Reading non-fiction texts Before you start to revise for the reading non-fiction exam, you might find it useful to learn some techniques to help you remember what to think about in your exam. This document will teach you how to 'Mind the GAP' and 'Make a LIST' in your exam. Confused? Then read on ...
Mind the GAP GAP stands for: • • •
Genre Audience Purpose
Genre What is the text? How do you know? In the exam, this is easy because you will be told where the text came from. Knowing where the document came from – e.g. a newspaper, a magazine, a website, a book etc - will help you to think about the intended audience.
Audience Who is the text aimed at? How do you know? A writer always has an audience in mind. Different styles of writing will be used for different audiences. You would probably not speak to your head teacher in the same way as you speak to your friends.
Purpose What does the text want you to do? How does the text make you do it? All documents have a purpose - some entertain, some inform, some persuade and so on. To answer these questions in detail, you need to think about 'Make a LIST'...
text: any piece of writing. More widely a text can be anything that conveys a meaning – e.g. a film, TV programme, advert, website or image. www.bbc.co.uk/revision
Make a LIST LIST stands for: • • • •
Language Information Style Tone
Language • • • •
Is the language persuasive, informative, descriptive, childish or adult? Is the language emotive? Does it make you feel angry or sad? Does the writer address you directly?
Information Is the information in the document factual, a series of the writer’s opinions, or a mixture of the two?
Style • • • • •
Is Is Is Is Is
the document long and wordy with few pictures? it written in short paragraphs with lots of pictures? it written in bullet points? it interesting or eye-catching to look at? it a leaflet?
Tone This is linked to language. Imagine how you would read this document aloud. Do you need a serious, humorous, sad or angry tone of voice?
Getting started The exam The following relates to: AQA: paper 1, Section A: Reading response to non-fiction/media texts. In this part of the exam, you will be asked to read at least two texts. They will be non-fiction documents. You will have to answer questions about the texts and then write a piece in which you compare them.
Genre One of the first things you should do in your exam is to assess the genre of the text(s) you have been given to read. This document will help you to learn the differences between fiction and non-fiction texts and give some examples of what you could be given in the exam.
Fiction or non-fiction? Non-fiction text is usually written for a precise practical purpose, unlike fiction text, which is primarily written to entertain. Non-fiction text could be used to: • • • •
Inform the reader. Persuade the reader. Give advice to the reader. Describe a person, place, feeling or object.
Of course, fiction texts - novels, poems, plays - might include information, persuasion, advice and description, but remember that they were not specifically written with these in mind. Text usually contains clues that enable you to tell at a glance whether it is fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction text often has bold headlines and sub-headings, poignant illustrations and lots of facts and figures - but more of that later. The main thing to remember is that non-fiction text has a particular job to do: how successful it is at doing this job depends on the skill of the writer. non-fiction: A text that presents facts, opinions, judgements, advice or descriptions i.e. its contents are not made up, or fantasy. Also a category of literature that may present itself in a variety of formats – newspaper, magazine, web page, instruction manual, leaflet, advertisement. fiction: A text that is the product o someone’s imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. Also a category of literature usually in the form of short stories and books www.bbc.co.uk/revision
Examples It is difficult to give a complete list of the different types of non-fiction text because they come in all shapes and sizes, but below are some you might recognise: • • • • • • •
newspaper article magazine article list of instructions dictionary definition advertisement social worker's report list of ingredients on the side of a cereal packet
For each one, think about the job that it does - its purpose - and who it is aimed at - its audience. Have a look at the sections on Purpose and Audience in this document for more hints about these. Refer to the text constantly when you are answering a question about a non-fiction text. This will give evidence that you have read the question and examples from the text will support your answer.
Audience One of the most important questions you need to think about when you are reading a non-fiction text in your English exam is: Who is the text aimed at (its audience)? In other words - why was the text written? If you can answer this question, you'll easily be able to move on to writing about other aspects of the text such as its purpose, format and the language it uses. You will find that they're all linked together.
