Diction Examples: Formal and Informal (2023)

When a writer chooses words that make their writing sound a certain way, they’re choosing their diction. In English, each word has a slightly different meaning and evokes different senses and emotions. Choosing the right words for your purposes determines what diction you are using. Keep reading to learn more about formal vs. informal diction with several diction examples.

Diction Examples: Formal and Informal (1) diction examples in writing

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What Is Diction?

Diction is a writer or speaker's word choice that helps define the written or spoken word and expresses personal style. Consider the dictionary – a book full of word choices. There are two main types of diction that a writer uses to establish their voice and message. These types are:

  • formal diction - writing that establishes a professional tone, such as business writing or formal essays
  • informal diction - conversational or friendly writing style

Though diction is highly personal, it's also important to remember your audience when choosing an appropriate style. Consider the examples below to help you understand the way diction changes the writer's message.

Formal vs. Informal Diction

The rules of grammar ensure that your writing is understandable. However, within the general framework of the English language, you can also choose to write formally or informally. There are different degrees of formality in writing, and these range from highly formal research papers to quick texts you might send to a friend.

Formal diction involves choosing descriptive, precise words that are polite and proper. Sentences in formal diction are often longer. Informal diction, on the other hand, often assumes that the audience already knows what you're talking about and generally uses shorter words. Sentences may be incomplete or ignore some finer points of grammar and usage.

Examples of Formal vs. Informal Diction

To get a sense of how formal and informal diction affects the message, consider these greetings:

  • formal: Hello, young man. It is a true pleasure to make your acquaintance. How are you feeling today?
  • informal: Hey, kid. Nice to meet ya. What's up?

In the first example, the speaker uses longer words such as "pleasure" and "acquaintance" as well as longer sentences. By contrast, the informal speaker uses monosyllabic words like "kid", slang like "ya" and very short sentences. Though both examples convey the same information, they do so with different levels of formality.

  • formal: The man spoke to his father in a low voice so others could not hear.
  • informal: That guy told his dad secrets.
  • formal: Would you care to explain the reasoning behind your decision to leave the gathering early?
  • informal: Why'd you leave the party so soon?
  • formal: Her terrible temper won't endear her to many if she refuses to control her outbursts.
  • informal: If she doesn't stop yelling, she'll lose all her friends.

As a reader, you can tell the difference between the formal examples and informal examples. Using the correct diction sets the right tone for an audience and makes your message clear.

(Video) GCSE English Language: Analysing Formal Diction vs Informal Diction

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Going to Extremes With Diction

Although formal and informal diction styles are the main styles of writing, there are other types of diction to consider. Pedantic diction, colloquial diction and slang diction styles often bring formal and informal writing to extremes. They can include jargon, colloquialisms and slang.

Pedantic Diction

Formal writing can go to extremes when writers use pedantic diction. Pedantic diction is very detailed and usually includes industry jargon, often in formal writing. Jargon includes highly technical language or specialized terms that only people in a certain group or industry understand. For example, consider this job description:

The candidate must be adept at both the latest communications technology and heritage voice systems to keep all stakeholders informed of developing trends in the workspace.

Could you tell that the paragraph above is looking for a secretary? The overly complex terms like "communications technology" and "heritage voice systems" are jargon, and these words often obscure meaning instead of making things clear. However, to people in the industry, the description is perfectly understandable.

Colloquial Diction

On the opposite end of the formality spectrum is colloquial diction. Colloquial language is highly informal and may include regional expressions and spellings that reflect dialect and non-standard pronunciations. For example:

  • She was hotter than a hen on a July Sunday. (Southern colloquialism)
  • My neighbor is wicked smart! (New England colloquialism)
  • You betcha I’m watchin’ the big game. (Midwest colloquialism)

The first sentence is highly informal, and it assumes that the reader understands that the hen is hot not just because it's summer, but because she's likely to end up in the soup pot for Sunday dinner as part of rural tradition. It’s an effective way to make a character sound more relatable and interesting. In fiction, colloquialisms can help writers develop characters that talk like real people.

