Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Week of January 13, 2013: Painting with Words
Wednesday, January 16—Diction

We’re continuing to look at the language elements that go into voice. Joyce
Sweeney, my mentor and a fabulous writing coach, recently led a seminar about
voice in Tampa Bay. We’ve already discussed the role of tone in voice. Today
we’ll look at diction. Joyce defined diction as “word choice.” Joyce said, “Every word
you choose impacts readers.” Tips she shared for making stellar word choices include:

§  Consciously choose each word
§  Avoid words that are too lofty, they can make your writing unemotional
§  Choose words that speak to your reader at their level, but don’t dumb down your word choices
§  Avoid adverbs—they usually indicate you’ve chosen a weak verb
§  Adjectives can ruin good verbs
§  Word choice is all about revision—keep revising until you have the perfect word choices

I thought back to some of the books I mentioned in Monday's post. Let’s look at some of the stellar diction/word choice in these books.

§  Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
as quiet as a dream; crunched; crisp; little gray footprints followed us; tree line of pines, black and pointy against the sky; The move made his face into a silver mask; Who-whoo-who-who-who-whooooooo; I could feel the cold, as if someone’s icy hand was palm-down on my back; whiter than the milk in a cereal bowl
§  Avalanche Annie: A Not-So-Tall Tale by Lisa Wheeler
Michisota; Mount Himalachia; Annie Halfpint; Her voice booms soft as thunder; Her skin feels smooth as gravel; It started on a noonday in the frigid month of Mace; Yoohoo Valley; They polished up their parkas; They saddled up their smiles; They scaled Mount Himalachia in the latest snowshoe styles.
§  Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester L. Laminack
Every Saturday I coasted down our long, steep drive, slowing only enough to turn onto Thompson Street, then left onto Bells Mill Road; Pedal, pedal, pedal; Every Saturday Mammaw was there, sitting on her old metal glider—criiick=craaack-criiick-craaack; sunlight poured through the windows like a waterfall and spilled over the countertops, pooling up on the checkerboard floor; Golden Eagle Syrup; Mammaw rolled it out on the flour-dusted cloth

If ever there were examples of choosing every word carefully and precisely, those are the examples. I challenge you to read more works by Yolen, Wheeler, and Laminack and see how their word choices/diction are noticeable and distinctive in everything they write.

For You To Do:
Quick! Name your favorite picture book of all times. Now go reread that book and note the diction/word choices throughout. I bet you’ll find that each word has been chosen with great care—that’s one of the reasons you love that book, consciously or unconsciously.

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