[Tipster] Why Your Diction Matters

tipster post Oct 14, 2022

Around this time every year, I receive a DM from my literary pal with a link to John Keats’ poem, “To Autumn.” 
 
That message combined with Starbucks’ DM reminding me to “Remain calm [because] pumpkin spice is back!” officially signals the change of seasons.
 
Because I still haven’t memorized the poem (despite vowing to each year because it is that good), I click through and luxuriate in its lines, as abundant as the Autumn he describes.

If you haven’t read it, you ought to. It’s as tasty as a pumpkin spice latte. Or hot apple cider, if that’s your jam.

As I re-read it this year, I was reminded why I love poetry—and why it’s good for us writers to read it: to remind ourselves that diction matters.

What Is Diction?

Diction is a fancy-schmancy word to describe the words and combination of words we use in our writing to evoke an emotion in our reader.

When I read “To Autumn” I feel warm, satisfied, intoxicated, content. Keats helps us not to long for the newness of spring or dread the death of winter. Instead, he invites us into the overflow of autumn.

Just take a look at Keats’ verb choices. 

They’re a master class in diction, specifically choosing strong verbs: 

“swell,” 

“to bend,” 

“load and bless,” 

“has overbrimmed” 

“soft-lifted,” 

“never-cease,” 

“drows’d,” and

“plump.”

Notice how Keats turns adjectives “drowsy,” “plump,” and “soft-lifted,” into atypical, but visual verbs. 

His verbs aren’t ornamental. In fact, arguably they’re quite plain. But together, they transport the reader to Autumn’s bountiful fields.

Power Up the Feelings

Unless you dig into the poem, like I did a bit, you aren’t aware of Keats’ deliberate diction. You just feel something when you read it.

That’s diction at work. It powers up feelings in readers.

And when readers feel they remember. They return to your words. They dig into their meaning. And they make connections between your ideas and their lives.

It’s why my friend sends me “To Autumn” every year. She knows I dread winter and that Autumn signals its inevitable arrival. 
 
It reminds me that all seasons are purposeful—and to “think not of [winter], [because
Autumn] has [its] music too.”
 
The poem forces me into the goodness of autumn’s fleeting moment.
 
Diction matters. Don’t skimp on it. And if you need some inspiration, dip into some poetry.
 
Now buckle up and write.