Analysing Non-Fiction

Presentational Devices

Presentational Devices

Definition

Presentational devices are about how the text is structured visually. In other words, they are used to present the words in a text in a way which relates to their genre. For example, instruction manuals use headings and diagrams to make their instructions as clear as possible. Advertisements would use font and colour to be eye-catching and to highlight the most important aspects of the information they are giving.

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Types of devices

Headings (titles) and sub-headings

The largest heading should immediately tell you what the text is about, though sometimes they use a hook to draw people into reading the text. As well as this, the title heading can give you an idea of the author’s opinions about what they are writing.

Sub-headings break up the text, signposting their paragraph to show what it is specifically about. They make it easier for the audience to locate the exact information they are looking for.

As an example of this, let’s consider an article about Facebook. This is the general topic. However, each paragraph will address a more specific part of Facebook. We could have the following title: Facebook: Helping friends stay in touch. It shows exactly what the article is about and the language is positive, with words like ‘helping’. This suggests the author is in favour of Facebook. This article could have the following sub-headings:

What is Facebook?

How does it connect people?

Online organiser: Create events

Not just for young people (Think about the audience! If this article is directed at an older audience or more general than just thinking about young adults, this paragraph will help catch their eye.)

How can you connect?

Font size and style (bold, italic etc.)

Both the font style and size can be used to attract the attention of the audience and to emphasise certain pieces of information. It can also suggest the style of the text. For example, the use of fonts such as Chiller or Bradley Hand ITC gives an informal impression.

Layout features (bullets, boxed text)

Again, bullet points and boxed text can be used to draw the audience’s attention to certain statements. They can also be used as a side note to the article to give some extra information. For example, an article about Avatar and the success of the film could have a box of text with the sub-heading Highest Grossing Films in the World. This is not integral to the article but provides the audience with some additional statistics. Bullet points are often used to give information in clear, concise, bite-sized pieces rather than using complete prose.

Colour

Certain texts use colour to support their message and influence the audience. For example, using bright colours which catch the eye can make an advertisement stand out. Another example could be using red to represent danger when writing a warning, or a calm blue background when advertising a holiday destination.

Structure (short or long paragraphs)

Non-fiction texts, such as newspapers and magazines, are usually formed into paragraphs for clarity and ease of reading. The length of the paragraph may give a good clue as to the text’s intended audience: short texts being aimed at younger people to hold their attention or busy people who do not have time to read lengthy texts. Texts which aim to advertise a product may also use one-sentence paragraphs or shorter paragraphs as they need to draw in the audience quickly to grab their attention and sell their product before interest is lost.

Quotations

These are statements made by people either which are put in quotation marks or highlighted in the text. They can be used for a number of reasons: to highlight a particularly interesting or shocking statement, to draw in a reader’s interest with a quote from a well-known person, or to draw attention to a statistic or fact.

Logos and Slogans

CaptureLogos are graphic representations of companies, brands or individuals. They appear on products so that the inventor or creator can be easily identified. Sometimes, logos can contain the name or abbreviation of a company. In non-fiction texts, logos of famous organisations can support a product, event or opinion piece. They could also help establish a new brand.

Slogans are short, catchy phrases used primarily in advertising. They are designed to be memorable so that the audience will remember the products advertised and spend more time thinking about buying them.

Illustrations and photos

These images are a way to capture the reader’s interest as soon as they look at the text. Illustrations and photos can be used to give visual information about the text’s context, to influence the reader into thinking about a topic in a certain way and to stimulate the reader’s senses so they are more engaged.

Captions

Captions provide additional information to illustrations and photos. They can be amusing or they can give the details of what is happening in the image or where it represents/was taken. Always look at the caption to see if it gives additional meaning to the image.

Charts and diagrams

Charts and diagrams are an effective way to break up the writing in texts and give facts and statistics in a more visual way. They can make informative texts more understandable to readers.