What Is Nuance in Reading?

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How to Recognize and Use Oxymorons

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Nuance
  • 1:07 Connotation
  • 2:55 Subtext
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Sometimes, the way something is written can change its very ideas. During this lesson, we'll examine nuance, or subtle differences in meaning, and how elements like connotation and subtext can create a nuanced piece.


Hunter is confused; he was watching the news the other day and heard someone say that the topic they were discussing was 'nuanced.' This is a word that Hunter has heard before in relation to reading but he's not sure exactly what it means.

Nuance refers to slight and subtle differences in shades of meaning. Something that is nuanced has many different shades of meaning, in the same way that a photo might have many different shades of gray. This sounds good in theory to Hunter, but he's still confused. What does it mean for something to have nuance? He asks his English teacher what it would mean if he was reading something that was 'nuanced?'

His English teacher gives him this example; imagine that a character in a novel is walking across the room. Think about how it would be different if that character marched across the room versus if that character shuffled across the room. Hunter is starting to understand nuance but it's still kind of hard for him to understand. To help him out, let's look at two elements that can contribute to nuance, connotation and subtext.


Hunter gets that nuance often involves subtle shades of meaning and he understood the difference in the example his English teacher gave, of the person marching or shuffling across the room. But he'd still like some clarification; is it just about word choice?

Nuance is made up of many things and word choice is just one of them, but it is an important element. Connotation is the ideas or feelings associated with specific words. For example, saying that a person shuffled across the room, comes with a specific connotation that perhaps one is old or unwell. Describing a person as marching across the room on the other hand, implies that one is in charge.

Connotation can be found in many different words. Think about adjectives often used to describe people who don't give up: strong-willed, determined, stubborn and persistent are just a few examples. But each one means a slightly different thing and each one has a different feeling associated with it.

For example, saying that someone is stubborn usually has a negative connotation. That is, it comes with a negative feeling. Stubborn is not how most people want to be described. On the other hand, describing someone as determined means almost the same thing, but it has more of a positive connotation. Being determined is a good thing and that word comes with positive feelings.

Hunter can see how connotation is linked to nuance. The words that are chosen can make a huge difference in how the reader sees things. A character who is determined might be seen as better than a character who is stubborn, for example. The words have different connotations but there are only subtle differences in the meanings of the words so they are nuanced as well.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account