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Charlene Tess

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The Emotional Climate of Words
By Charlene Tess   
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Last edited: Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2007

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Be conscious of the connotations of the words you use. As a writer, you must be careful to choose words with the exact shade of meaning you need to set the tone you wish to convey.

The Emotional Climate of Words


Be conscious of the connotations of the words you use. As a writer, you must be careful to choose words with the exact shade of meaning you need to set the tone you wish to convey.


Would you rather have a cheap blouse or an inexpensive blouse?

Would you rather be called ancient or mature?

Would you rather own a mutt or a dog?


Words carry an emotional climate. The literal meaning of a word is called its denotation. The meaning that a word suggests is its connotation.

Connotations may be national, linguistic, racial or a universal attitude held by most people. (Of course, others could not understand a purely private family joke.)


Identify the emotional implications in each of the examples below:

King: autocrat, dictator, tyrant, ruler, leader

Fat: obese, plump, corpulent, burly, full-figured, roly-poly, portly, stout

Funny: silly, comic, joking, facetious, hilarious, humorous, slapstick


Note the difference between these two sentences:

* The drifter sat on the park bench.

* The bum slouched on the park bench.


Here’s an exercise for you to try. Fill in the blanks of the sentences below using words with a different connotation to achieve a particular mood:


The house sat on a hill above the city below.

The children found the puppy in the park.

After the social event, the parent reprimanded the child.



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