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Tone, Diction, Syntax, and Figurative Language

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English La Quinta del Puente

on 12 February 2018

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Transcript of Tone, Diction, Syntax, and Figurative Language

Tone, Diction, Syntax, and Figurative Language
What is diction?
Concrete vs. Abstract
What are the basic categories of figurative language?
What is syntax?
CONCRETE = nouns that describe tangible objects, usually those that exist in the "real" world.
Concrete language creates a distinct, often simple image in our mind. Concrete words usually evoke a
response from the reader.
EXAMPLES: Dog, computer, chair, baby, school
Use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device

"I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do. I was quaking from head to foot, and could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far."
(Mark Twain, "Old Times on the Mississippi")
may be used for emphasis, or to express a simple, complete fact

may express a complicated idea or series of events

Good writers use a balanced mix of short and long sentences. Using too many short sentences can make your writing seem simplistic and immature. Using too many long sentences can make your essay confusing and difficult to follow.
What is figurative language?
Figurative language (metaphor, simile, personification, imagery, hyperbole) makes colorful and interesting comparisons in order to help the reader understand or visualize part of an essay or story.
Makes a direct comparison:
“You are my sunshine.”


"Time, you thief"
(Leigh Hunt, "Rondeau")

"Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags
and throws away food."
(Austin O'Malley)

"Life is a zoo in a jungle."
(Peter De Vries)

An inanimate object or abstraction is given human qualities or abilities

"These are the lips of the lake, on which no beard grows. It licks its chops from time to time."
(Henry David Thoreau, Walden)
"It was the early afternoon of a sunshiny day with little winds playing hide-and-seek in it." (Katherine Mansfield)
Makes a comparison using like or as.


"Human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when we want to move the stars to pity."
(Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, 1856)

"The Duke´s moustache was rising and falling like seaweed on an ebb-tide."
(P.G. Wodehouse, Uncle Fred in the Springtime, 1939)

"My face looks like a wedding-cake left out in the rain."
(W.H. Auden)
Sentence Length and Type
What is tone?
The writer's attitude about a subject
What does this have to do with diction and syntax?
The author is able to create his/her tone through word choice and how those words are used in the writing.
When identifying tone, ask yourself these questions:
What seems to be the speaker's attitude in the passage?
Is more than one attitude/point of view expressed?
Does the passage have a noticeable emotional mood or atmosphere?
Can anything in the passage be described as irony?
Our diction should be as precise as possible. This means that we express exactly what we mean.


The bird didn't just fly, it soared.
The man wasn't upset, he was indignant.
Do the words have one or more syllables?
Is the diction formal or informal? Colloquial? Slangy? Filled with jargon?
Is the language concrete or abstract?
Is there a change in the level of diction in the passage?
Use these questions to analyze diction:
Types of Diction
Personal Writing
(bug, folks, job, kid, boss, get across)
Academic/Literary Writing
(germ, relatives, position, child, superior, communicate)
Conversational Language
(Is there a dialect?)
Highly Informal
(down to earth, DIY, for real, shotgun, John Hancock)
Special language of a profession/group
Ways to Characterize Diction
General vs. Specific
Denotative vs. Connotative
Cacophonous vs. Euphonious
Abstract vs. Concrete
look vs. gaze
walk vs. stride
cry vs. weep
more syllables
more complex
dictionary vs. emotional meaning
(wedding dress vs. wedding gown)
harsh vs. pleasant sounding
(maggot, butterfly)
not material vs. real/actual
Purpose of a good essay :
Discuss or explain ABSTRACT concepts by providing CONCRETE examples
We may certainly use abstract language as necessary, but we must always seek to connect ABSTRACT qualities or values to CONCRETE situations, objects, images, and people.
ABSTRACT = nouns that appeal to our imagination, which may include ideas, values, and non-tangible concepts.
We can understand abstract language, but we may not have a strong sensory response to it
EXAMPLES: Freedom, love, justice, peace, rights
CONCRETE language often contributes to strong IMAGERY (language that appeals to the five senses (VISUAL, AUDITORY, OLFACTORY (smell), TACTILE (touch), GUSTATORY (taste)).
"Bouncing into the room, she lit up the vicinity with a joyous glow on her face as she told about her fiance and their wedding plans."
What words create the feeling or mood?
“Figurative” is the opposite of “literal.” Literal language means words that the reader should take as “fact”; it describes literal reality. Figurative language may make a comparison that is interesting, but not “factual” reality.
Literal language:
The house was large.

Figurative language:
The house was a giant, glaring at all of the people who walked past.
Appeals to our senses

"A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."
William Wordsworth
Questions to consider:
Are the sentences simple and direct or complex and confusing?
Are there rhetorical questions in the passage?
Is there a variety in sentence patterns?
Does the author use repetition?
Does the author use parallel structure?
Simple vs. Complex
Parallel Structure
Rhetorical Question
Natural vs. Inverted Order
Tom ate the rat.
Because Tom ate the rat, he died.
"To err is human, to forgive divine."
Saskatoons grow in Saskatchewan.
In Saskatchewan grow saskatoons.
words, sounds, ideas used more than once to enhance rhyme and create emphasis
question that expects no answer
Types of sentences? Length? Verbs? etc.
Words that create the mood?
Harvard accepted her, allowing this child the opportunity to study in the same halls as the many famous scholars before her, giving her the chance to excel in her field in the best college in the United States.
She huddled in the corner, clutching her tattered blanket and shaking convulsively, as she feverishly searched the room for the unknown dangers that awaited her.
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