Diction acrophobia

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      The author’s choice of words

   Today, we will identify:
       The definitions of connotative and
        denotative meaning
       Several different modes of diction
       The rhetorical impact of these
Part 1: Meaning
   Words have two ways to communicate

   Denotation
       the literal meaning of the word

   Connotation
       an association (emotional or otherwise) which
        the word evokes

   This is the strict definition or definitions
    that can be found in the dictionary.

   Words are chosen for their denotative
    meaning to express ideas clearly and
   Words can have a positive, negative, or neutral
   The connotation of a word can vary by culture,
    region and time period.
       For example, both "woman" and "broad" have the
        denotation "adult female" in North American society,
        but "broad" has somewhat negative connotations,
        while "woman" is neutral.

   positive
       There are over 2,000 homeless in the city.
   neutral
       There are over 2,000 people with no fixed
        address in the city.
   negative
       There are over 2,000 vagrants in the city.
Part 2: Diction Choices
   There is no single, correct diction in the English
    language; instead, you choose different words or
    phrases for different contexts:
   To a friend
       "a screw-up"
   To a child
       "an oopsie"
   To the police
       "an accident"
   To an employer
       "an oversight"
Modes of Diction

   Certain situations may call for one or
    more Modes of diction, each with
    strengths and weaknesses relative to
       Some examples of modes:
           Formal vs. Informal
           Slang vs. Jargon
           General vs. Specific
           Latinate vs. Anglo-Saxon
Formal Diction
   Consists of a dignified, impersonal, and
    elevated use of language; it is often
    characterized by complex words and lofty

   What are some situations in which you use
    formal diction?
Rhetorical Impact

   The emphasis on elevated vocabulary
    not only aids clear communication, but
    the time/control necessary to use this
    diction can convey the seriousness of
    the piece.
Informal Diction

   The plain language of everyday use, it
    often includes idiomatic expressions,
    slang, contractions, and many simple,
    common words.

   What are some situations in which you
    use informal diction?
Rhetorical Impact

   The more casual use of language can
    help an author connect with the
    audience, but the author may not be
    taken seriously.

   Highly informal words and expressions
    that are not considered standard in the
    speaker's dialect or language. Varies
    based on culture, region, or time

   What slang terms do you use?

    Dude
    Cool
    Sucks
    Sweet
    (insert profanity here)
    omg jk! u ok? <3 u! c u l8r! kthxbi!
Rhetorical Impact

   Correct use of slang can help the
    author identify with the audience by
    showing that he is knowledgeable
    about the audience’s culture.

   However, as informal diction, it may
    make the author seem like he is not
    taking the subject seriously.

   Terminology specific to a given field of
       Computers: URL, RAM, frame rate
       Science: mole, ohm, pH
       Automotive Repair: carburetor, drive shaft, PSI
       Snowboarding: I have no idea.

   What jargon do you use on a daily basis?
Rhetorical Impact

   Correct use of jargon can help the author
    identify with the audience by showing that
    he is knowledgeable about the subject at

   Unfortunately, those less familiar with the
    subject may not understand the jargon, and
    may be unable to understand some of the
    author’s points
General vs. Specific
   General diction discusses broad groups,
    where specific diction discusses more
    focused examples

   Consider:
       people vs. students/Democrats/hobos
       areas vs. cities/national parks/suburbs
       pets vs. dogs/cats/gerbils/hobos
       civil service jobs vs. police/firemen/etc…
Rhetorical Impact
   General terms can encompass a broad
    range of examples, maximizing the impact
    of a statement, but they can also seem
    vague or evasive.

   Specific terms can give direct examples that
    the audience can consider more precisely,
    but the amount of detail they convey can
    trap an author discussing a more generic
Latinate vs. Anglo-Saxon

   Latinate words find their roots in the
    Latin language. They tend to be
    longer and more complex words.

   Anglo-Saxon words find their roots in
    Germanic languages. They tend to be
    shorter and simpler words.

   Obfuscate vs. Hide
   Laudatory vs. Praising
   Laceration vs. Cut
   Acrophobia vs. Fear of Heights
Rhetorical Impact

   Latinate words can make the author sound
    more articulate and knowledgeable, but the
    elevated tone can be off-putting to some
    audiences, and can seem like an affectation,
    or worse: pretension.
       Why say “malefactor” when you can say
       Why say “fortuitous” when you can say “lucky”?
Rhetorical Impact

   Anglo-Saxon words are straightforward and
    easy for the audience to understand, but
    some of the meaning of Latinate words may
    be lost or replaced with wordy phrases.
       A laceration is not just a wound, but specifically
        a cut.
       Sartorial = that which has to do with clothes

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