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(Video) Creative Writing: Diction

Slang Diction

Words that are specific to a period in time or are considered “trendy” are often present in slang diction. Young characters use slang diction that is specific to their generation. In the 21st century, texting language can be considered slang diction. For example:

  • OMG I’m highkey in love with that dude. I’m so extra lol.
  • Whoa! Your brother is the GOAT!
  • That party is going to be straight fire!

Like jargon and colloquial writing, slang can exclude some readers from understanding your point. It's important to consider your audience before you begin to write. If you are writing for a small group of people who all know your terminology, jargon, colloquialisms, or slang may be appropriate.

Examples of Formal Diction in Literature

Diction sets the tone so if the diction used is formal the whole tone of the writing is formal. This can give a sense of seriousness, power or even artistic effect, as in these examples.

Pride and Prejudice

The first few lines from Pride and Prejudice set a formal scene. Its long sentences and elevated vocabulary communicate that the rest of the book will have proper, formal diction.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

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Hamlet

Despite Shakespearean diction’s colloquial influence on the modern English language, it is still quite formal. Its long words and sophisticated sentence structure makes the language in Hamlet both beautiful to hear and meaningful to understand.

(Video) S7E2: Formal and Informal Diction

"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so."

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness describes the utter horror of humanity in its barest form. Conrad’s formal diction describes scenes in a very precise and beautiful way – contrasting the harsh reality of the plot effectively.

"The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman lighthouse, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway-a great stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars." Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Examples of Informal Diction in Literature

Using informal diction, including slang and colloquialisms, gives writing a lighter tone, making the piece more down to earth and less lofty. Notice how these diction examples from literature also use colloquial diction to establish where their characters are from.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain’s use of words like “light out” and “sivilize” establishes Huck as a Southern boy with a bit of an attitude. His informal, colloquial dialect does much of the characterization work for him.

"But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, speaks like an educated teenager. He sounds like a real person who interrupts himself and tries his best to communicate his ideas. Holden also uses some slang diction, including “crazy cliff” and “and all.”

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

(Video) What is an example of diction?

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Janie, the character speaking here, is an African-American woman in the 1930’s who is speaking up to her husband for the first time. Colloquialisms such as “God gits familiar wid us womenfolks” and “it’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty” establish her as a woman in the South who is speaking her mind.

"Sometimes God gits familiar wid us womenfolks too and talks His inside business. He told me how surprised He was 'bout y'all turning out so smart after Him makin' yuh different; and how surprised y'all is goin' tuh be if you ever find out you don't know half as much 'bout us as you think you do. It's so easy to make yo'self out God Almighty when you ain't got nothin' tuh strain against but women and chickens."

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

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Know Your Audience

When you let your audience guide your diction, you're more likely to communicate your ideas effectively. Academic writing requires careful attention to grammar and use of precise vocabulary so that your meaning is clear. Save slang terms and other informal expressions for emails, texts to friends or telling a story face to face. For more ways to describe diction, check out a list of strong words that describe diction.

Jennifer Gunner

Staff Writer

FAQs

Is there formal or informal diction? ›

Definition Diction refers to word choice. The words you choose should suit your purpose and audience. Application There are three common levels of diction – formal, popular, and informal. The level of diction you use should convey the correct tone (how you sound) to the reader.

What is an example of diction? ›

Diction is the careful selection of words to communicate a message or establish a particular voice or writing style. For example, flowy, figurative language creates colorful prose, while a more formal vocabulary with concise and direct language can help drive home a point.

What's informal diction? ›

Informal diction is the colloquial word choice of everyday speech, generally lacking technical jargon or sophisticated language.

What is the example of formal? ›

An example of formal is a dinner party at a mansion where everyone dresses up in fancy clothes and is very polite. An example of formal is when a judge gives official approval of something. An evening gown.

What are examples of formal words? ›

Formal and Informal words in English
INFORMALFORMAL
plus/alsomoreover/furthermore
point outindicate
put ininsert
put offpostpone
77 more rows

What are the 4 types of diction? ›

What are the different types of diction? There are a few different diction types, but the common ones include formal, informal, pedantic, pedestrian, slang, colloquial, abstract, concrete, and poetic.

