I. Types of Nonfiction

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I. Types of Nonfiction - The term nonfiction refers to any kind of writing that is based on facts; well-written prose that deals with real people, things, events, and places.

Kinds of nonfiction include:

  • articles

  • textbooks

  • recipes

  • instruction manuals

  • even phone books

  • lab reports

A. A biography is the story of someone’s life written by another person.

1. Biographies often tell about the lives of famous actors, scientists, writers, politicians, or athletes.
B. When someone writes the story of his or her own life, the result is an autobiography.
C. An essay is a short piece of prose that examines a single subject.

1. A personal essay describes the writer’s reaction to an experience. This kind of essay is usually informal.

2. A formal essay is unbiased and intended to inform the reader. It has a more formal style than a personal essay.
D. A speech is like an essay: Speeches are usually short and deal with a single topic. The difference is that speeches are spoken aloud in front of an audience.

1. The purpose of a speech is to inform the audience about something.

II. Elements of Nonfiction

  1. Main idea: The main idea is the writer’s most important message.

  1. The main idea is supported by details, such as examples and quotations.

  2. Example:

The time is right to begin a citywide recycling program. In the two years that nearby Jonesville has had a recycling program, that city has reduced the amount of trash it sends to the landfill by 32 percent.
Some worry that recycling is expensive, but, in fact, it can save money. According to Mayor Domingo, “the program will pay for itself in less than five years.”

    1. Main idea: The city should start a recycling program.

    2. Example: Jonesville reduced trash by 32%.

    3. Quotation: “The program will pay for itself. . . .”

  1. Elements of Nonfiction: Structural Patterns - The structure of something is the way that thing is put together; in nonfiction, it’s the way things are organized.

1. When a writer organizes events in the same order in which they occur in time, the writer is using chronological order.

a. The sunflower began as a bud. Then, petals developed. Finally, the beautiful flower opened in full bloom. (The underlined words show the order in which things happened)

b. Chronological order reveals patterns of cause and effect, showing how one event leads to another.

  1. Order of importance ranks facts by their significance to the writer’s main idea. This structure may be organized in two ways:

a. Begins with the least important facts and moves to the most important.

    1. Begins with the most important facts and moves to the least important.

    2. Example: There are many reasons to start saving for retirement in your teen years. Your family will be proud of your maturity. You’ll form good saving habits by setting aside part of your wages or allowance.

However, the main reason to begin early is that, over time, the money

you invest will grow to a much larger amount than if you wait until your

twenties or thirties to start saving. (The ideas move from least important to most important.)

  1. Logical order presents supporting details in related groups that are clearly connected to each other and to the main idea.

  1. When you recycle, you sort trash into related groups: glass, plastic, paper, and so on. Similarly, if you were to write an essay about recycling, you might discuss the various methods of recycling separately. This would be a logical order for presenting your ideas.

  2. Example: When you visit an animal shelter, you’ll find many different types of pets. Our local shelter has more cats than any other kind of animal. You can choose from dozens of kittens and fully grown cats.

The next largest group is dogs. Some are pups that were born in the shelter;

others are older pets who need a new home.
Believe it or not, next are snakes and reptiles—including two six-foot boa

constrictors. (The passage groups animals by species, and then orders them

from the biggest group to the smallest.)

  1. Repetition is a pattern sometimes used in nonfiction. When a writer uses

repetition, he or she says something more than once; Repetition can help writers

emphasize key ideas.

  1. One kind of repetition is using parallel grammatical forms. For example,

each item on a list should be the same form or part of speech as the other items.

III. Qualities of Nonfiction

  1. The purpose of a piece of writing is the goal its author wants to achieve. The purpose of a nonfiction text may be to

    1. provide information,

    2. express personal feelings,

    3. entertain, or

    4. influence.

  1. Logic is clear and accurate thinking. To be logical, points must be supported by

reasons, evidence, and examples; to make sure that your nonfiction is logical, avoid

any statements that don’t support the main idea.

  1. Ex: The speed limit on Maple Street should be lowered to 25 miles per hour. The current speed limit of 40 is dangerous to both drivers and residents.

Maple Street is a family neighborhood, with many small children at play. In

addition, many pets, especially cats, wander the area. Fast cars are a danger to

these innocent beings. My cousin Tim always drives too fast, no matter what the

speed limit is. Also, drivers backing out of driveways cannot see fast-approaching

cars. (The underlined sentence fails to support the main idea)

  1. Unity means oneness or wholeness; when all of the details in a text support the main idea, the text has unity.

1. A nonfiction text that has unity also has internal consistency—each part connects and agrees with what came before it.

  1. Coherence means “sticking together,” like the atoms in a molecule; in a coherent piece of writing, one idea leads to the next idea. Readers can easily understand the flow of ideas or events.

    1. Ex: Joe hit the ball → The umpire called him out →They argued.

    2. To make their writing coherent, writers use transition words, which link one idea to the next.

  1. to continue a line of thought

  2. to contrast with a previous thought

    • but

    • however

    • yet

    • on the other hand

  1. to show time order

    • first

    • next

    • then

    • finally

EX: Vegetarians currently don’t have enough healthy choices in the school cafeteria. The salad bar has few protein-rich options. Furthermore, vegetarian students who want hot food are limited to potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Some have argued that adding more vegetarian items would be costly. However, many vegetarian foods offer good nutritional value for the money. In addition, healthy meals for all students should be a priority, regardless of cost.

(The goal of the passage is to convince readers that more vegetarian options are needed. Its purpose is to influence; the transitional words are underlined)

IV. Analyzing Details: Allusion - Allusions are another kind of detail in nonfiction writing. An allusion refers to some part of a culture that people share.

  1. An allusion might refer to literature, religion, history, mythology, sports, music, or popular culture.

  1. Examples:

    1. If a writer says that someone “fumbled the ball,” the writer is making an allusion to football; The allusion means that someone made a mistake.

  1. You would have to understand football to know what that term means!

    1. When my brother Abraham was younger, you could not leave him alone in

the kitchen with the cookie jar. Although his name was Abe, he wasn’t

exactly honest when it came to his sweet tooth.

  1. The name Abe is a historical allusion to Abraham Lincoln, who had the

nickname “Honest Abe.”

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