Guide to Reading Nonfiction

Nonfiction is the broadest category of literature.
Autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, letters,
essays, speeches, and news articles are just a few
of the many types of nonfiction writing. All of
these forms of prose concern real, rather than
imaginary, subjects.
Nonfiction writers in particular know the
importance of being clear. In addition, they
understand that what they write must be of
interest, or no one will want to read what they
have to say. Even though nonfiction is about real
people and real events, nonfiction writing can also
be creative.
Writing About Oneself
An autobiography is the story of a person’s life written by
that person. Autobiographies are presented from the firstperson point of view and may be based entirely on the
writer’s memory. A memoir is also about the person who has
written it, but a memoir usually focuses on one experience
or period in the person’s life.
Writing About Another
A biography is the story of a person’s life written by someone
other than that person. In addition to recounting the events of
the subject’s life, most biographers explore the person’s
reactions to those events and the effects they had on his or
her personality.
Formal and Informal Essays
An essay is a relatively short piece of nonfiction in which the
writer explores a single topic from his or her own perspective.
Essays can be formal or informal. The most common type of
informal essay is the personal essay, in which the writer’s
purpose is to entertain or share personal experiences with the
reader. Formal essays are more serious in tone. They include
the expository (or explanatory) essay and the persuasive essay
Writing to Persuade
Persuasion refers to a type of speech or writing that tries
to influence the thoughts and actions of an audience. Every
persuasive text contains an argument, or a statement of a
problem and supporting reasons and evidence. Effective
arguments are organized using logic, or sound reasoning.
Why do people tell stories about real-life
events? Identify some reasons why people write
about their lives, the lives of others, and the
world around them.
My aunt tells stories about her life. She makes
every event amusing. She often tells stories
we’ve heard before, but they’re never boring.
We beg her to tell stories about our childhoods,
and she never refuses.
Guide to Reading Nonfiction
● When reading nonfiction, first determine what type
of work you are reading.
● Try to identify the author’s purpose. Is he or she
writing to inform, to entertain, or to persuade?
● If the author’s purpose is to inform, look for a thesis
statement and support for the thesis.
Guide to Reading Nonfiction
● If the author’s purpose is to entertain, look for
literary elements, such as figurative language,
dialogue, or suspense.
● If the author’s purpose is to persuade, determine
whether the author is presenting an argument,
emotional appeals, or a combination of both.
Elements of Nonfiction
● Nonfiction is writing about real people and real events.
● An autobiography tells the story of the writer’s own life.
● A biography tells the story of another person’s life.
● An essay is a short work of nonfiction on a single topic. An
essay can be formal or informal.
Elements of Nonfiction
● Personal essays are meant primarily to entertain.
Expository essays are intended to explain, inform, or
● Persuasive writing is intended to change the way people
act and think. All persuasive essays and speeches contain
arguments that persuade through logic, reason, emotional
appeal, and evidence.