Copyright

Showing Point of View Through Content, Word Choice & Phrasing

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

The majority of texts, especially non-fiction, contain the author's point of view. In this lesson, you'll learn how to use different aspects of the text to determine that point of view.

Point of View

No matter what topic you are addressing, when you talk about something, you are looking at it from a certain point of view (POV). This might mean you are in favor of the topic, against it, or even completely neutral. Just as you have a POV for everything, so do the authors of texts. In non-fiction texts especially, you can use different aspects of the author's writing to determine how they view the topic. These aspects include the author's word choice, phrasing, and the content they choose to include.

Word Choice

Choosing what words to use is an important aspect of being an author. The words that end up in the text can in many cases give us a clue into the author's perspective. This is especially true of adjectives, or descriptive words. These often have inherently positive or negative connotations which give away how the author feels. Take a look at the following excerpt from a National Park Service article titled 'Visionary Leaders':

'Celebrate the visionaries who came before us with groundbreaking ideas - not only about preserving our nation's 'crown jewels', but also extending the National Park Service's mission to some of the nation's other uniquely American treasures.'

Descriptive words in this paragraph include 'groundbreaking' and 'uniquely.' Both of these have positive connotations, which indicates that the author feels positively about the subject matter. The choice of the word 'celebrate' also indicates this. 'Celebrate' is definitely a positive term. If the author believes the subject (the park founders) is worth celebrating, that means they feel positively about it.

The National Park Service article illustrates how word choice can show POV
NPS Logo

Phrasing

Phrasing is closely related to word choice, but it can include partial or complete sentences, in addition to single words. For example, the choice of the word 'celebrate' would fall under phrasing and word choice, but the choice of 'crown jewels' to describe the national parks would just be phrasing. The choice of 'crown jewels' as a phrase references the British crown jewels, and indicates that the parks are the pride of our country. This is both positive and patriotic, and tells us quite a bit about the author's point of view. Here's another excerpt from the same article:

'Because of them, the agency today manages a range of cultural sites including monuments, parkways, battlefields, cemeteries, and recreation areas. This rich variety...'

In this excerpt, the phrase 'because of them' gives credit to the people being discussed (the visionary leaders), and the subsequent sentences, including phrases such as 'rich variety', show that the author intends this credit to be a positive thing. Taken together, the phrasing in this section reinforces the idea that the author looks favorably on the subject matter.

Content

In any text, there is a limited amount of space, and so what the author chooses to include can help indicate their point of view. This is especially true for shorter texts like articles, which are far more limited than books. The National Park Service article has a section on president Theodore Roosevelt that helps illustrate this:

'In nearly two terms as President, Roosevelt pushed progressive reforms, advocated consumer protection laws and the regulation of big business, supported conservation of the environment, and asserted America 's authority abroad.'

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