Diction is the choice of words used by the writer’s. Good writing makes good use of diction. The words should be right and accurate, appropriate to the context in which they were used, and comprehensible to the intended audience. Otherwise, a message may be perceived differently or erroneously from the intended message.
Poetry has a unique diction such as the use of imagery, figures of speech, and rhyming words, among others. The sense of musicality that you notice in each line of verse is called rhyme, which most poetry have. End rhyme and perfect rhyme are in the sample poem. As the term suggests, end rhyme is the presence of the rhyming words at the end of the line. It is a perfect rhyme if the words sound exactly the same.
Look at the following examples of word choices:
The use of antiquated words such as “thy” instead of “your” and “doth” in-stead of “do” gives the poem a formal diction. These antiquated words are considered grand, elevated, and sophisticated language.
The words “kindly” and “stopped” are simple vocabulary and used here in . their ordinary definitions. The use of these words effects a casual and conversational diction rather than a formal one. Thus, the work projects an approachable and comforting tone.
How about the mention of Death? What figure of speech was used? How is Death viewed here: an ordinary person, a fearsome one, or a supernatural being? Why do you say so?
Syntax is how the words are arranged in a sentence or line.The usual syntax is, of course, subject-verb. However, an unusual order of words in a sentence including repetition of words, may be used to convey different tones, moods, themes, or emphases of the literary work.
To write the first line of verse in its ordinary order, we can say, “I cannot go out or stay in” with emphasis on the doer of the action or the subject “I.” By reversing the word order, the author seems to emphasize the word “cannot.” Notice the difference as you read the sentences in different word orders.
Look at the expression: “What light breaks from yonder window?” word order is reversed with the verb at the end of the sentence. Is the work more creative this way?
The interplay between diction and syntax makes a sentence or verse longer or shorter. Just like diction and syntax themselves, this interplay between them affects tone, mood, theme, or emphasis of the literary work.
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”
Macbeth: I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?
Lady Macbeth: heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. Did not you speak?
Lady Macbeth: Now.
Macbeth: As I descended?
Lady Macbeth: Ay.
While plotting murder, Macbeth in the first part used long, flowing monologue. The use of antiquated language is also apparent. The sec-ond example is the dialogue after Macbeth has just committed murder. Notice the short, cut, or clipped responses or exchange between the characters. What does this tell you about the state of mind of Macbeth before and after the murder?
Theme is the topic or central idea, which is universal in nature. It is an underlying truth. It may be what the reader thinks the story is about or what the work says about a given subject.
Rarely is the theme conveyed directly. Most often, the reader figures out the theme by analyzing all the elements of the work such as imagery, figures of speech, tone, mood, diction, syntax, characters, setting, or the events in the story or plot. It maybe one word such as love or truth, or a universal statement such as “Love conquers all odds.” or “The truth sets one free.”
The writer believes that evil is innate in humans, even in children. This is how the writer stands on the topic, and this is the theme developed in the whole work.
The choice of words and the manner in which these words are arranged in a sentence show creativity in the use of language and the underlying theme.
The choice of words is called diction, while the arrangement of words is syntax. The interplay of diction and syntax adds beauty and creativity to the written work. Theme is the underlying message or the central idea of the whole work. It is mostly indirectly presented through the language, setting, plot, or characters in the work. It may be what the reader thinks the work is about or how the work takes a stand on the matter it presents.