What does formal diction mean? ›

Diction A writer's choice of words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language, which combine to help create meaning. Formal diction consists of a dignified, impersonal, and elevated use of language; it follows the rules of syntax exactly and is often characterized by complex words and lofty tone.

What are the 5 types of diction? ›

Diction entails word choice by a writer or a speaker. There are various types of diction, including formal diction, slang diction, informal diction, concrete diction, colloquial diction, and abstract diction. A good diction should have accurate and easily understandable words.

What is the diction of a text? ›

Diction is word choice. When writing, use vocabulary suited for the type of assignment. Words that have almost the same denotation (dictionary meaning) can have very different connotations (implied meanings).

What is simple diction? ›

Answer and Explanation: Simple diction refers to the use of clear and understandable words in a piece of writing. The words are also arranged in a straightforward and uncomplicated way.

How do you find diction in text? ›

Highlight words that convey emotion​ ​or show a particular dialect​ and connect these words to identify the particular style of diction the author is using. These conclusions will help you to understand the text and identify the diction used in the literary piece.

What is the difference between formal and informal language? ›

Formal language does not use colloquialisms, contractions or first-person pronouns such as “I” or “We.” Informal language is more casual and spontaneous. It is used when communicating with friends or family either in writing or in conversation.

How would you describe diction? ›

Diction is simply the words the writer chooses to convey a particular meaning. When analyzing diction, look for specific words or short phrases that seem stronger than the others (ex. Bragg's use of slingshot instead of travel). Diction is NEVER the entire sentence!

What is formal text? ›

Formal writing is written for an audience you don't know on a personal level. It's typically more complex than informal writing. Formal writing has a less personal tone and the language is more proper.

How do you write a formal sentence? ›

Formal Writing Voice
  1. Do not use first-person pronouns ("I," "me," "my," "we," "us," etc.). ...
  2. Avoid addressing readers as "you." ...
  3. Avoid the use of contractions. ...
  4. Avoid colloquialism and slang expressions. ...
  5. Avoid nonstandard diction. ...
  6. Avoid abbreviated versions of words. ...
  7. Avoid the overuse of short and simple sentences.

How do we use formal and informal English? ›

Formal English is used in “serious” texts and situations — for example, in official documents, books, news reports, articles, business letters or official speeches. Informal English is used in everyday conversations and in personal letters.

What is the difference between a formal and informal essay? ›

Formal essays may be research based, factual and usually written in a third person point of view (he, she, her, and himself). Informal essays on the other hand are also known as personal essays and are mostly subjective with the writer giving his/her opinion. It is usually written in a first person voice.

How do you change informal words to formal words? ›

How do you rewrite a sentence into a formal tone?
  1. If you use first-person pronouns (“I,” “me,” “my,” “we,” “us,” etc.), don't use second-person words.
  2. Avoid addressing readers as “you.”.
  3. Use contractions when possible.
  4. Avoid colloquialism / slang expressions.
  5. Avoid nonstandard diction.
  6. Use abbreviated forms of words.

What is standard diction? ›

Standard. Standard diction is closely related to informal diction, but with minor differences. Such diction is often used when addressing a well-educated audience; it's the level used for college papers and business communications. Instead of using the slang term "wise up," standard diction would use “learn.”

What is diction in English literature? ›

diction, choice of words, especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness. Any of the four generally accepted levels of diction—formal, informal, colloquial, or slang—may be correct in a particular context but incorrect in another or when mixed unintentionally.

What is an example of negative diction? ›

Negative diction refers to words associated with negative feelings. Some examples of negative diction are the words ''bizarre'' and ''strange,'' which seem more negative than the word ''different.

What are the 3 types of diction? ›

Generally, rhetoricians recognize three levels: high, middle, and low. While these terms survive from the ancient Romans, they still work well today. “High” diction can be thought of as formal or elevated: the sort of language used in research papers or formal speeches, for example.

What are characteristics of formal diction? ›

Formal language is characterized by the use of standard English, more complex sentence structures, infrequent use of personal pronouns, and lack of colloquial or slang terms. Informal language allows the use of nonstandard English forms, colloquial vocabulary and typically shorter sentence structures.

