Word choice has less to do with the impressiveness of the writer's vocabulary as the meaning behind his or her selections. For instance, when analyzing a writer's word choices, consider the type ofdiction he/she uses:
- Is it general or specific? General diction comprises word choices that would be familiar to most audiences. The more specific the diction, the more specialized or technical the intended audience.
- Is it abstract or concrete? Metaphoric or literal? Highly abstract and metaphoric diction creates a much different style than does concrete and literal diction. Generally, the more literal the diction, the more "serious" or "academic" the writing. Abstract diction tends to appear in a more literary context, although there is no strict rule forbidding its use in serious or academic writing.
- Is it formal or informal? Is there a lot of jargon, or mostly common words? Formal diction tends to avoid personal pronouns like "I," "me," "we," "us," and "you," and may use slightly more sophisticated vocabulary. Informal diction embraces personal pronouns and tends toward uncomplicated vocabulary. Common words are considered generally-known, rather than specialized, and give writing a universal appeal. The use of jargon creates a feeling of community or intimacy, but with a specific audience.
- Is it Latinate or Anglo-Saxon? Latinate words are typically polysyllabic, abstract, and delicate. They lend diction a dreaminess or distance and tend to be descriptive and evocative. Anglo-Saxon words are generally monosyllabic and concrete. They lend diction a sense of forcefulness and tend to be solid and immediate.
Another thing to look for is the writer's use of figures of speech. These can run the gamut from worn-out clichés to highly clever, innovative metaphors. Generally, the use of clichés evokes a certain familiarity with the audience, much like the use of jargon does, and creates a more concrete, less abstract feel. Highly creative, metaphoric figures of speech are generally more at home in creative, emotional, and evocative pieces of writing.
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