How Diction Influences the Style of a Speech

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  • 0:01 What Is Diction, Anyway?
  • 1:04 Word Choice for Context
  • 2:33 Types of Diction
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Audience understanding has much to do with the speech writer's word choice. Diction involves an accurate, appropriate and understandable selection of words to better convey the meaning of a speech.

What Is Diction, Anyway?

So your friend, Derwood, tells you a story over a few beers. He starts out by saying, 'I suffered no animosity toward Smitty for pilfering the residual chicken wings from my plateā€¦.' You're like, 'Hey dude! What's with the formal mumbo jumbo?'

Well, it just may be that your friend just finished up a lesson on diction, or word choice. You see, diction is all about choosing the right words in a speech. A writer's word choice should be accurate, appropriate, and understandable. Nothing will confuse an audience more than using words that don't make sense, don't fit, or cannot be decoded.

To use our saga of the stolen snacks from above, Derwood could have used different word choices to make the same point. Considering you are his audience and you were having this conversation in a casual setting, he could have said, 'I wasn't ticked off that Smitty snagged the leftover wings.' You see, the word choice was better suited in this statement because of the informal setting.

Keep this in mind as we learn about context.

Word Choice for Context

Context is part or all of a phrase that comes before or after a term that influences its meaning. Think of it this way: words have two meanings. Well, not really, but they do have a denotation and a connotation.

A denotation is the dictionary meaning or literal meaning, while connotation is the implied meaning. For example, a speaker performing before an audience of hippies might say, 'I know you are feeling my groove because I can see your heads nodding up and down like you are down with me.' But what he really means is, 'I am confident that you understand what I am saying by the positive body language.'

Stated either way, the bottom line is the speaker is assuring the audience that they agree, literally. Speaking of connotations, it is important to mention that these can produce positive and negative implied meanings. Think of the horror of a restaurant diner when the waiter reads the evening's entrée specials.

'Tonight, the chef features a chicken that has been plucked of its feathers, hacked up with a very sharp knife and held to a fire to near incineration then drowned in a sauce of twigs and alcohol.' Not so yummy! However, when used in a positive way, connotations can be deliciously delightful to hear.

How's this? 'For tonight's entrée, the chef prepared a carefully carved chicken breast, grilled tender in a light drizzle of white wine rosemary reduction.' The latter conjures up a much more positive image and sounds pretty tasty, too!

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