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Elements of Nonfiction

Four Major Elements of Nonfiction

1. Lay out
2. Information
3. Characterization
4. Style and Tone

Lay out

Layout should attract the reader and encourage reading and progression through the book.

Format is interesting, attractive, magnetic

Glossary, pronunciation key
Table of contents
Book size
Photographs compliment text, located near the related text, captions
accurate. Illustrations are important but if the writer relies too much
on pictures, the reader/listener/viewer may not get a comprehensive
understanding of the information that would be better communicated
with words.


Information includes facts, little known information, and ideas that spark curiosity, create mystery, and
propel the listener/reader/viewer to discover and learn.

o Qualifications of the creator suggest appropriate experience or exceptionality

o Accurate - information can be verified with other sources-
o Includes source information
o Timely or current
o Supports the story
o Covers the topic in significant detail
o Moves from simple to complex and familiar to unfamiliar
o Creates a feeling of the setting
o Presents information in an organized sequence that enhances the topic
o Non-biased - neutral position
o Is not overly didactic
o Includes safety precautions as needed


o Characters are well developed

o No stereotype or biased characterization
o Creates empathy for the characters
o Uses quotations and anecdotes. Particularly in biographies it is important to
use the character's real words and anecdotes that originate from someone
with first-hand knowledge of the incidents.
Style and tone

Style should maintain the reader's interest. Nonfiction presents information, but the listener/viewer/reader
doesn't need to be bored by a collection of information in choppy sentences. Good style adds interest to the

o Narration creates interest and understanding

o Clear
o Precise
o Distinguish between fact, theory, and opinion
o Vivid
o Could be personalized
o Objective non-biased or condensending or sarcastic
o Is not didactic
o Does not use propaganda techniques
o Builds suspense or sustains interest and encourages further investigation
o Moves from simple to complex and familiar to unfamiliar
o Presents information in an organized sequence that enhances the topic
o Scope is appropriate for the target audience and increases in complexity at an
appropriate rate
o Avoids anthropomorphism
o Vocabulary is relative
o Underlying themes are appropriate and helpful
o Presents ideas/topic in a unique manner or new perspective
o Illustrations compliment and dont over power the message
o Includes a table of contents, glossary, and index
o Has a theme(s)
o Has a conclusion