Connotation Denotation Synergy

Great Diction Tips for Persuasive Writing

Welcome! The creative writing tips on this page show you how to harness the synergy in "connotation denotation" interplays of words, and how to improve writing skills by choosing apt words for every occasion.

Creative Writing Tip #1 on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy: Proper Word Choices

Effective writing depends on apt choice of words. To choose the right word for each context, you need to understand the "connotation denotation" synergy of words. Every word has a denotation, its explicit meaning. It also has connotations: the emotional overtones the word carries or (to put it another way) the emotions it evokes in readers.

Good writers strive to find the right words, the words that best fit their meaning and, at the same time, evoke strong emotions in readers.

Creative Writing Tip #2 on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy: Examples of Denotation According to Dictionary Definitions

The denotation of a word is its meaning or definition as listed in a dictionary. Using words according to their established denotations is important if you expect readers to grasp your meaning accurately.

Some words may seem to be interchangeable because they have the same general definitions, but in fact they are differentiated by subtle shades of meaning. Take, for example, the word famous; compare the different kinds and degrees of fame in the words noted, well-known, distinguished, celebrated, talked-of, marked and notorious.

Confusion may also arise because of similar-sounding words like apposite and opposite; overlook and oversee; elusive and illusive; affect and effect; or homonyms like born and borne; discreet and discrete; stationary and stationery.

Wrong choice of words distorts a writer's message, often with (unintended) hilarious results. Look up a good dictionary if you're unsure about the exact meaning of a word.

Creative Writing Tip #3 on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy: What is Denotation that Delights Readers?

Choose words that precisely fit your meaning. Words do not work in isolation; they complement one another. When all the words fit and flow together in a harmonious whole, the result is a delightful experience for the reader - as in the following:

In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist's heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.
(From Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte)

Creative Writing Tip #4 on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy: What is Connotation?

Some words also have connotations: ideas, associations and emotional overtones that go beyond the word's explicit definition. Such words pulsate with life, awaking emotions in readers.

Words with approximately similar meanings may have subtly or even entirely different connotations. For example, what images and feelings do the following phrases trigger in you: lean, hungry look; haggard, starved look; gaunt, wolfish look?

If you are unsure of the connotations of words, consult a good dictionary of synonyms.

Creative Writing Tip #5 on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy: Examples of Connotations that Enrich One Another

Sentences are especially potent when constructed with emotionally-charged words because of the rich interactions among their connotations; each word enriches the others, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As in this extract:

The kettle, growing mellow and musical, began to have irrepressible gurglings in its throat, and to indulge in short vocal snorts, which it checked in the bud, as if it hadn't quite made up its mind yet, to be good company. Now it was, that after two or three such vain attempts to stifle its convivial sentiments, it threw off all moroseness, all reserve, and burst into a stream of song so cosy and hilarious... With its warm breath gushing forth in a light cloud which merrily and gracefully ascended a few feet, then hung about the chimney-corner as its own domestic Heaven, it trolled its song with that strong energy of cheerfulness, that its iron body hummed and stirred upon the fire.
(From The Cricket on the Hearth, by Charles Dickens)

Explore the emotional overtones in different words, and the overall effect when putting the words together in sentences.

Creative Writing Tip #6 on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy: How Denotation and Connotation Affect Tone and Mood

Word choice determines tone and mood. The combinations and arrangements of words, together with the interplay of their emotional overtones, give a unique flavor to a piece of writing, a distinct tone and mood.

These 3 examples (on an almost-similar subject) are different in tone and mood, one from another; but all reveal the touch of a master's hand in the unerring choice of words:

(I)t is certainly the most unexcitable and sluggish stream that ever loitered, imperceptibly, towards its eternity, the sea... It slumbers between broad prairies, kissing the long meadow-grass, and bathes the overhanging boughs of elder-bushes and willows, or the roots of elms and ash-trees, and clumps of maples.
(From Mosses from an Old Manse, by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles...
I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Among my sandy shallows.

(From The Brook, by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Dank and foul, dank and foul,
By the smoky town in its murky cowl.
Foul and dank, foul and dank,
By wharf and sewer, and slimy bank...
Strong and free, strong and free,
The floodgates are open away to the sea.
Free and strong, free and strong,
Cleansing my streams as I hurry along
To the golden sands and the leaping bar
And the taintless tide that awaits me afar.

(From The River, by Charles Kingsley)


For more Creative Writing Tips, go to:

Success Secrets of Top Authors (Includes sections on "Connotation Denotation" Synergy too)
Effective Writing: How to Improve Writing Skills
Figurative Language Helps Readers See, Hear, Feel
Creative Writing Tips: Dramatic Dialogue
Creative Writing Tips: Vibrant Verbs
Concrete & Abstract Word Balance for Powerful Writing
Creative Writing Tips: Word Music
Creating Word Music with Sentence Structure Variations

More Creative Writing Tips for the fiction writer:

Creative Story Writing Tips I: Steps to Write a Book
Creative Story Writing Tips II: How to Write a Story
Creative Story Writing Tips: Conflicts, Cliffhangers and Climaxes

Return from "Connotation Denotation" Synergy to Creative Writing: Write to Win Hearts


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