Word Choice

When analyzing the author's diction, we need to build our vocabulary and look at ways in which to describe the language.

Consider the level of formality

  1. FORMAL: elevated, learned, pretentious, ornate, flowery, archaic, scholarly, pedantic, elegant, dignified, impersonal, elaborate, sophisticated, formal, cultured, poetic, abstract, esoteric (hard to understand), colorful, eloquent, euphonious

  2. INFORMAL: candid, detached, plain, simple, straightforward, informal, conversational, concrete, unadorned

  3. CASUAL/SLANG: abrupt, terse, laconic, simple, rustic, vulgar, slang, jargon, dialect, simple, colloquial

Consider the type of language used

  1. Denotative language: authentic, actual, apparent, literal, journalistic, straightforward, concrete, precise

  2. Connotative language: poetic, lyrical, symbolic, metaphoric, sensuous, grotesque, picturesque, abstract, whimsical, euphemistic, figurative, obscure, allegorical, suggestive, idyllic, emotive

Consider the tone

  1. POSITIVE TONES: cheerful, eager, lighthearted, hopeful, exuberant, enthusiastic, complimentary, confident, cheery, trusting, optimistic, loving, passionate, amused, elated, sympathetic, compassionate, proud, wistful, longing, romantic, humorous

  2. NEGATIVE TONES: bitter, angry, outraged, accusing, incensed, turbulent, furious, wrathful, inflammatory, irritated, disgusted, indignant, irate, caustic, condescending, cynical, pompous, satiric, critical, grotesque, melancholic, mournful, apprehensive

  3. NEUTRAL TONES: objective, nostalgic, candid, restrained, detached, instructive, learned, factual, informative, authoritative, disinterested, judicial, impartial, frank, aloof, calm, imploring


  • In Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte writes in a connotative, elevated style using figurative and sensuous language in order to evoke an emotional response or pathos from the reader of Jane’s plight at Gateshead.

  • In Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad writes in a connotative, high style. His use of abstract, poetic, and ornate language establishes existential themes of fate and meaninglessness.

  • In Malgudi Days, R.K. Narayan writes in a denotative, plain style using simple, but sometimes ironic language to depict ordinary life in South India and to suggest that things do not always worked out as hoped.

  • In In Cold Blood, Truman Capote writes with colorful, figurative prose using symbolic and metaphoric language in order to develop the emotional complexities of the killers.

Biased Language


  • Loaded language: words or phrases that carry a strong emotional connotation to appeal emotionally to the audience or reader e.g. "America's first invasion"; "terrorist," "freedom," "assault," etc.

    • Sentence starter: The author utilizes loaded language such as "______" and "_____" in order to appeal emotionally to the reader so that ____.

  • Name-calling: labeling an opponent with a term that the audience would find negative e.g. liar, crook, etc.

    • Sentence starter: The writer relies on name-calling in order to evoke negative emotions about ________ because _______.

  • Dysphemisms: words with unpleasant connotations that are used to evoke negative feelings about someone or something e.g. referring someone as a dog or a cockroach.

    • Sentence starter: The author uses dysphemistic language such as "_____" and "_____" in order to evoke negative feelings about _____ because ____.


  • Generalities: broad or vague statements that are used to evoke a positive emotion e.g. we must do what is in the best interest of society; I stand for freedom for this wonderful nation.

    • Sentence starter: The author relies on glittering generalities in his language such as "___" and "____" in order to ____.

  • Euphemisms: words used to avoid unpleasant or offensive terms, using less harsh language: "the man passed this evening" instead of "died" OR "ethnic cleansing" instead of "genocide."

    • Sentence starter: The author uses euphemistic language such as "_______" and "______" in order to ______.