Diction – A Key Rhetorical Device and Staple for Speakers

Language is quite a peculiar thing, don’t you feel? We all use it every single day for one thing or the other, but we’re pretty sure few of you stop and ponder about what kind of words you use, how you use them, and whether they’re having any impact on your audience. This is where diction comes in. 

Diction, simply put, is the choice of words and phrases that you use in speech or in writing. It’s not about what you say, but how exactly you’re saying it. Flowy, flowery language can help you create a colorful image of the things you’re saying, whereas formal, concise words will get your point across directly

In this article, we’ll take you on a ride of learning the ins and outs of diction. We’ll check out its relevance, where it stands in the world of rhetorical devices, and how you can use it pretty effectively, and we’ll also sprinkle in some fun examples to help you understand it better. Are you ready to dive into the world of diction? Come on!

What Is Diction?

Let’s start with the basics first – what is diction? Here are three commonly used definitions:

  1. Dictionary.com: A style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words“.
  1. Merriam-Webster: Choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness“.
  1. Oxford Learners Dictionary: The way that somebody pronounces words“.

As you can see, each of them is explaining the same thing but using different words to do so. And that’s exactly what diction is all about! It’s how you use language in such a way that it conveys the right message, but you’re also doing it in the best way possible.

When you use diction, you can make your writing or speaking more sophisticated. It also helps you to express yourself better because you get to choose words that are descriptive and powerful.

Is Diction A Rhetorical Device?

The next logical question that you might ask is – “Is diction a rhetorical device?”. And we’re here to tell you that it absolutely is!

Rhetorical devices are essentially just techniques that we use to convey our message more effectively. And in that way, diction helps us to do just that. Maybe you want to use formal language to convey authority, or you’d like to go with informal language to build a connection with your audience. In fact, you can even use abstract, colorful language to bring out the emotions of the people you’re speaking with!

In all these ways, diction makes your message more effective, and thus it becomes a powerful rhetorical device. Remember – the words you choose make a big difference to how people interpret what you’re saying. It’s not just about using fancy words though – there are many kinds of diction. Let’s take a look.

types of diction

8 Types of Diction

Now we’ll take you through some of the different types of diction that are there. And yes, there are 8 of the most commonly used ones! Let’s take a look.

Note: For each of these, we’ll use the example of someone announcing a new project to an audience so that you can see just how different the different types are.

  1. Formal Diction: This is the black-tie event of language. It’s polished, refined, and sophisticated. There are no slang or colloquialisms here since we’re looking at a formal way of saying things. Think of academic papers, legal documents, or anything at all that needs a bit of professionalism. That’s formal diction!

Example:Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here to embark on a monumental journey as we launch our innovative project“.

  1. Informal Diction: This is your everyday, casual chit-chat. Kind of conversational and relaxed, and use a bit of slang, colloquialisms, and even contractions. If formal diction is a business suit, informal diction is what you’d call a pair of comfy jeans and a t-shirt.

Example:Hey folks, we’re about to kick off something really cool here with our new project!“. 

  1. Colloquial Diction: Colloquial language is basically language that you use in speech but not in writing. It has certain local phrases and slang that a certain group of people might understand but may not resonate with everyone universally. This is perfect when you use it for groups with shared characteristics (such as a community, profession, or ethnicity).

Example:We’re going to announce a project that may or may not stir up some hornet’s nests in the Windy City“. 

  1. Slang Diction: In the world of language, these guys are the rebellious teenagers. You’ll find all the current, trendy terms that only people of a certain age group might understand. While it’s perfect for speaking to friends or colleagues, it’s definitely a no-no in professional/academic circles.

Example:This new project we’re launching? It’s gonna be lit!“. 

  1. Abstract Diction: Think of words like “cloud”, “freedom”, or “truth” – you can’t see them, and you can’t touch them, but you can definitely feel them! And that’s abstract diction. It stirs up a lot of feelings, and it can really help you to get your point across in a vivid manner.

Example:Today, we’re stepping into a new realm of innovation and creativity with our project“. 

  1. Concrete Diction: This is the exact opposite of what abstract diction is all about. It’s all about things you can perceive with your 5 senses – sort of like thunder (sound), velvet (sight), and chocolate (taste). It helps your audience to latch on to something that’s real, and it paints a pretty great picture.

Example:Picture this – a device capable of solving the world’s energy crisis. That’s what our project is all about“. 

  1. Poetic Diction: Ah, poetic diction, the Shakespeare of language. It’s decorated, it’s lyrical, and it’s as melodious as a lullaby. You can have figurative language, you can have metaphors, and you can even use a lot of rhetorical devices to make your words sing. While it’s not straightforward, it sure is beautiful to listen/read. 

