What are Nonfiction Text Features? - Examples & Overview

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  • 0:03 Nonfiction Text Features
  • 0:58 Headings & Subheadings
  • 1:36 Boldface, Italics, & Underline
  • 2:25 Color & Graphics
  • 3:00 Footnotes & Sidebars
  • 3:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Barbara Fehr

Barbara has taught English and history and has a master's degree in special education.

In this lesson you will be introduced to a variety of features that authors use in nonfiction texts. You will learn the importance of these text features and how to use them to help you better understand what you are reading.

Nonfiction Text Features

Imagine you have just met a new person. You don't know a whole lot about them yet, but you can make some predictions based on their facial features. Their nose is crooked, so you can infer that they broke it at some point in their life. They have freckles, so its likely they spend a lot of time out in the sun. Maybe there are fine lines around their eyes and mouth, signifying that they smile a lot. You have just used their features to gain more knowledge about that person, before talking to them or directly learning information about them.

Nonfiction texts have distinguishing features, too. As a reader, when you are able to identify and analyze the key features of a text, you will be able to gain a better understanding of what the author wants you to learn. Just as with facial features, text features are visual cues that the reader can use to identify what the text is about, before even reading it. This lesson introduces commonly seen text features and strategies on how to analyze what their functions are.

Refer to the picture below as an example of what some of these features look like.

An example of text features in a nonfiction text.

Headings and Subheadings

Headings and subheadings are used to help the reader identify the main topic of the entire text (heading), and sections of the text (subheading). They allow the reader to predict what the text will be about. When you begin reading an article, the heading is usually up at the top of the page.

If you grab any magazine and turn to an article, you will see the heading, possibly in color and larger print. Let's say the heading is 'Ocean Creatures'. You can predict that you are going to read about a variety of animals that live under the sea. The subheadings in this article may be 'Sharks', 'Flounder', 'Coral Reefs', etc. Each subheading gives a more specific look at the larger topic.

Boldface, Italics, and Underlining

Boldface is used when the author introduces a key word or term, or gives a special emphasis. The word appears thicker and darker than the rest of the print on the page.

Italics (which is written here in italics) are often used when the author is naming a character, book or movie, for example, or quoting another written text. Using italics is another way to make the font appear different from the rest of the text. And italics also can be used to emphasize an important word or sentence.

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