Speech in this novel is transcribed phonetically to capture the spirit of the black vernacular; the poetic and metaphoric aspect of the dialect emerges most strongly in forms like tall tales, songs, and prayers. The protagonist is especially concerned with the sincerity behind words and considers the ultimate virtue truth in language. The novel also explores the ways men and women use language differently; essentially, men dominate conversations, making demands and issuing orders, while women are cowed into submissive silence. For the most part, however, language has the most power when there is truth behind it.
Throughout the novel, the narrator speaks condescendingly of the gossipers on the porch. Gossip is viewed as speech without substance, and in the end, Janie advocates action over speech. Thus, gossip is painted in a negative light, while action is represented positively.