/dik"sheuhn/, n.1. style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words: good diction.2. the accent, inflection, intonation, and speech-sound quality manifested by an individual speaker, usually judged in terms of prevailing standards of acceptability; enunciation.[1400-50; late ME diccion < LL diction- (s. of dictio) word, L: rhetorical delivery, equiv. to dict(us) said, spoken (ptp. of dicere) + -ion- -ION]Syn. 1. usage, language. DICTION, PHRASEOLOGY, WORDING refer to the means and the manner of expressing ideas. DICTION usually implies a high level of usage; it refers chiefly to the choice of words, their arrangement, and the force, accuracy, and distinction with which they are used: The speaker was distinguished for his excellent diction; poetic diction. PHRASEOLOGY refers more to the manner of combining the words into related groups, and esp. to the peculiar or distinctive manner in which certain technical, scientific, and professional ideas are expressed: legal phraseology. WORDING refers to the exact words or phraseology used to convey thought: the wording of a will.
* * *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. Most ideas have a number of alternate words that the writer can select to suit his purposes. “Children,” “kids,” “youngsters,” “youths,” and “brats,” for example, all have different evocative values.The widest scope for literary style is offered at the level of word choice. Phrases such as “the little house,” “the diminutive house,” and “the petite house” have overlapping or synonymous meanings; but “little” may suggest endearment as well as size; “diminutive,” good construction; and “petite,” prettiness. Samuel Johnson, who believed that great thoughts were always general and that it was not the business of poets to “number the streaks of the tulips,” habitually used general, abstract, non-emotive words: “This quality of looking forward into futurity seems the unavoidable condition of a being whose motions are gradual, and whose life is progressive” (The Rambler (Rambler, The), 1750). Most modern writers, however, prefer particular, concrete, and emotive words and take advantage of the evocative values of technical, dialect, colloquial, or archaic terms when it suits their purpose. George Meredith used the archaic “damsel” to suggest the immaturity of a heroine; Ronald Firbank, in “Mrs. Henedge lived in a small house with killing stairs just off Chesham Place” (Vainglory, 1915), uses “killing” colloquially, in contrast to the standard words around it.
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