Diction is the words chosen and the personality of the language to be used in relation to the context of the situation. It is generally agreed that there is no correct diction, as it is dependent upon the situation, context and the purpose of the language. The appropriateness of a word and its efficiency is usually based on the actual appearance of the word, how it sounds, and its meaning. Each word lends its own character, which can shape the sentence.
When speaking, a person may find that while he or she wishes to convey the same meaning to different people, a different type of phrasing is more appropriate for each audience. For more professional settings to the point, factual, and objective words might be preferable, whereas more emotional and subjective words are better suited when speaking to friends and family. When giving a speech, deliberately exaggerating or under-exaggerating a point with the choice of words may have a profound effect. Children may prefer people to use more illustrative and sensory words. Often, in prose and novels different types of diction may be used to convey different personality types for each character.
Although the general belief is that there is no wrong diction, many people believe there are guidelines that should be followed to choose the best word. Abstract and lengthy vocabulary words are usually unnecessary, and concrete and sensory words are more appealing instead. Words that are specific to the topic are almost always available. For example, instead of “John walked into the school,” the sentence, “John limped into Washington High School,” is more preferable. Using adectives and adverbs is usually inefficient. For instance, saying “Sally walked confidently and proudly down the street” does not work as well as saying, “Sally strutted down the street.”
In poetry, diction considers not only the choice of words, but also the order of the words as important to set the tone and layers within the poem. The exact words used in a poem can also shape the mood and complexity of the poem. Certain items are purposefully added or left out and placed in certain orders to convey the exact meaning and tone. With poetry, using specific or concrete words and phrases is not as important. In fact, many poets spend much of their time researching and choosing the right words and order of the words before they actually begin to write.