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Crucial concepts and details: Drawing conclusions and summarizing
In this section of TEAS study guide, we will look at a few concepts you need to understand as part of reading comprehension.
Multi-paragraph text summarization
Let’s start with summaries.
Summarizing what you’ve read in the form of a paragraph or section can be helpful in many situations, and it’s much like writing an outline of what you’ve read.
The first requirement of an effective summary is to find the main idea the passage tries to convey.
The summary explains this in a simple manner, without going into too much detail.
The most important arguments or supporting details from the passage then follow.
Give all the necessary facts that support the key detail, but never include details or elements that simply aren’t necessary to the text’s overall meaning.
Also, the summary must reflect all of this information in an accurate manner.
Often, in an attempt to be succinct, a summary may end up compromising on clarity, and even accuracy.
Because they don’t often include the digressions, asides, or full language used by the author, summaries are sometimes not that easy to read.
An effective summary must retain its brevity, while effectively communicating the message of the original text.
Next, we move on to main ideas and topics.
The capacity for recognizing topic/subject and key ideas ranks among the most essential competencies in reading comprehension.
Note, however, that between these two, there are small differences.
When reading a text, the topic/subject is what the author is trying to convey.
However, the author will convey their most critical point through the key idea.
Only a few words are used by the author to express the topic/subject.
To be completely defined, however, the key idea will use a full sentence, sometimes more.
Usually, when reading nonfiction writing, you will find that the topic/subject and the key idea are directly stated.
Often, this is either right at the start of the text or, sometimes, at the end.
The reader may swiftly scan the piece for the topic/subject while being quizzed on their overall comprehension thereof.
The opening sentence of a paragraph is, more often than not, the key topic/ subject sentence and gives an idea of what the paragraph is all about.
There are instances where the reader must interpret a key idea or topic/subject that isn’t obvious.
To do so, by reading every sentence, the reader can find an idea that all the sentences support.
Supporting details are critical too.
Key points, also called supporting details, give evidence as well as support for the key idea.
Evidence to support key points must be provided by the author to show them to be true and valid.
There are details in all the text that the reader goes through, but they can only be classified as key points if a larger point is reinforced by them.
Look for text that is persuasive or informative.
It’s in these that you will find key points more often than not.
Sometimes, it’s made clearer through the use of certain phrases, such as for example, and for instance, which makes the reader’s task far easier.
Always remember to check if the key points do indeed back up the main point the author is making.
Sometimes, supporting details, although factual and correct, might not be connected to the point the author is trying to make.
It’s up to the reader to decide if they do or not.
In some cases, because they are based on assertions or opinions, supporting details, while pertinent, can be ineffectual.
Last, in this section, we look at summary and topical sentences.
An effective way in which you can condense the main idea of a piece of text is through the use of topic and summary sentences.
As a way to show the reader what they can expect to see in a certain section, many articles of an academic nature as well as textbooks will use a top or summary sentence at the beginning.
According to research, conveying the primary concept or a few critical phrases upfront makes the brain more open to new information presented to it.
It’s like how using a primer coat allows for easier absorption of future coats of paint.
When using a summary or topical sentence, it should be kept short and clear, which means cutting out the jargon.
Often, readers themselves will write down their own summary or topical sentence if one is not provided.
This is an excellent way to keep what you’ve learned fresh in your mind, as well as providing a way to quickly navigate passages you’ve already read.
A way to raise overall reading comprehension is by paraphrasing what you’ve read.
Simply put, this is putting the information that you have read into your own words.
Instead of taking something in passively, paraphrasing allows a reader to look at what they have read and actively engage with it.
The benefits include the fact that the information read is considered in a clear manner, and overall, it can be used to see if you understand the information you’ve taken in.
In lieu of a direct quote, writers can incorporate information from other sources via paraphrasing.
It’s an excellent tool for giving a reader the background the author has received through their research before moving on to the text or body of an essay.
If you paraphrase the work of someone else, however, you need to make sure that the original author receives credit.
This can be done by simply using a citation.
Making an inference
Sometimes, as a reader, you will need to interpret a text that makes assertions and deals with concepts indirectly.
If the author implies something without stating it in an obvious manner, this is known as an inference.
