Analysing Non-Fiction

Devices and Writing Techniques

Devices and Writing Techniques

Two Main Types of Language

In the Reading Section, you may be asked a question about the language and writing techniques used in the text. First, consider the writer’s use of detail. Do they use simple language to catch the reader’s attention or do they appeal to one’s senses in a more subtle way? In some cases, a talented writer will do both.

Simple language: Our cupcakes are delicious or You deserve a luxury holiday in the sun.

Descriptive language: The mixture rises up to form perfect cakes and the enticing smell of bakery floats out into the streets or The music playing by the swimming pool invites those wearied from explore the island to cool off in the heavenly, crystal-blue water.

There are pros and cons to using both types of language. Simple language gets your point across in a clear, straightforward way. Descriptive language is more colourful and imaginative, allowing your target audience to use their senses to picture a scene. Writing techniques will often be used to make the use of these two types of language more effective.

Writing Techniques

Many of you will be familiar with the AFOREST acronym of persuasive writing techniques. If you are, you will know that the techniques listed in this acronym are often used by writers of non-fiction. Here is a list of them, a few variations of the acronym, and other important techniques to learn.


The spine-chilling trailer will have you reaching a shaky hand for the popcorn. This terrifying film is a must-see. The adjectives add more flavour to the sentences, giving information about the film – it is scary – and provoking the reader’s interest by using descriptive language. You are shown the film is scary by the ‘shaky’ hand.


Feisty, fiercely free-spirited Fiona is not your usual damsel in distress. By repeating the same sound (not letter – ‘cat’ and ‘ceiling’ would not make alliteration), a phrase makes more of an impact on the reader and becomes more easily memorable. This is because the repetition of a sound adds rhythm to a phrase and acts almost like a hammer or a drum beat in the mind.


A short, sharp fact in a text can be effective in supporting any opinions given. It can persuade the reader to follow the writer’s thoughts on a product, event or issue. Facts are information given which is considered to be completely true. For example, Bananas contain potassium which helps your muscles contract and expand. is a good fact to use in an article about fruit being healthy.


Using an opinion in non-fiction texts can highlight the writer’s view on the subject. For example, Bananas taste delicious in your cereal. could be used in a healthy eating article. This shows that the writer has tried fruit before and is not merely writing about facts but rather from their own experience. In this case, they are being positive about bananas.

Rhetorical Questions

These are questions asked without expecting an answer. Usually this is because the answer is simple, like ‘yes’ or ‘no’. These questions are designed to make the reader believe they have reached a decision on their own. For example: Most people would not want a second rate car with chipped paint becomes Who would want a car with chipped paint? Answer: ‘not me’. Do you want a luxury car without the luxury price tag? Answer: ‘yes’ (unless you are being difficult or have been annoyed by the article in some way).


Restaurant Henri will set your taste buds aquiver. This restaurant will have you asking for seconds. Restaurant Henri is the restaurant of the century. Repetition aims to make the reader remember something specific by fixing it in their mind. In this case, an advert like this could aim to have the reader associate the word ‘restaurant’ with a specific place so, the next time they think about eating out, they immediately think of that place.

Emotive Language

Any language used to appeal to your emotions is emotive. For example, the dog barks helplessly, waiting for his owner to release him from the cruelly shortened lead. He waits patiently and trustingly for an owner who will never return. This kind of speak, using words like ‘helplessly’ and ‘trustingly’ are meant to make the reader feel sympathetic to the dog.


The use of statistics to support an argument gives more information to the reader. They are important because they, as well as facts, provide the backbone to a text. Use them effectively and they will convince the reader. For example, 70% of people who eat bananas regularly are likely to lose more weight when exercising than those who do not eat fruit often.


The rule of three can refer to two different things:

1. The repetition of something 3 times will make it stick in the reader’s thoughts. The dog saw the ball. The dog barked at the ball then the ball went flying.

2. Using 3 adjectives (or nouns) consecutively, one after the other, will make the reader remember them as a group and have more of an impact. This is also called tripling. The cave was dark, cold and dangerous.


This is language which creates an image in the reader’s mind which relates to a thing or situation. The image is not literal but more of an equivalent to what the intended meaning is. I am sleepy because I have been burning the candle at both ends.


Similes compare two things by looking at a characteristic which makes them similar. This dress fits like a glove. Generally, similes use one of the following words: ‘like’ or ‘as': She was as white as a ghost.


A metaphor is when two things are compared using a similar characteristic. However, one thing becomes what it is being compared with. It becomes abstract because you cannot take things at face value. For example, This car is so fast, it is the cheetah of the motoring world.

Personal pronouns

(I, me, you, your, them etc.) Using these is the writer’s way of making the text appear more directly addressed to the reader. It includes the reader in the text and appeals to them. Are you familiar with our delicious cupcakes? They will have your taste buds tingling.

Discourse markers

These units of speech are used to signpost the text and draw it together. Writers use them to help the writing flow more effectively by connecting paragraphs. They can also influence the tone of the text:

Formal Examples: however, although, therefore, supposing that, in contrast, furthermore

Informal Examples: by the way, mind you, you know, anyway, so


This is exaggeration for reader effect: to be shocking, humorous or to play on emotions. An example is I’ve got a million things to do, It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets.

It is important that you are able to recognise these writing techniques in non-fiction texts, to be able to explain why a quote you chose is an example of that type of technique and to link them to the purpose of the text.