Types of Diction | Reading
Reviewed in a previous TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Reading subtest, authors choose words to convey a specific mood or tone within a story. These affect a reader’s emotions and conveys the author’s attitude toward a subject.
Similar to a story’s mood and tone, diction is an author’s or speaker’s choice of words used to create a style of writing. This style matches the purpose of a story, article, speech, etc. Let’s take a look at the two main types of diction in preparation for the TASC test.
Formal diction is found in works such as scholarly articles and journals, formal speeches, and professional presentations. Formal diction is used most commonly when authors or speakers are addressing highly educated audiences. People don’t typically speak in a formal tone when communicating in everyday conversation, as formal diction uses:
- Abstract words
- Words with Greek or Latin roots
- Sophisticated vocabulary
Informal diction uses causal language since the setting is familiar and comfortable – like in a family conversation, a personal letter, or a dialogue between friends. Informal diction is found in two forms:
- Colloquial diction uses common, everyday words.
- Slang diction uses contemporary words that could have an impolite meaning.
Examples of Formal and Informal Diction
- Formal diction is found in a poem titled “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by English poet John Keats:
“Ah, happy, happy boughs! That cannot shed Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu.”
The following words give this poem a formal diction:
- boughs (informal: branches)
- shed (informal: drop)
- nor (informal: or)
- bid (informal: tell)
- adieu (informal: goodbye)
- Informal, colloquial diction is found in an excerpt from Gary Miranda’s “The One That Got Away”:
“Man, you got a bird where your brain should be, he says, talking to me. I say: Perhaps you'd like to explain that figure of speech for the whole class.”
Addressing someone as “Man” and using common words give this piece of writing an informal, colloquial diction.
- Informal, slang diction is found in words such as:
- Wise up (colloquial: learn)
- Yanking my chain (colloquial: making me mad)
- Scaredy-cat (colloquial: afraid)