I want to be very clear here. I am talking about connotation and denotation today. Not semantic search. Some articles go into a very sophisticated discussion of these concepts. I want to talk about what I learned in my English and Literature courses.
Word choice is critical for writers. I’ve always believed that one should use the right word. One that fully encompasses the meaning and emotion that you want your readers to experience. This is why you should always have a thesaurus handy at all times. We need to understand the differences between connotation and denotation.
Denotation is the dictionary meaning of a word. We can look at a list of synonyms and see that all the words share a similar definition. Let’s take the word pretty as an example.
Pretty (adjective) – “pleasing or attractive to the eye, as by delicacy or gracefulness”
Synonyms – Beautiful, Charming, Cute, and Elegant.
We can see that these all have a familiar meaning. But, we know that this isn’t exactly true. These synonyms also have a connotation associated with them.
This is what is implied by the words due to associations we have with them. They go beyond the literal meaning of the word. Let’s dig a little deeper into Pretty and its synonyms.
Pretty itself is usually associated with young women. It trends younger than if we were to call someone beautiful. Age makes a difference in how we use those terms. Beauty is a more mature word for the same concept.
Then we can take the word Charming. I think of charisma when I think of charm. Like a Disney Princess who sings and is surrounded by woodland creatures. The archetype for me is the D&D Bard
Elegant has an association with class and being stylish. It’s the way you move, how you decorate your home, your clothing, your manners, and how you behave.
Word Choice Matter for SEO Content Writers
When we think of search intent we are asking for the connotation of our keywords. We want to understand the context of that search. Why these specific words?
I came across this as I was deciding how to optimize this website. One of the possible choices was “writing services.” I was so disappointed to see that all these listings were for essay-writing websites.
That was frustrating for me to see. So you can see, there is a connotation that Google associates with our keywords. It is important to understand this when doing keyword research. I know my methods are more complicated than using a simple tool would be. Yet, it offers me the best insight into Google’s Mind.
Has this post helped you understand the difference between denotation and connotation? Please sound off on Twitter if you have something to add. I’d love to hear what you think. I would like to keep doing this series on common writing terms and grammar. I think both are beneficial to SEO content writers.