Skip to main content

What is diction?

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Diction refers to word choice—choosing the right word for the right situation, which can set the scene or evoke a particular mood in writing. Diction can tell you something about a writer’s attitude towards a subject (or even their readers), their background and interests, where they grew up, or how they see themselves. It can make a piece of writing simple and pleasing to read—or difficult and boring.  

Determining the “right” word for a given situation involves understanding its denotation, or dictionary definition, and its connotation, or the subtler meanings a word can pick up in certain contexts. Authors also have to consider what they want the text to achieve, and what readers will want.