What is high formal diction? ›

Formal diction, also known as high diction, has impersonal, dignified and elevated language.

Why is diction important in writing? ›

A work's diction forms one of its centrally important literary elements, as writers use words to convey action, reveal character, imply attitudes, identify themes, and suggest values. We can speak of the diction particular to a character, as in Iago's and Desdemona's very different ways of speaking in Othello.

What is diction and tone? ›

The distinctive style used by a writer or speaker is called diction. It includes vocabulary and the choice of words used to express emotions. The second use is the way the words are pronounced, the tone of the person, and the way he pauses while talking. Tone, however, refers to the pitch of the person.

What are the 4 types of diction? ›

What are the different types of diction? There are a few different diction types, but the common ones include formal, informal, pedantic, pedestrian, slang, colloquial, abstract, concrete, and poetic.

What are examples of poetic diction? ›

Keats' linguistic style and vocabulary carved out a niche for his own poetic diction. In his poem “Ode to a Nightingale” ,he uses the word 'Nightingale' instead of 'bird' which is of course a layman word. Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease”.

What is an example of a colloquial? ›

Some examples of informal colloquialisms can include words (such as “y'all” or “gonna” or “wanna”), phrases (such as “old as the hills” and “graveyard dead”), or sometimes even an entire aphorism (“There's more than one way to skin a cat” and “He needs to step up to the plate.”).

What is the difference between formal and informal language? ›

Formal language does not use colloquialisms, contractions or first-person pronouns such as “I” or “We.” Informal language is more casual and spontaneous. It is used when communicating with friends or family either in writing or in conversation.

What diction is used in the text? ›

As a literary device, diction refers to the linguistic choices made by a writer to convey an idea or point of view, or tell a story, in an effective way. The author's selection of words or vocabulary and the artistic arrangements of these words is what constitutes the style and establishes the voice of a literary work.

What is diction in writing? ›

Diction is word choice. When writing, use vocabulary suited for the type of assignment. Words that have almost the same denotation (dictionary meaning) can have very different connotations (implied meanings).

What is diction and its types? ›

Diction entails word choice by a writer or a speaker. There are various types of diction, including formal diction, slang diction, informal diction, concrete diction, colloquial diction, and abstract diction. A good diction should have accurate and easily understandable words.

How do you find diction in writing? ›

When analyzing diction, look for specific words or short phrases that seem stronger than the others (ex. Bragg's use of slingshot instead of travel). Diction is NEVER the entire sentence! Also, look for a pattern (or similarity) in the words the writer chooses (ex.

What is simple diction? ›

Answer and Explanation: Simple diction refers to the use of clear and understandable words in a piece of writing. The words are also arranged in a straightforward and uncomplicated way.

What do you mean by diction? ›

Definition of diction

1a : vocal expression : enunciation. b : pronunciation and enunciation of words in singing. 2 : choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness.

How do you identify colloquial words? ›

Words can be colloquialism examples if they demonstrate the regional dialect of the speaker, or it they are contractions or examples of profanity. Phrases and aphorisms are colloquialisms if they aren't literal usages, yet are widely understand within a geographical boundary.

What is slang diction in literature? ›

Slang diction contains words that are very specific to a region and time, and have been recently coined. These are words used today and spoken out loud by friends or close associates. Today, these words might include “dope,” “cancel” and “lit”. Seeing them in a poem would tell you exactly when that speaker was from.

What makes a word colloquial? ›

Colloquial language includes slang, along with abbreviations, contractions, idioms, turns-of-phrase, and other informal words and phrases known to most native speakers of a language or dialect.

What is formal and informal conversation? ›

Formal language does not use colloquialisms, contractions or first person pronouns such as 'I' or 'We'. Informal language is more casual and spontaneous. It is used when communicating with friends or family either in writing or in conversation.

How do we use formal and informal English? ›

We use formal language in situations that are serious or that involve people we don't know well. Informal language is more commonly used in situations that are more relaxed and involve people we know well. Formal language is more common when we write; informal language is more common when we speak.

What are the differences between formal and informal writing? ›

The main difference between formal and informal language in writing is that formal language is more rigid and less personal, whereas informal language is more easygoing and adaptive.

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