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Informal Diction: Definition & Example

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Instructor: Kara Wilson

Kara Wilson is a 6th-12th grade English and Drama teacher. She has a B.A. in Literature and an M.Ed, both of which she earned from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Chances are, you have already used informal diction today. In this lesson, we are going to discuss what informal diction is and how to identify it. We will examine some examples of it and compare it to other types of diction so that we understand when it should and should not be used.

What Is Informal Diction?

If you have spoken aloud or communicated via email today, you have likely used some type of informal diction. Maybe you used it when ordering coffee from a barista or when g-chatting with a friend. Informal diction is all around us, every day. Before looking at some examples, let's first examine what diction is.

Diction refers to the words and phrases an individual chooses to use in speech or in writing. Informal diction, then, is the relaxed, conversational language that we use every day.

Informal diction is used to address a familiar audience such as family or friends. Personal letters, emails, or documents that have a conversational tone are all written using informal diction. Novels may also be written in this style to show characters' personalities by using slang, a certain dialect (a style of language from a specific region or group of people), or idioms (expressions whose figurative meanings are very different from their literal meanings).

Understanding Different Types of Diction

The way that we speak and write varies based on our audience. If a professor is going to deliver a lecture, he or she will likely use formal diction, which uses sophisticated, often technical language. If you are writing a paper for a college course, then you are typically going to use standard diction, which is more advanced than informal diction. If you are going to write a short story about two teenagers going off to college, then you would want to use informal diction to make it sound believable.

Read these five sentences and see if you can identify what type of diction is being used:

1. It's raining cats and dogs!

2. I hear y'all are fixin' to move to Alabama.

3. In order to fully understand a character's motives, one must carefully analyze each scene.

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