Teaching the Diction Analysis

This week my students are working on the diction analysis, which is an assignment requiring the students do the following:

  • choose a section of text containing about 150 words,
  • identify at least 6 literary devices, persuasive techniques, or logical fallacies,
  • explain the effect of each device,
  • compose a paragraph explaining the context of the selection,
  • write a paragraph explaining why the selection was chosen (should have importance to the entire text),
  • express why the selection was chosen (what stood out about it to the student), and
  • cite the passage using MLA format.

This is an excellent way for students to look beyond thematic papers and character analyses; the students must focus on how a piece is written rather than why. Examining the language can be difficult for many students, and this assignment has helped me teach students the effects of diction on the audience. Sometimes even the grammar, punctuation, and spelling can make a difference.

I allow the students to use common literary devices such as repetition, the three ironies, and metaphor as well as quite particular devices such as synedoche, polysyndeton, and cacophony. Students of all levels can get quite a lot out of this type of assignment.

Some simple questions I have students answer when I first teach them how to analyze diction are:

  • What is the effect of long, complex sentences?
  • What is the effect of short, choppy sentences?
  • How are long and short sentences read?
  • Why does the author stray from using perfect grammar and sentence structure?
  • Why does the author use this device here?
  • How is this line read? Why?

I have attached a simple example here (diction-analysis-example1) using The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

7 thoughts on “Teaching the Diction Analysis

  1. Pingback: The Butterfly Project II « The Doc Is In

  2. Pingback: Teaching Diction Terms « The Doc Is In

  3. Pingback: Teaching Diction Terms « The Doc Is In

  4. E.P

    I thought that arrangement of ideas, construction of sentences, and grammatical structures had more to do with syntax. Still trying to figure out how to differentiate the two.

  5. Jaren

    The first several bullet points you have when you are teaching student to analyze diction are more about analyzing syntax, which is what the first respondent was asking you. Syntax analysis deals with analyzing sentence structures, sentence length, punctuation, even things like parallelism and freight train sentences, etc. Diction strictly refers to the word choice the writer has chosen to use–what type of language is used (formal/informal? colloquial?, poetic?, etc.) An analysis of diction should center around the type of language used as well as the effect it creates, and how it ties back to the author’s purpose in writing…


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