When coming to a conclusion after reading a specific passage, it’s critical not to draw in information outside of what is stated by the author.
Always ensure that you pay attention and concentrate when drawing inferences.
Always look for contextual cues when tested on your ability to make correct inferences.
In some cases, while it’s not correct, the answer given can still certainly be true, so caution is needed.
Using the contextual clues you find, the best course of action is to choose the best possible response.
It’s critical to pay attention to each statement and the context thereof.
Always identify the statement and study it when asked to explain its inferred meaning.
Look for a similar phrase to the statement in question in the answers provided, and choose the one that’s similar.
Coming to a conclusion
Understanding how informational writing logically concludes the concepts it deals with is a crucial skill.
Whether you actually agree with what the author says or not can be determined by finding a logical conclusion.
This is much like making an inference in the fact that you draw a logical conclusion by combining what you already know with what you’ve read in the text.
The detail and argumentation used by the author in the text are intended to make the reader reach a particular conclusion.
When trying to draw a conclusion from what you’ve read, an excellent method is to look at all the points the author is making and jot them down in a series of brief notes.
Logical conclusions can be reached more easily when those notes are arranged on paper.
Looking at whether the logic used by the author brings up any pertinent questions is another method at your disposal when trying to come to a conclusion.
In some cases, a passage can lead the reader to come up with more than one conclusion. Often, the author might not have envisioned these conclusions at all.
For that reason, always ensure that the text does provide specific support for any conclusion that you come up with.
We also need to mention information that’s directly stated.
Drawing conclusions from the text is something we should always do as readers.
Often, the conclusion is found directly in the passage as stated by the author, while on other occasions, they may imply it.
Look for those conclusions that are stated within the passage (if they are there), as this is far better than trying to draw them out from something that might be implied.
On some occasions, there may be information as well as a counter argument provided by the author.
Always check for an author rejecting or weakening a statement through counterarguments.
Prior to reaching any conclusions, you should always go through the entire text.
While it’s often the case that a reader expects the conclusion to be either at the start or end of a passage, on some occasions, this won’t be the case, and that’s why it’s critical to read everything first.
What about implications?
A reader needs to be confident if they are going to draw conclusions from information that a passage implies but does not give directly.
When readers can assume something based on what an author doesn’t state directly but infers, we call this an implication.
Here’s an example.
I opened my umbrella and went outdoors. My umbrella was sopping wet by the time I arrived at work, so I left it at the office entrance.
Nowhere does the author say that the subject of the text was walking in the rain, but we know they were for several reasons.
For example, they used an umbrella, and it was sopping wet when they got to work.
The text, however, must support any conclusions a reader makes based on implications.
To do this effectively, the reader should rely on not just a single piece of evidence but multiple pieces.
Readers must be convinced that their conclusion is the only plausible explanation if there is only one piece of evidence.
A skilled reader will be able to infer a lot of information from the text that’s implied, and this is an excellent skill to have for the exam.
There’s different evidence that text can provide, namely explicit or implicit.
If something is explicitly stated in a passage, the author is telling whoever reads it exactly what they mean.
This includes how the authors see events described from their perspective.
If something is implicitly stated in a passage, it’s from what’s described that we can draw a conclusion.
So, for example, saying someone’s face was drained of all color when they came out of the Haunted Ghost Train ride at the fun fair would indicate that they were scared.
As long as the evidence is stated clearly or the text in question reasonably implies it, a logical conclusion can be supported by both explicit and implicit evidence.
Because it’s easier to use and can be found easily in the text by a reader, explicit evidence is the one that’s used by writers most often.
If implicit evidence is used, in some cases, it’s not as easy for a reader to be able to
So as to discern implied information, readers must draw a conclusion from explicit evidence.
If implicit evidence is used to help readers come to more conclusions, the text should imply it sufficiently as necessary evidence for the conclusion reached.
Comprehension of written directions
Readers usually must follow instructions when reading technical passages, and for many, this is not an easy process, especially for those of us who are visual or tactile learners.
Compared to other texts, when producing a set of guidelines, a different approach is needed.
To start, always look through the directions to see if any special preparations are needed or if certain equipment is necessary.
In cases like this, readers should always return to the first step, where they’ve perused all the directions briefly.
