DICTION EXERCISE
Let’s take a simple sentence and see how it would be possible to rewrite it:

She took an apple from under the tree.

First, let’s alter the order, or syntax: From under the tree she took an apple. She, from under the tree, took an apple. From under the tree, an apple she took. They all make sense; we haven’t altered the basic meaning. But all three of these altered versions change something: The first brings the rhyme (she/tree) closer together. The second plays on our notion of suspense. The third sounds like it belongs in a ballad or some other form where the “took” at the end of the sentence is there either for emphasis, or to set up a rhyme (“ . . . that crook!”).

Now let’s alter the vocabulary: She picked up a fruit from the ground, where it lay. She pilfered an apple that had fallen from its tree. The lovely woman stooped and grabbed the fallen apple. In all three versions we have the basic elements—a woman, an apple, a tree—but they are given different emphasis.

A poet reworks diction, not always to the best effect. Let’s combine some of the altered vocabulary and syntax from above: From under the tree a lovely woman pilfered a fruit. Well, maybe, but the diction should be working toward a single effect, or enhancing an image, or accommodating meter.

Try rewriting the following simple phrases by altering diction (syntax, vocabulary, or both) while preserving the original sense. Think of each as a single line: You don't necessarily have to expand or elaborate to alter diction. What effect are you trying to achieve? Write your responses in your notebook—this will be collated so that you can print or e-mail your work when you are finished.

I was awash in memories, reliving the innocence of times past.

Then, without warning, a knock came at the door.

They watched a pretty red sunset.


 
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