Communication, Public Relations, Speaking and Listening
Material Type:
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
Connotation, Denotation, Language, Ocm0132, Verbal Communication
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
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Education Standards

Language Resources

Language Resources


The oral tradition is one of the oldest known to humankind.  We learned to talk as small children.  Much like walking, we tend to just do it and not think about how we do it.  We use language daily to express feelings, achieve our goals, and to share information.  This section explores the important role “oral language,” or verbal communication, plays in that process.  How do we create meaning?  How does written language differ from oral language?  How can we use language effectively?  How do we make our language appropriate, vivid, inclusive and familiar to our audience?  Finally, this chapter explores the six elements of language:  clarity, economy, obscenity, obscurity, power and variety.  Do not just talk, make your words count!

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the importance of language and the oral tradition.
  • Distinguish between denotative and connotative meaning.
  • Demonstrate effective use of language.
  • Explain the six elements of language.

(This Module meets the TAG/OCM 013 for a Public Speaking Course; Learning Outcome 9)

Supplemental Content/Alternative Resources

Journal Article

NOTE: This resource requires the user to have access to OhioLINK 

Oral Communication Skills in Higher Education: Using a Performance-Based Evaluation Rubric to Assess Communication Skills. Dunbar, N. E., Brooks, C. F., & Kubicka-Miller, T. (2006). Innovative Higher Education, 31(2), 115–128.

Video Resources

Topic Application Section

Reading vs. Speaking Exercise

(25-45 minutes depending on length of class discussion)

Break the students into groups (3 to 4 participants) ask them to first read a section out of any TEXTBOOK they may have with them.  Then ask them as a group to prepare a 1-2 min presentation/speech on the same material using the elements of oral vs. written language we discussed in class.   Which was more engaging?  How did the language differ? 

Martin Luther King Jr. speech “I Have a Dream”  Class Discussion or Homework

I Have a Dream Speech 

(18 minutes to listen to speech, 25-45 minutes depending on length of class discussion depending on length of class discussion)  This could also be done as a short homework assignment. (graded or ungraded) NOTE:  THIS IS NOT CLOSED CAPTION. This is complete text of the speech.

Listen or read speech in its entirety.  Ask the students to identify elements of vivid language used by King.   



TEDTALK “My Stroke Insight” - Class Discussion 

My Stroke of Insight Video

(18 minutes to listen to speech, 25-45 minutes depending on length of class discussion depending on length of class discussion) The author is discussing complex and technical information -- our brain and how it functions.  How does she use language to engage her audience?  Make her presentation relevant and understandable?  Ask the students to identify elements of  language used by the speaker.



End of Section Review

Topic Summary

Language and the effective use of language are essential to the communication process and successful oral presentations. This section starts with how we create meaning; both denotative and connotative meaning.  It continues with the difference between written language and reading; and speaking and listening.  It explores effective use of language, by ensuring our language is appropriate, vivid, inclusive and familiar to our audience.  There are six elements of language:  clarity, economy, obscenity, obscurity, power and variety.  

Glossary of Key Terms/Concepts

  1. Language
  2. Denotative Meaning
  3. Connotative Meaning
  4. Oral Language
  5. Written Language
  6. Appropriate Language
  7. Vivid Language
  8. Imagery
  9. Concrete Language
  10. Simile
  11. Metaphor
  12. Parallelism
  13. Repetition
  14. Alliteration
  15. Assonance
  16. Inclusive Language
  17. Language Clarity
  18. Language Economy
  19. Obscenity
  20. Obscure Language
  21. Jargon
  22. Power Language

Review questions

  1. Should you ever write your speech out like an english essay and read it to your audience? 
  2. Give an example of: Imagery, Concreteness, Simile, Metaphor, Rhythm, Parallelism, Repetition, Alliteration and Assonance
  3. What is the denotative and connotative meaning of words:  “dog”, “college”, “blue”.
  4. “Rumors often spread like wildfire.” Is and example of______________.
  5. How does our language differ when we write vs when we speak?

Discussion Questions

  1. What is inclusive language?  How does a speaker ensure they use inclusive language and still follow the rule of language economy? 
  2. Using appropriate language means, a speaker’s language is suitable for the speaker, the audience, the occasion and purpose of the speech.  How do we change our language to adapt to these different factors.
  3. Is is ever acceptable to use an obscenity while giving a speech in college classroom? 
  4. Have you ever sent an email or text message that has been misunderstood?  Why was it misunderstood?  What can we do to reduce misunderstandings?