It is essential to finish each stage before going on to the next while following instructions.
If you can’t, each step should be visualized before moving on to the next.
We also need to look at written directions and the signal words found in them.
Several signal words are found in passages that contain instructions as a way to show the reader when each step is complete as well as, in terms of the procedure described, how essential the step is.
Words such as last, then, next, and first are all examples of signal words that highlight the sequence to be carried out.
They show us how each step is related to the steps before and after, and thus, our understanding of the whole process is improved significantly.
In some cases, additional signal words can show whether, in terms of the whole procedure, a step is essential or not.
An example of this is found in a recipe, for instance. A word like taste is a signal word, but it’s not a necessity in terms of the dish being cooked.
What about written directions and contradictions, as well as information that’s missing?
From time to time, information that is contradictory could be left out or even included in an instructional passage.
If this is the case, as a way to work out if there is an error in the text, the reader should carefully read the passage.
Following that, and with their prior knowledge in mind, look at the information that the text gives, and using logic, the reader can work out how they need to respond to this missing information or contradiction.
The process is much the same as when a reader comes to a conclusion from the text they’ve read.
That said, the information in the text needs to not only be logical but also compatible with the solution.
Seeking and choosing useful information
Readers typically have a goal in mind when reading an informational piece of writing.
This can include helping them solve a problem, finding an answer to a question they have, or ensuring they improve their overall knowledge about something.
To do this, the text is scanned by the reader for information that suits whatever their purpose is.
There are many ways that tools within the information text can help in this regard.
Take a table of contents, for example; it will show them the exact section in the book where specific things are covered.
These tools also include headings, keywords, and others to help them find exactly what they are looking for.
You can make use of various resources found online, including search engines, to help you track down specific information.
They have to be used in the correct manner, however, and that starts with the user knowing what it is they want to search for in terms of the information needed.
Searching itself starts with looking for phrases related to the information they seek.
Search engines then provide links based on these keywords.
Crucial concepts and details: Features of text and printed communication
Features of text
The first features of text we look at are headings.
These can be further broken down into subheadings.
As a way to ensure effective organization, many texts that are of an informative nature make use of headings and subheadings.
An excellent example of this is a textbook.
When compared to the regular text, headings are often in a larger font, bolded, or, in many cases, both.
While subheadings are smaller in size than a heading, they are easy to differentiate from regular text too.
Another way to easily note a heading and a subheading is that, more often than not, they won’t be a full sentence but a summarization of what’s covered below them.
So if a heading is Aircraft, subheadings to that may include, Civilian aircraft, Military aircraft, and Transport aircraft, for example.
Using headings and subheadings effectively can help a reader locate the exact information that they are looking for in the text.
Next, the use of bold text and underlying.
We’ve already discussed how headings can be bold, but you will also find bolded text in general paragraphs, while in some cases, sections may be underlined.
Text formatting techniques like bolding and underlining are sometimes used to help with comprehension of what is being read.
For example, an author might bold a specific word to draw attention and make a point.
In some cases, authors may use bold text to show importance.
Another example of where bold text is used is in textbooks.
Here, critical phrases that the reader needs to take note of are often highlighted through the use of bold text.
This helps when carrying out pre-test reviews of the information, too.
Similar outcomes can be accomplished via underlining, through which emphasis is often shown.
Sometimes, however, underlining is used for works of art, in magazines, and book titles.
When people used typewriters, which were unable to produce italics, this was more frequent, however.
It’s not so much the case anymore due to the use of computers.
We’ve mentioned italics, but let’s look into them in more detail.
These are used to highlight keywords, phrases, and sentences in a text, similar to the use of underlining and bold text.
But that’s not all they are used for.
When a certain word is being discussed by the author, for example, when it’s used within a sentence, it will be put in italics.
Italics are used if a word is being defined as well.
In longer texts, italics are often used in titles, most notably in books, but also in long-format poems, operas, and even magazines.
Authors can use italics as a tone or style marker, and this is something a reader should be able to pick out.
While some authors employ them extensively to depict a tone of intense emotion, others use them selectively to indicate reason and calm, for example.
Next, we have endnotes and footnotes.
Word processors allow for endnotes and footnotes, and it’s critical to understand how they are used.
