An Exercise in Analyzing Tone
Using Non-Fiction Prose Tone - the attitude an author displays. The attitude may be focused toward the subject being written about or toward the audience. The key to unlocking tone in a piece of literature is through the following elements: diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax. These elements are also known as DIDLS. Diction-the author's choice of words and phrases Imagery-the mental pictures the author creates, appeals to All 5 Senses Details-elements the author chooses to be specific about, and, in some cases, the elements the author chooses not to be specific about Language- the figurative language used as well as the register of language an author uses to communicate: the emotional distance between the author and the subject
5 Registers of Language Frozen – pledge, constitution…the words do not change
Formal - lecture, business….no casual language
Consultative – conversation between 2 or more parties…no slang
Intimate – Code words shared between small groups i.e. close friends or family
Syntax -the grammatical structure of individual sentences, and the construction of the piece as a whole. May also include persuasive appeals and/or syllogism.
A frequently used prompt in the essay section of the AP Language and Composition exam is one that will ask the students to analyze the author’s attitude (tone) in a given selection.
Students will need to be able to analyze the different elements that characterize attitude(s) in a selection, and to synthesize those elements into a prevailing tone. The upper level essays will recognize a complex attitude in a selection. "Complex" in this context means more than one. Buzzwords to be aware of in the essay prompt are:
BOTTOMLINE: ALL of these Buzz Words want you to do the SAME THING…DIDLS!!!
Simply put, what the student is being asked to do is to identify an ABSTRACTION (the attitude) through the use of CONCRETE elements (DIDLS) diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax.
An effective method for analyzing tone is to keep a dialectical journal of the elements of tone while the student is reading the selection. The dialectical journal helps the student keep track of those concrete elements of tone, and provides the opportunity to develop commentary on those elements.
Fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise. List the concrete element on the left side of the page. The student should write one to two sentences of commentary for each concrete element listed directly opposite the element on the right side of the page. The concrete element is ‘how” an attitude is characterized. Commentary is “why” that element helps to characterize an attitude.
“How is the Attitude is Characterized”,“Why”,“What is revealed?”,
“Concrete detail”, “Quotation” “What is learned?”
“burden” (diction) A burden is something that weighs you down. A thing that you carry with you, despite the load.
After the first timed writing is completed, then ask the student the following questions.
What is the Attitude? What other feelings did Dick feel?
Better writers recognize that emotions and tone is complex in nature – all the feelings surroundings Gregory’s “Shame” are abstract elements that you cannot touch. This time in your second timed writing your essay’s organization should shift to focus around abstract elements and how the DIDLS support these abstract emotions. Write a fully developed four-paragraph essay and create a strong conclusion that conveys the lesson of the piece… “life lesson” or “universal truth” of the piece.
TIMED WRITING #2
Read the following selection by author and activist Dick Gregory carefully. Then, in a well-organized essay, discuss how Gregory uses language to convey his complex attitude toward his subject.
Organization of your 4 paragraph essay
Intro – Prompt…”The feelings of anger and unworthiness aid in forming Dick Gregory’s complex attitude of Shame.”
Paragraph #1 – Anger is depicted through 3 of the DIDLS to support
Paragraph #2 – Unworthiness is depicted through 3 of the DIDLS to support
Conclusion- Convey the lessoned learned of the piece