Types of audience
Types of audience
The young audience
There are many different types of audience for which a text might be written. A text could be aimed at: • • • • •
a certain age group men or women those with a common interest or hobby people from a particular geographical area people who buy or use a particular product
format: each application saves files in a format it can read, e.g. Microsoft Word saves files with a .doc extension
Example: Greenpeace leaflet
Below is a section of text from a leaflet about ancient forests. The leaflet was produced by the environmental campaigning organisation, Greenpeace. Look at this section of the leaflet. What type of audience do you think it is aimed at?
Tropical rainforest extract
Jackie Marsh from Greenpeace reveals who the intended audience for this leaflet is: "The main audience for this... is the teenagers who are interested enough to contact us about the subject. But we've also designed the information in such a way as to be useful to their teachers if they want to base a class on it. The way that we've organised it makes it as versatile as possible for as many different audiences as possible." So how can we tell that the intended audience is teenagers and teachers? •
• • •
The language is not too technical, but neither is it too childlike. Therefore, it suggests the text is aimed at young adults. Unfamiliar words appear in bold so that they can be identified and discussed. Photographs are used to support the text. There is factual information about the height, age and measurement of trees that would be useful to a class discussion on the topic.
When you are trying to figure out who the intended audience for a piece of nonfiction text is, you need to write about why the text has been written and how it has been put together. The sections on Language, Information, Style and Tone in this document will help you to think about the different ways in which information is presented to different audiences.
Purpose One of the most important questions to think about when you are reading a non-fiction text in your English exam is: What is the text trying to do (its purpose)?
Purpose In other words - why was the text written? If you can answer this question, you'll easily be able to move on to writing about other aspects of the text such as its format and the language it uses. You will find that they're all linked together. Non-fiction texts can be written for a variety of purposes. For example, a text might be written to: • • • •
provide instruction promote awareness inform about the facts report news
Non-fiction texts are usually written with a purpose to explain, inform or persuade.
format: each application saves files in a format it can read, e.g. Microsoft Word saves files with a .doc extension
Example: Greenpeace leaflet Below are some extracts from a leaflet produced by the environmental campaigning group, Greenpeace.
What do you think is the purpose of this extract?
This extract seeks to explain to people that the world's ancient forests are threatened. Jackie Marsh of Greenpeace says: People are often interested in the Amazon rainforests, but another purpose of this leaflet is to broaden the issue to forests right across the world. It's designed to stimulate interest with an argument that leads you through the text... The leaflet describes the problems of Amazon rainforests, moves on to talk about temperate rainforests in North America and Canada and then covers ancient woodlands in Britain, highlighting the fact that it is not just tropical rainforests that are affected.
Look at the diagram and text below. This is one of several diagrams featured in the leaflet. What do you think its purpose is?
This diagram, together with the accompanying text, seeks to inform people about ancient forests by providing a source of facts and figures.
Finally, look at the image below. This is one of several green leaves dotted around the leaflet at intervals, giving recycling advice. What do you think is the purpose of these leaves?
The green leaves are intended to persuade people to help by giving practical advice on recycling. It's easy for the information in the leaflet to be digested and understood because: •
It is broken up into different subjects in short blocks of text with clear subheadings. Technical words, which may be unfamiliar, appear in bold so that they can be identified and discussed. There are plenty of photographs, diagrams and maps to reinforce and develop the message of the text.
The leaflet is designed to appeal to everyone, and this is achieved by presenting the information in so many different ways.
When you write about why a text has been written, you have to think about how it has been put together. The sections on Language, Information, Style and Tone in this document will help you to think about the different ways in which information is presented to the reader.
Language To get high marks in an exam, you have to understand how language is used, because when it comes to non-fiction text every word is designed to achieve a specific effect.
