The relative importance of the three modes of meaning varies considerably from one kind of writing to another. Scholarly and scientific papers, for example, make the writer-topic axis paramount; advertising and political propaganda use that of reader-topic; applications for jobs and letters of appeal, for example, lie along the writer-reader axis. We can suggest such differences in emphasis in our triangular diagram by moving the circles representing words from the center of the triangle toward one or another of its sides. Some of the examples we have used might be visualized like this:
Some expressions (in 1561, for instance) are chosen solely for reference, that is to explain the topic; a few solely to influence readers' feelings about the topic (Brut). Other words function in two areas of meaning: either primarily within one but extending partially into another (pinko, bourgeois, I think, young widow), or more evenly balanced (rat-like).
But whether designed to serve a single end or several, diction succeeds only to the degree that it does in fact serve an readers to comprehend your observations, ideas, feelings, and affecting their responses both to the topic and to you in ways that you wish. To the degree that it fails to achieve your purpose, your diction fails entirely.4
4. A purpose itself may be silly or stupid, of course, but then the fault lies in the writer's conception—what he or she wants to say—not in the diction—
how it is said. Writers may use words well by a happy chance, that is, without really understanding their and thus achieve a purpose they are blind to.
But lucky prose is rare. The general truth holds: good diction is diction chosen to achieve a conscious purpose.
You must, finally, realize that words inherently have meaning in some or in all of the modes we have enumerated. If you do not choose words wisely, words will, in effect, choose you, saying things about the topic you do not intend and affecting readers in ways you do not want.
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