ve No cadran’s to adjust you with, and turn again, From optic to haptic and like a blind man run, My fingers over you, arris by arris, burr by burr, Slickensides, truite, rugas, foveoles”

Here in the above lines of ‘Maciarmid’s’ is example of poetic diction. The general sense of the passage is although clear but it is not easy to understand some of its words. ‘Macdiarmid’ was a poet who was much preoccupied with finding and ideal diction and idiom.

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (by Mark Twain)

“In this novel, “Twain” portrays the character of a young boy namely Finn who lives near the Mississippi river in 1800s. Writer used a very informal, colloquial diction to describe the character, his youthfulness and background. Like he says,

“I climb up the shed and crept up to my window just before day was breaking. My new clothe’s was all greased up and clayey, and I was dog tir’d”

The use of words in the above passage is although simple but ‘Twain’ fully justifies the time and place setting where his character was living.

A Tale of Two Cities (by Charles Dickens)

“It was the best of time, It was the worst of times”

‘Dickens’ used the example of abstract diction in the above given lines. The lines do not give material information about what ‘Dickens’ wants to say but the experience of time has been shown. This type of diction develops curiosity in the minds of reader about what to happen next.

“Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (by Jules Verne’s)

“At last, after walking two hour’s, we had attained a depth of about 300-yards, that is to say, the extreme limit on which coral begins to fo’m”.

In the above lines, the example of pedantic diction has been shown. The speech of the passage is no doubt literal and full of details that helps the reader to develop a sensual experience.

Further Reading

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