Emotive language So how do you go about unpicking the language of a text? A lot of people have trouble answering questions on language, because it's hard to know where to start. When the author of a text is trying to persuade you to believe an opinion, you'll often find they use language that appeals to your emotions. This emotive language can be extreme at times, but can also be deceptively subtle. Emotive language can sound very convincing, but you have to decide if the writer is using it to twist the meaning and manipulate your response. Ask yourself why the author is using emotive language. Are you being persuaded to form a particular opinion about a subject or agree with a particular point of view? Have a look at this text and see if you can pick out any of the emotive language for yourself. The sight has become all too familiar: drunken yobs, hunting in packs, degrading themselves and shaming the flag of their country. Heavy drinking, violence and racial hatred is all part of the culture of young Britain, and is generally followed by whines and bleats of self pity when those trusted with upholding the law are pushed to take action. Now, just to ensure that you've spotted the emotive language above, look at this text and compare the two.
The sight has become familiar: drunken young men, travelling in groups, letting themselves and their country down. Heavy drinking, violence and racial hatred is all part of the culture of young Britain, and is generally followed by expressions of self pity when the local police take action.
Emotive: designed to make the reader feel something strongly. www.bbc.co.uk/revision
The two texts say the same thing, on the surface. Yet the furious attitude of the first one comes over strongly.
Did you notice how the emotive word yob has much more impact than young men? You may agree or disagree with the writer, but the words have certainly provoked a response from you. The phrase hunting in packs is much stronger and more emotive than travelling in groups, which is purely a phrase to describe what the men are doing. The writer's attitude is beginning to come over clearly. Degrading and shaming are much more pointed than letting their country down. We are being encouraged to share the writer's firm opinions.
Now spend a few minutes going back over the two texts you've just read and pick out other emotive language.
Non-fiction text often uses informative language, which is simply language that gets across the facts. The newspaper extract below simply puts across the facts.
The Forest of Dean's famous wandering sheep could soon have their fleeces painted luminous pink and yellow. The idea, to make them much easier for motorists to see at night, has come from the Commoners' Association, which looks after the animals. Night glow paint may save sheep
Often non-fiction text will use a mixture of emotive and informative language to try to get its message across.
Tone of language
Another key word describing the way an author uses language is tone.
One of the best ways to examine tone is to read or listen to a speech. Think about some famous people who have made speeches that you might be able to remember: • • •
Earl Spencer's speech at Princess Diana's funeral Martin Luther King (his 'I have a dream...' speech) Sir Winston Churchill
These people all used a combination of their voice and words to communicate messages that were important to them. Obviously, some people are better at this than others. Why do you think this is? •
You will notice how people might use emotive language to reinforce arguments. They might also use a passionate tone in their voice to persuade or show how strongly they feel about their purpose.
Tone is difficult to define, but if you really want the higher grades, you will need to spend time getting to grips with it. Look at the section on Tone to learn how to identify and comment on different types of tone.
Example: Red Cross advertisement On the next page is an advertisement from the Red Cross advertisement - what sort of language is used? Is it pleading, intelligent or patronising? Why do you think it is used?
The language used
The language used in the Red Cross advertisement is quite pleading in tone. For example: "Help... What is needed in every case is...we need your help now, whatever you can afford....Every little bit really does help." This type of language is meant to appeal to the emotions of the reader (it is emotive) and persuade them to make a donation. In your exam, remember to always support your answer with quotations from the text to illustrate the point you make.
Your response to the advertisement
Think about how the Red Cross advertisement makes you feel as the reader? This is the ultimate measure of how successful the advertisement is because your response is important.
Does the article make you feel: • • • • • •
inspired to send money guilty angry sad confused nothing at all
Can you explain or justify why it made you feel this way? Was it the language or was it the look of the advertisement? You will need to be able to explain why the advertisement makes you feel the way you do in your exam.
Give clear reasons for your response. • • •
Would you have sent money to the Red Cross? Did you want to find out more about the Red Cross? Did you learn something you didn't previously know about the Red Cross?
Apply these types of questions in the exam, to show that you have thought about whether the advertisement or leaflet you are writing about is successful in its purpose. www.bbc.co.uk/revision
Exam tips â€˘
When you read any article, it's a good trick to see if you can imagine what it might be like if it was written by someone who holds different views. How could a writer use language to try to sway your emotions so that you come to a different conclusion? Listen to politicians, too. They often use a lot of emotive language to persuade people to agree with their ideas.