Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
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 This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.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.


Levels of Diction

There are different levels of diction that are important for clarifying an author’s audience and purpose. Generally, rhetoricians recognize three levelshigh, 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.  
  • “Middle” diction is essentially neutral; that is, it isn’t especially formal or informal, and it can be used in a variety of settings to reach a broad audience. Essays and newspaper articles are examples of language that might use middle diction.  
  • “Low” diction refers to informal language, especially slang or colloquial speech. Magazine blurbs, casual social media posts, and texts to friends are all examples of this level of diction.