Example:Our project, like a fledgling bird, is poised to spread its wings and soar towards the vast skies of success“. 

  1. Pedantic Diction: This, my friends, is where language dons its glasses and settles down with a cup of hot tea. It’s all about precision and detail (somewhat like a surgeon’s scalpel!). This particular diction has a lot of complex words which only people of a certain field of study might understand.  Unless you’re giving a research speech or writing a thesis, you might not really use this in everyday language.

Example:This project, rooted in advanced technological principles and innovative methodologies, is set to redefine our approach to problem-solving“.

And there you have it! 8 types of diction that you can use for different walks of life. Depending on your audience and the topic that you’re going to be talking about, you can choose which one fits best for you!

How To Use Diction?

Perhaps the section you’ve all been waiting for – now that you have all the theory pat down, how do you actually go about using it all? We’re going to teach you exactly how!

The first and foremost step is to understand your audience. Who are you talking to? What’s their background? What will resonate with them? Let’s say you’re talking to some scientists – then you’ll need to use formal/pedantic diction. But if you’re speaking to a bunch of high school students, you’ll connect better with them if you use informal/slang diction.

Secondly, think about the purpose of using this diction. What’s the message you’re trying to convey? Do you want to persuade your audience? Then use emotional language and colorful words that can bring them to your side. Maybe you want to teach them about a certain topic. In this case, you’ll need to use clear, concise language. Either way, purpose will determine the words you choose.

Lastly, it’s all about the tone. If you’re going for a serious, authoritative tone, formal diction is the way to go. But, if you want to come across as friendly and approachable, informal diction will probably be your best bet. It’s like choosing the right music for your party – your words need to set the mood for the audience.

By identifying and understanding these 3 aspects of diction, you can use it wonderfully well, and impress your audience with the message that you give to them!

Why Is Diction Important?

It’s natural that you might be wondering, “I’ve read so much about diction here, but how exactly does it help me? Why is this important?”. And we understand that’s a totally valid question. Let’s look at some of the ways in which diction makes a difference.

  • Dictions Help You Connect With Your Audience

Diction is what sets the whole foundation of your relationship with your audience. Depending on the words you choose, it can build or burn bridges. Think of it like extending a hand of support to your audience – if you use language they’re comfortable with, they’re more likely to listen to you and connect with you. Use foreign or complex words, and they get disconnected.

  • Diction Improves Persuasion

Most speeches and presentations are all about persuading your audience. Maybe you want them to accept what you’re saying, buy a product, or even change their opinions. Using the right words will help you do exactly that! Wouldn’t you rather be more interested in listening to someone who speaks in a language you’re comfortable with?

  • Diction Sets the Tone and the Mood

Diction is a tone-setter and a mood-setter. Whether you want to create suspense, invoke emotions, or maybe get a few tears and applauses flowing, diction is the best tool. Use language which will amplify the topic that you’re talking about and adds a little bit of flavor to your words.

  • Diction Reflects Your Identity

Lastly, your diction is a reflection of you – your personality, your knowledge, and your perspective. It’s like giving your audience a little bit of a glimpse into who you are. Just like your fingerprint, that’s all unique to you! So whether you choose to use formal language, pepper your speech with colloquialisms, or use specific jargon, your diction helps you express your identity and make a lasting impression.

Final Thoughts

We can probably say without question that diction is a pretty powerful tool. The greatest speakers and presenters are the ones who’ve mastered this and can use it flawlessly when in their words. Once you get the hang of using diction properly, you can have your audience in the palm of your hands, hooked on to everything that you convey. So use it wisely!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We can’t let you go when we know you might still have some questions about diction floating in your head. Let’s clear it up right now by going through some common questions about diction.

Q.1. Can you have multiple types of diction in the same writing?

A. Why not? It’s perfectly okay to use different types of diction in the same piece of work as long as you ensure that it does not break the flow of the language. This means don’t use slang diction in an academic paper where formal diction is the norm but feel free to mix it up in a casual blog post or an informal conversation.

Q.2 Is there any specific type of diction that is best?

A. No. Each type of diction has its own intended purpose and audience. Depending on the topic that you’re dealing with and who you are talking to, the most effective diction will vary. So make sure you have a pretty good grasp of the circumstances before deciding on the diction. 

Q.3. Is diction the same as syntax?

No, diction and syntax are two different things. While diction refers to the choice of words, syntax is about how those words are arranged to form sentences. Both, however, play a crucial role in shaping the message and tone of a piece of writing or a speech.

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