In order to analyse a poem, I often need to comment on the diction used. So far, I've been using words, such as colloquial, everyday,simple. Could you provide some adjectives that describe the language used in a literary text? For instance, I'm not sure if it is correct to say interesting or difficult language.

closed as primarily opinion-based by michael_timofeev, Hellion, jimm101, BiscuitBoy, user140086 Feb 14 '16 at 5:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I should think that it depends largely on the text. You'd get vastly different advice for Twain, or let's say, Hardy. – Rob_Ster Feb 6 '16 at 15:05
  • The question is much too broad and diction is generally understood to refer only to speech (spoken language). I am not aware of poetry "using diction". Diction can only be heard when someone's speech is taped.... – Lambie Feb 6 '16 at 15:10
  • 1
    @Lambie Not in Lit Crit – Yay Feb 6 '16 at 15:15
  • Not convinced at all: literary-devices.com/content/diction – Lambie Feb 6 '16 at 15:19
  • 1
    @Lambie: on poetic diction: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetic_diction – TRomano Feb 6 '16 at 15:38

The most simple, brief, to-the-point option would be formal language. If you're looking for something more colourful, consider the following.

Cultured language is a good antonym of standard or colloquial language:

"As a consequence, socialist realism portrayed common people as speaking in formal, cultured language. In this sense, socialist realism was a form of classicism—a normative system that emphasized purity and decorum not only through character and plot development but through the language it used as well."

Hoffmann, David Lloyd. Stalinist values: the cultural norms of Soviet modernity, 1917-1941. Cornell University Press, 2003. (Link to Google Books)

Other options are:

  • Elevated: formal or typical of language found in literature: an elevated style/tone. (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

  • Grandiloquent: A grandiloquent style or way of using language is complicated in order to attract admiration and attention, especially in order to make someone or something seem important: Her speech was full of grandiloquent language, but it contained no new ideas. (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

  • High-sounding: using words that are meant to sound important and impressive. (Merriam-Webster)

  • Solemn: very serious or formal in manner, behavior, or expression: He spoke in a solemn and thoughtful manner. (Merriam-Webster)

  • 1
    +1 And there is always highfaluting – bib Feb 6 '16 at 15:32
  • Our preferred practice on this site is to list each source in plain text in the answer as well as a link. – bib Feb 6 '16 at 15:34
  • @bib I considered highfaluting, but found it to be more of a despective term. Also, not quite sure what you mean by your last comment. How should I edit the links? – Yay Feb 6 '16 at 15:39
  • This answer has a very narrow view of language as used in poetry. – TRomano Feb 6 '16 at 15:39
  • Where you write source insert the name of the source instead and have that name link to the site. After each definition you offer, write the name of the dictionary you used. The link could be attached to the term (my preference) or to the dictionary's name. – bib Feb 6 '16 at 15:43

The language used in poems can be as varied as language itself. The poem can draw from one, several, or many registers. A sonnet about love can have a metaphor that uses the vocabulary of seafaring, or banking, say, or the vocabulary of planting and harvesting. A dramatic work, in which characters speak, can be as varied in its diction as the characters it portrays, who differ by education, trade or profession, social class, age, etc.


Though not an adjective, I think jargon could work also.

This website provides a few examples of jargon used in literature: http://literarydevices.net/jargon/.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.