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Denotative and Connotative
and the difference between

Be aware of the difference between denotative words and connotative words. 

A  denotative  word  conveys  information:  "hat,"  "yellow, " "twenty-five, " "book," "cat," "big." Such words speak to the practicalist in us,  to the data bank and statistician. A connotative word, on the other hand, is calculated to arouse emotional  response,  to  give  a  fillip  to  imagination,  to project a mood in our hearts and/or on our senses. To denote a woman,  I can refer to her as  a "female," a "teacher,"  or  a  "customer."  I  can  also  speak  of her  as  a "bimbo," a "maiden," or a "luminous creature," all connotative.

The  distinction  between  denotative  and  connotative, then, is that connotative words express a writer's opinions and  personal  feelings  while  denotative  words  state  the facts.  As  a  careful  writer,  you  will  be  aware  of these subtle,  yet significant,  differences.

For example,  if you  refer  to a person as  being "tired" you  convey  a matter-of-fact,  denotative  message.  If you describe the person as being "weary," the image becomes more personalized, as it does with the terms "drained" or "burned-out."  These  words  are  all  synonyms,  perhaps. Yet each carries a different degree of emotional charge. Be aware of what these charges are and use them knowingly. The following verse provides an astutely whimsical example of just how much connotations count, in life as well as in literature:

Call a  woman a  kitten,  but never a  cat; 
You  can call her a  mouse,  cannot call her a  rat; 
Call a  woman a  chick,  but never a  hen; 
Or you surely will not be her caller again. 
You  can call her a  duck,  cannot call her a goose; 
You  can call her a  deer,  but never a  moose; 
You  can call her a lamb,  but never a sheep; 
Economic she likes,  but you can't call her cheap. 

If you can't find the precise word,  move on and come back to it later.

Most writers discover this trick on their own, especially if they write on deadlines.  Better just to put an  X  on  the problem word, keep writing, and come back later. You'll bring a fresh eye to the decision then, and probably a fine solution.

Which  brings  up  an  important  rule  of  thumb  for writing practice in general: When your writing is going well, don't let anything stop your flow.  Don't get hung up on the grammatical or factual details. Just leave them, get on  with  the  brainstorming,  finish  the  entire piece,  then return to fix  the fine points. 


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