Non-Fiction is prose writing that presents and explains ideas or that tells about real people, places, objects, or events. It is an account or representation of a subject which is presented as fact. This presentation may be accurate or not; that is, it can give either a true or a false account of the subject in question. However, it is generally assumed that the authors of such accounts believe them to be truthful at the time of their composition. Autobiographies, biographies, essays, reports, letters, memos, and newspaper articles are all types of nonfiction.


Characteristics of Non-Fiction

Works of nonfiction differ from works of fiction in several ways.

§    The people, events, places, and ideas presented in nonfiction are real, not invented.

§    Nonfiction is narrated by an author who is a real person.

§    It presents facts, describes true-life experiences, or discusses ideas.

§    Nonfiction is written for a specific audience, or group of readers. In addition, it addresses a clear purpose, or reason for writing. The audience and purpose influence the type of information a writer includes.

§    Tone, the author’s attitude toward the subject or reader, is displayed through the writer’s word choice and style.


The writer contributes more than information to nonfiction.

§    Style is the particular way in which a writer uses language. Style reflects an author’s personality. Factors that contribute to an author’s style include level of formality, use of figurative language, diction or word choice, sentence patterns, and methods of organization.

§    Tone is the author’s attitude toward both the subject and readers or listeners. In conversations, you can hear a speaker’s tone in the way words and phrases are spoken. When reading, you can “hear” tone in an author’s choice of words and details. The tone of a literary work can often be described with a single word such as: pompous, playful, serious, personal, sarcastic, or friendly .

§    Perspective is the viewpoint or opinion an author expresses about the subject, either directly or indirectly. Bias occurs when a writer makes a one-sided presentation (for example, by ignoring relevant facts or by using emotional language that unfairly sways readers’ or listeners’ feelings).

§    Purpose is the author’s reason for writing. Common purposes are to inform, to persuade, to honor, to entertain, to explain, and to warn.

Types of Non-Fiction

There are four main types, or modes, of nonfiction that are defined by their purposes.

§    Narrative nonfiction tells stories of real-life events. Examples include autobiographies and memoirs. Some narrative nonfiction is reflective writing, which shares the writer’s thoughts and feelings about a personal experience, an idea, or a concern. Examples include reflective essays, personal essays, and journals.



§    Expository nonfiction informs or explains. Examples include analytical essays and research reports.




§    Persuasive nonfiction presents reasons and evidence to convince the reader to act or think in a certain way. Examples include editorials and political speeches.



§    Descriptive nonfiction uses details related to the senses to create mental images for the reader. Examples include character sketches and scientific observations.






Specific Types of Non-Fiction