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Connotation and Denotation Practice Exercises

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Updated on Sep 20, 2011

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Connotation and Denotation Study Guide

Connotation and Denotation Practice Exercises

Practice Exercise 1

Read the following sets of words, and then write each word in the appropriate column according to the connotation, or association, it has for you and your friends.

  1. thin, plump, fat, slim
  2. chatty, quiet, talkative, moody
  3. snooty, friendly, vain, proud
  4. shack, residence, apartment, condo

How many words did you write in the neutral column? Did you hesitate about certain words? Is it fair to conclude that most words you use have a connotative meaning at least slightly different from their denotative meanings?

Saying Exactly What You Mean

Whenever you speak or write, be aware of any connotations of the words you use. As you know, the words you choose convey your meaning; that's what language does. But not only words have connotations; whole sentences do. Spoken or written language that includes carefully chosen connotative words to convey emotions or subtle suggestions make sentences more interesting and help listeners or readers get a clearer understanding of what you're really trying to say. The more precise your words, the more power they will have, and the better your overall communication will be.

Practice Exercise 2

For each sentence below, identify the change in meaning created by the substitution or addition of a new word or words to describe the underlined word or words in the sentence. If you don't know a word, look it up in the dictionary. The example has been done to give you a sample to follow.

Example

    The candidate raised his arms above his head as the crowd applauded loudly.
    The victorious candidate raised his arms heroically as the crowd applauded uproariously.
    Denotation of the sentence: A candidate won and the crowd applauded.
    Connotation of new sentence: An extremely popular candidate won and felt proud of his victory. This sentence is much richer in connotation; it communicates meaning more effectively.

Now, describe the differences between sentences by telling denotative and new connotative meanings. You may want to include a description of the writer's attitude toward the subject in each case.

  1. After Hurricane Katrina, the city ran out of first aid supplies.
  2. In the tragic wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city's first aid supplies were found to be inadequate and drastically lacking.

    Denotation:

    New Connotation:

  3. The reviews of the movie The Wizard of Oz varied, but the audiences liked the movie.
  4. The movie reviewers were ambiguous in their comments about The Wizard of Oz, but the audiences loved the movie unanimously.

    Denotation:

    New Connotation:

  5. Speaking coherently after a coughing fit is hard.
  6. Speaking coherently after a coughing fit is often more than a cold sufferer can manage.

    Denotation:

    New Connotation:

  7. Cutting school can affect your future.
  8. The consequences of repeatedly cutting school can have negative repercussions throughout your life.

    Denotation:

    New Connotation:

  9. The newspaper reporter was accused of favoring one candidate over the other.
  10. The newspaper reporter was said to be guilty of distorting the facts in order to damage one candidate's reputation.

    Denotation:

    New Connotation:

    Can you make a generalization about the difference between each of the first and second sentences? Do you see that the second sentences have more words, more specific words, and more complicated thoughts than the first sentences? As you've no doubt figured out, these are the characteristics of sentences with word power.

Words You Should Now Know

  • ambiguous
  • distort
  • coherent
  • inadequate
  • connotation
  • subtle
  • consequence
  • unanimous
  • denotation
  • uproarious

Extra Word(s) You Learned in This Study Guide

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