Diction examples are available in nearly every novel you read.
Diction refers to how people speak that sets the story’s tone, depending on the area, culture, and audience.
It is a literary device used to make the flow and tone of your writing more genuine and appropriate for the content.
Diction in literature is necessary to make the story feel genuine and for the reader to feel truly immersed in the story.
This article will provide several diction examples, from everyday speech to formal settings.
8 Different Types of Diction With Examples
1. Formal Diction
Formal diction is writing in a sophisticated formal language. It is used for speeches, business letters, and other business writing.
It does not use slang words and is usually concise, following a straightforward approach. In most nonfiction writing, novels about courtroom dramas, and other business-type writing, formal diction is used.
Formal diction can make for a boring read when not used correctly.
2. Colloquial Diction
Colloquial diction is used to describe the period of a piece of literature or the geographical area of a piece of literature. It is a type of informal diction.
Colloquial expressions can be confusing if the reader is unfamiliar with the period or place the story is taking place.
While using such words can be a turn-off, the story becomes more genuine and believable when these informal words and word choices are used.
For example, Stephen King sets most of his books in Maine, where snowstorms are referred to as “Nor’easters” and “Ayuh” is a common term meaning “yes“.
There’s a Nor’easter comin, I reckon. Ayuh.
In the above example of colloquial diction, a person from Maine, or New England, for that matter, would understand that this sentence equates to: There’s a snowstorm coming, I think. Yes.
These colloquial words describe a specific diction to a group of people from a particular place or time.
3. Informal Diction
Informal diction leaves out stuffy, proper grammar, proper English words in favor of the conversational tone and manner that most people speak in.
It is important to think of how ordinary people talk when using informal diction.
Informal diction examples include yep, nope, I dunno, and hey.
We see examples of diction of this type in most novels, as friends, family members, and coworkers often use informal language in real-life conversations.
4. Abstract Diction
Abstract diction in literature refers to words used that describe something that is not tangible.
Feelings, emotions, and thoughts all count as abstract diction.
Abstract language includes using phrases like feel, think, thought, know, wonder, and guess.
In literature, a diction of this type adds humanity and sincerity to the story or text. Not often used in academic writing, this is one of those diction types seen almost exclusively in fiction writing.
5. Poetic Diction
Poetic diction is the word choice used in poetry that helps to establish a rhythm, evoke emotion, and cause one to think. Usually descriptive, this is one of the diction types that can be appreciated more in songwriting and poetry than in stories or nonfiction.
6. Concrete Diction
Concrete diction refers to using terms that nearly every reader can understand, regardless of where they live, who they are, or what sort of text they are reading. Examples of diction of this type are car, house, tree, dog.
Proper grammar is employed, but the word choice is intentionally left simple so that no readers are confused.
Diction examples of this type include using “car” instead of “Ford F-150” or saying “house” instead of “split level ranch style home“. Everyone knows what a car is, just like everyone knows a house.
Keeping it simple so that everyone reading can comprehend what is being discussed is concrete diction.
7. Slang Diction
Slang diction is one of the informal types of diction that is never present in formal writing.
It ignores grammatical rules and focuses on popular terminology in the time and region it takes place.
Using regional expressions and a particular style that denotes a shorthand form of expressions mainly used by younger people or teenagers, slang diction has specific words that go in and out of fashion depending upon the time era in which they are used.
For example, the 1990s had different slang terms than what is currently popular. Other words have replaced certain words used then.
That party was totally rad! Mike is one happenin’ dude! (1990s)
That party was sick! Mike is lit, brah. Totally the GOAT! (current)
These examples are actually related terms, but they sound very different.
Each generation has its own unique style of slang, and sometimes, it is even more exact due to a specific region.
For example, people in New York City may have different current slang than people in California. And people in Mississippi may have an altogether different set of words.
Either way, the two examples above are informal ways of saying the same thing, using different slang terms. What they both mean is: That party was great. Mike was a fantastic host.
8. Pedantic Diction
Pedantic diction is a form of formal diction, but it engages an elevated language that usually includes jargon unique to a specific profession.
