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2.3 Analyzing word choice to find meaning

3 min readfebruary 11, 2023

Ariella Ramjohn

Ariella Ramjohn


AP English Literature 📚

145 resources
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Introduction

Authors make impactful decisions when crafting their work in which are left for readers to interpret. In poems, there is often a shift with literal and figurative language. These can be communicated through comparisons, associations, and representations with different concepts and ideas.
There are various tools in which writers manipulate to develop these ideas and concepts. For instance, an antecedent refers a phrase, clause, or word in which precedes its referent. Referents can include clauses, nouns, pronouns, or phrases. Additionally, they are ambiguous and can reference several antecedents. This effect can, thus, affect a reader's interpretation. Alliteration and repetition can also affect interpretations and assumptions, seeing as they can emphasize associations or ideas.
Similes and metaphors also serve different purposes in poems. A simile uses "like" or "as" to compare two concepts or objects. A metaphor similarly compares two concepts or objects, but it does not use "like" or "as". These comparisons can highlight a notion created by the author or provide a better understanding of an idea for the audience.

Grammar, Diction, & Tone

When analyzing the meaning of a poem, it is important to consider many literary elements. Throughout this unit, we have studied several techniques authors use to develop a well-crafted poem. In this lesson, our primary focus will be on how the grammar, diction, and tone of a poem link together to formulate a potential overall meaning.

Grammar

Grammar is significant towards understanding the context of a poem. As readers and interpreters, understanding the purpose behind the author's grammatical choices can help build on the intended message of the poem. In poetry, the word order is often skewed and may not always follow a general order.
For example, some sentences may be written where the object is stated before the subject and verb (e.g. Her sounding lyre the child struck). The manipulation of grammar rules indicates a variety of meanings and proposes analytical questions. By recognizing these deliberate choices, readers can grasp an understanding of the author's motives.

Diction

The word choice, or diction, of a poem is the key to contemplating the writer's exigence. Recognizing the effect of each word, as well as how the poem would be different if the author made a different choice (such as replacing the word or eliminating it altogether), helps readers analyze the author's intentions.
When analyzing the diction of a poem, readers may ask the following questions:
  • Does the author craft formal or informal language?
  • Is there more than one definition of a certain word? (use context clues to identify the correct definition)
  • What type of language does the author use? (e.g. slang, archaic, etc.)

Tone

Diction and syntax can help to build on the tone of a poem. Some poems may be complex and obtain more than one tone, but it is up to the reader to interpret which ones make the most sense towards the author's exigence. Tone refers to the author's attitude towards an idea or concept. To identify the tone, readers can first determine whether the author uses more "positive" or "negative" connotation. From this vague grouping of the central words and phrases, readers can infer how the writer feels and, therefore, establish a the tone of the poem.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🤔Exam Skills
🌱Unit 1 – Intro to Short Fiction
Unit 2 – Intro to Poetry
🎭Unit 3 – Intro to Longer Fiction & Drama
⚔️Unit 4 – Character, Conflict, & Storytelling in Short Fiction
🌈Unit 5 – Structure & Figurative Language in Poetry
🛠️Unit 6 – Literary Techniques in Longer Works
🏛️Unit 7 – Societal & Historical Context in Short Fiction
🤾🏾‍♀️Unit 8 – Advanced Techniques in Poetry
🚣🏾Unit 9 – Nuanced Analysis in Longer Works

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