Learn the 14 Types of Diction for Writing and Speaking

There are many ways in which a person’s word choice tells others about their personal character and the words’ intention. Understanding the types of diction makes it easier to break down the meaning of language in the many forms it may be presented in. By learning how to use diction and easily categorize it when you hear it, language can become all the more engaging.

14 Basic Types of Diction

Picture showing the different types of diction

Diction, in general, refers to the phrases and words that are used in writing and speech. There are 14 types of diction in literature and speaking.

1. Abstract

This type of diction is also known as abstract imagery.

Whenever a person describes something outside of the realm of sensory perception, it’s considered abstract. Anything you can’t experience via sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing is described using abstract diction. Things like an experience’s pleasantness or one person’s love for another are all abstract.

Example: This was the best day ever.

2. Colloquial Expressions

Whenever words or phrases are used that are locally unique, they fall under this category.

These regional terms and expressions help paint a more realistic picture for writers attempting to represent a specific city accurately. Even though these expressions may sound strange to an outsider and sometimes even profane or crude, the people who use them often don’t think twice about it.

Example: My dogs are barking.

3. Concrete

This form of diction is much easier to wrap your head around because it is what its name implies: concrete.

It describes tangible qualities about something, such as color, size, shape, or other physical traits. In contrast to abstract, concrete diction describes things that the five senses can experience.

Beyond an object’s qualities, concrete diction also applies to any specific noun or adjective.

Example: My cat is gray.

4. Connotation

This is for expressions of emotion that mix the literal meaning of words with a feeling that may be charged positively or negatively. Any word or phrase that creates an emotional picture in a person’s head is a connotation.

This may include words like “Mom” and “Dad,” the use of which implies a loving parental relationship. Other words like “Wall Street” usually give people a mental image of money and extreme wealth. Words like thrifty and courageous have positive connotations, while stingy and stubborn are negatively connotated.

Example: The actors were as talented as they were conceited.

5. Denotation

In direct contrast to connotation, denotation removes the emotional factor from the language and focuses on literal meaning.

Some phrases like calling someone blue often have metaphorical meanings, referring to a person who’s sad. With denotation, it’s always certain that that speaker or writer uses the literal meaning of the words or phrase.

This is an essential type of diction to know and understand when trying to avoid ambiguity.

Example: I can see for miles.

6. Dialect

This is another type of diction that refers to specific words and expressions used by people of certain regions.

Unlike colloquial expressions, though, dialect virtually constitutes an entirely new language that can often be difficult for outsiders to pick up on at first. Dialect includes everything from spelling to pronunciation to word choice. In numerous books and poems, you will find dialect diction to give the reader an immersive sense of the story’s setting.

Example: That ain’t no matter, I’m gonna loaf around ’til ya get here.

7. Formal

When speaking to a live audience or writing an official document, you can use formal diction to give writing or speech a sense of authority and respect. In some genres of fiction, it also helps pull the reader in and take the text seriously.

Example: Our municipality’s intricate roadway system is in pristine condition.

8. Informal

On the other hand, informal diction is what we normally use every day to converse with friends and family members in casual situations. Informal speaking or writing may include elements of dialect or colloquial expressions depending on who you’re speaking or writing to.

Example: Let’s hang out after the game and grab a bite to eat.

9. Jargon

This is one of the most challenging types of diction to understand, particularly for the layperson. Whenever you read technical reports or articles on highly complex subjects, jargon is usually the element that makes them so hard to read. This might include abbreviations and specialized terms only well-known to those in a particular area of expertise.

Example: Patient presents with high BP and idiopathic tachycardia.

10. Neutral

When writing for a general audience, this is the best type of diction in literature to use. Neutral diction is free of colloquialisms, slang, regional dialects, or anything else that prevents most people from understanding the meaning.

Example: It looked like it would be a rainy day.

11. Pedantic

Sometimes it’s necessary to use exact details to get a meaning across. This is when you can use pedantic language because it focuses on precision above all else.

Pedantic diction ensures that everyone’s on the same page whenever minute details are necessary, such as writing legal briefs or painting a scene’s complete picture for your audience.

Example: The number-two pencil that she had just sharpened for her fourth test of the semester promptly broke when she eagerly filled in the fourth bubble on question six.

12. Pedestrian

This form of language usually sounds or looks a lot like condescending to people. It involves phrasing things in a way that is particularly uninteresting and hard to become engaged with.

Whenever breaking things down to be more simple for an audience, it’s important not to go so far as to be pedestrian because it may become insulting to them.

Example: “You’ll definitely want to look both ways before crossing the street.

13. Precise

Much as the name implies, precise language is there to be understood wholly and immediately. Your audience won’t have to sit around scratching their heads before fully absorbing the message you’re trying to put out. Efficient wording and clear sentence structure are the marks of precise diction.

Example: The best way to form a strong team is through teamwork.”

14. Slang

These are words or phrases that have meant different things over time or even had no meaning in the past. Due to common usage, these words officially become part of a language and even are included in dictionaries.

Example: Throw another shrimp on the barbie.

Conclusion

Speech and writing are organized into different types of diction to help readers and listeners easily categorize the words’ meaning. At the same time, identifying diction types helps to tell more about what’s going on inside the writer’s or speaker’s mind. By mastering the types of diction, it is possible to take your writing and speaking ability to a higher level.


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