Business documents or legal papers may use pedantic diction that includes long words that only people familiar with the profession will fully understand.
Example: The trial setting is for January 10, 2022, provided that discovery has been made and accepted. Petitioner seeks to file a motion to continue barring dispute from the defendant. Counsel submitted petition, and filing is imminent.
The sentence means that the trial date has been set. The evidence has been submitted and accepted to and by the court. The person filing the lawsuit wants to postpone the trial if the defendant is okay with it. So, the attorney filed a request for the trial to be postponed. Once the request is granted, a new trial date will be scheduled.
The reader understands what is said, so long as they have some basic knowledge of legal terminology. See the below sentence for another example of pedantic diction.
Example: The patient is in ICU for post-op recovery following a major myocardial infarction. Patient was defibbed at 2240 hours and was stabilized prior to surgery. Patient is obese and hypertensive, late 40s, male. Vented for surgery, respiration remains stable.
What does the above sentence mean? Do you have to be a doctor to understand it? While the answer is no, it can be difficult to understand if you do not know the medical world or its terminology.
The sentence means that the patient is recovering from surgery after a major heart attack. They had to revive him late last night but ensured he was stable before surgery. The patient is overweight, has high blood pressure, and is in his late 40s. He is breathing okay now.
What Diction and Tone Should an Author Choose?
How do you know which form of diction to use in your writing?
The diction style and literary terms used by Mark Twain would not make sense if they had been written in the style of William Shakespeare, but how did these two writers know what sort of language to use so that their readers would understand, believe, and love the stories they penned?
Part of the diction definition has to do with how the author wants the reader to perceive the characters in a story. Going by this diction definition makes it a little easier to decide what sort of diction to use for your particular story.
Human beings are not all the same. Some of us speak more formally than others. Some of us use foul language in social and professional settings because that is what we are used to. Their communication style probably depends on their environment or their era.
If you want to be a better writer, you have to look at each of your characters and decide on their personality before writing dialogue for them. The personality you give each character, whether for a novel, short stories, or poetry, dictates what diction to use.
For example, suppose you are writing a story about three people accused of having murdered someone: the husband, the neighbor, and the ex-boyfriend who is an ex-convict. The author has to decide how he wants you, the reader, to see each character, so he will likely use different diction and words for each accused. Here is an example.
Investigator: Please be honest with us. Tell us why you did it. This is all going to get so much easier for both of us if you admit to it.
Husband: I swear, it’s not me! You’re wasting everyone’s precious time pointing fingers at me. I would never kill Heidi. I loved her! I’ll do anything to clear my name so you can start looking for her actual killer. Please! Stop wasting time and find out who killed my wife, damn it!
Neighbor: Well, I just don’t understand why you’d even speak to me. I spoke with my attorney, and he instructed me not to say a word. I am innocent and have an airtight alibi. I don’t mind talking to you. I was at a lecture at the university the whole afternoon when Heidi was killed. In fact, I had tea with Ms. Miller, my secretary, after the lecture, and that went on until half-past six. You see, I’m applying to be the head of my department, and Ms. Miller is helping me to prepare for this transition.
Ex Boyfriend/Convict: Of course y’all wanna point the finger at me. It’s gotta be the con, right? I ain’t seen Heidi in years. Wasn’t even thinkin bout her when I got out of the pen. I wasn’t anywhere around when she croaked. I didn’t even know where the broad and her square of a husband lived till y’all told me just now.
All three of the characters in the above example maintain that they are innocent of the crime. However, they use wildly different words and forms of diction.
The husband is going for an emotional response from the audience with his word choice and diction. The neighbor is pedantic and formal, giving the reader the impression that he is full of himself and pompous. And the ex-boyfriend is informal, uses slang, and is stereotypical of a careless ex who has been on the other side of the law.
Note, however, that diction can change dramatically within a story, depending on who the characters are.
Another thing to keep in mind regarding diction and tone is genre.
You would not use the same diction for a horror novel as a romance novel.
Each author must understand the genre of their story and their audience to adjust their sentence structure, word choice, and diction accordingly.