Writing Tips: Denotation vs. Connotation

Denotation:

Definition: A denotation is the dictionary definition of a word.

Example: One example of denotation would be stating that the word cheap means inexpensive.

Connotation:

Definition: A connotation is a definition of a word, but with cultural and personal feelings added in.

Example: One example of connotation would be that the word “cheap” often has a negative meaning, or connotation in this case. For instance, when someone says something was “cheaply made”, it’s often taken to mean that the item wasn’t made very well and won’t last very long.

 

Using Denotations and Connotations in Writing:

As writers, denotations can’t be the only thing we focus on when we write. We also have to look at the connotations of words. For instance, when you go to describe a character as a more dominant person, you have many words to choose from. You could use words like assertive, aggressive, or pushy. However, although all of these have a similar denotation, they have very different connotations. Out of these three words, assertive is the nicest as it means someone is willing to assert their opinions. The word aggressive implies potential violence, and the word pushy implies that the person tends to force things onto people. The word you would use would obviously depend on the character, but word choice is very important. As a writer, you have to consider the connotations of the words you use, in and out of context. Readers only get to know your characters and settings and such through text, they don’t get to have you there to describe what you meant. As such, it’s best to make sure you pick the best word for your specific meaning to make sure your writing comes off as you meant it to.

~Victoria

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