Diction - Cathedral Catholic High School

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Diction
Exercises
1
 As I watched, the sun broke weakly through, brightened
the rich red of the fawns, and kindled their white spots.
- E.B. White, “Twins”, Poems and Sketches of E.B. White
As I watched, the sun broke weakly through, brightened
the rich red of the fawns, and kindled their white spots.
- E.B. White, “Twins”, Poems and Sketches of E.B. White
1. What kind of flame does kindled imply? How does the verb suit the purpose of
the sentence?
2. Would the sentence be strengthened or weakened by changing the sun broke
weakly through, to the sun burst through? Explain the effect this change would
have on the use of the verb kindled.
3. Brainstorm a list of action verbs that demonstrate the effects sunlight.
4. Compose a compound / complex sentence using one or more of these words.
2
 Art is the antidote that can call us back from the edge of
numbness, restoring the ability to feel for another.
- Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson
Art is the antidote that can call us back from the edge
of numbness, restoring the ability to feel for another.
- Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson
1. By using the word antidote, what does the author imply about the inability
to feel for another?
2. If we changed the word antidote to gift, what effect would it have on
the meaning of the sentence?
3. Brainstorm with your class to develop a list of medical terms.
4. Write your own sentence using a medical term to characterize art.
Share some of these sentences, and discuss the effect that certain
terms have on the meanings of the sentences.
3
 The man sighed hugely.
- E. Annie Prouix, The Shipping News
The man sighed hugely.
- E. Annie Prouix, The Shipping News
1. What does it mean to sigh “hugely”?
2.How would the meaning of the sentence change if we
rewrote it as:
The man sighed loudly.
3.
Complete this sentence with an adverb:
The man coughed _________________.
Your adverb should make the cough express an attitude. For example,
the cough could express contempt, desperation, or propriety. Do not state the
attitude. Instead, let the adverb imply it.
4
 Her face was white and sharp and slightly gleaming in
the candlelight, like bone. No hint of pink. And the hair.
So fine, so pale, so much, crimped by its plaiting into
springy zigag tresses, clouding neck and shoulders, shining
metallic in the candlelight, catching a hint, there it was. of
green again, from the reflection of a large glazed cachepot containing a vigorous sword-leafed fern.
- A.S. Byatt, Possession: A Romance
1. When the author describes a face “like bone” what feelings are
suggested?
1. How can hair be “clouding neck and shoulders”?
2. Substitute another noun for “bone” in the Byatt’s sentence one.
Your substitution should change the meaning and feeling of the
sentence. Consider how your noun changes the connotation and
impact of the sentence.
Her face was white and sharp and slightly gleaming in the candlelight,
like bone.
5
 Newts are the most common of salamanders. Their skin
is a lighted green, like water in a sunlit pond, and rows of
bright red dots line their backs. They have gills as larvae;
as they grow they turn a luminescent red, lose their gills,
and walk out of the water to spend a few years padding
around in damp places on the forest floor. Their feet
look like fingered baby hands, and they walk in the same
leg patterns as all four-footed creatures – dogs, mules,
and for that matter, lesser pandas.
- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
1. What is the difference between a lighted green and a light green?
Which phrase do you think creates a more vivid image?
2. What is the effect of saying fingered baby hands instead of simply
baby hands?
3. Compare the neck of each of the animals below to something familiar.
Use Dillard’s comparison as a model (Their feet look like fingered baby
hands).
The elephant’s neck looks like ______________________________________
The seal’s neck looks like __________________________________________
The flamingo’s neck looks like ______________________________________
(Consider the attitude your comparison conveys about the animal.)

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