A section of text that is found at the bottom of a page is known as a footnote.
This provides information about the sources the author has used for any facts or information they may have included in the text.
Endnotes do much the same, but you won’t find them at the end of every page, instead, they are either located at the end of a paragraph or even at the end of a certain chapter.
Then we have the glossary.
Found at the end of a book, this is a collection of words and their explanations.
Often found in references or textbooks, unlike a dictionary, not all the words in the book are found in the glossary; only those that are considered key phrases that the reader might not have seen before.
When reading a scientific textbook chapter or an economics book, for instance, the technical terms within would be explained in the glossary.
How does a glossary differ from an index?
Often, the index is located at the end of a nonfiction book, and it’s here that more information is given on some of the themes covered in the book.
Usually, alphabetical order is used to arrange the index, with the last name of any people mentioned listed first and then their surname.
Next to their names, you will find all the page numbers in the book where they are mentioned.
When the topic covers numerous pages, a dash is used to link them together.
Subtopics will appear for some topics.
These are given in alphabetical order, slightly indented below the main theme.
Then there is the table of contents.
A table of contents is generally found at the start of books, periodicals, and journals.
Using page numbers, it shows the various topics covered or the titles of each chapter, allowing the reader to easily find what they are looking for.
It’s normally within the first few pages of a magazine or book where this handy tool is located.
Usually, it’s on the left-hand side that the chapters are located when a table of contents is presented in a book.
The corresponding page number where every chapter is located is then placed on the right-hand side.
The table of contents will also include other information; for example, in novels, it will include the preface or introduction as well as the glossary (if there is one).
Visuals, charts, graphs, and other printed communication
We start this section by looking at pie charts.
As a way to show how either a single unit or category can be divided, a pie chart is an excellent visual tool.
Also known as a circle graph, it takes the form of a circle.
This is then split into various-sized wedges, and it’s part of the whole that these wedges are proportional in size.
For example, a pie chart could be used for a monthly budget.
Let’s say the overall budget (the full circle) is $1,000.
The different wedges then show how that’s broken down, so Rent might be $500, Food $300, Transport $200, and Entertainment $100.
So half of the monthly budget is spent on rent, while a tenth is spent on entertainment, and the pie chart provides a clear visual representation of this.
Next, we have the bar graph.
Among the most prevalent types of information visualization presented as a graph is the bar graph.
They are typically used to display various types of numerical data.
Both a vertical axis and a horizontal axis are present in this type of graph.
Numbers are listed along the vertical axis, while other indicators, categories for example, are found along the horizontal axis.
A bar graph may show the weights of WWE wrestlers for example.
Along the vertical axis, you would have their names, like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and the Undertaker.
Along the vertical axis is the range of their weights, let’s say 200 to 500 pounds.
Each wrestler then has a bar in the bar graph above their name on the vertical axis that represents their weight, for example, Hulk Hogan – 270 pounds.
Then there is a line graph.
This is particularly useful when trying to measure trends over a specific time frame.
Again, a vertical and horizontal axis is present, and it’s on these that various data points are plotted.
The variables this data relates to are found on both the vertical and horizontal axes.
Here’s an example.
Let’s take a line graph that’s showing commission earned by a salesperson over a period of six months.
On the horizontal axis, you will have the months (January to June), and on the vertical axis, you will have their commission earned (between $1,000 and $2,000).
So in January, they earned $1,500 in February, $1,200 in March, $1,300 in April, and so on, with each point then plotted on a line graph.
The points are then connected by a line, and through this, trends can be spotted and analyzed.
We also need to mention pictographs.
A pictograph is a type of graph that frequently displays a horizontal orientation and represents the data via symbols or images.
As a way to decode the information, a key is necessary, so those who study the graph know what each symbol is exactly.
We move on to various printed communication types, and there are a few.
A form of written communication used in business, for example, a memorandum is usually shortened and called a memo.
When used, a standard format should be followed.
To start, right at the top of the memo, you find who it is from, who it is intended for, and the date on which it was written.
From time to time, the title of the author and their organization will be included too.
From that point, the meaty bit of the memo follows, the body.
This is where all the information the author wants to convey to the reader is found.
A memo is generally a form of communication within an organization and will be written in a formal tone as it is seen as official documentation.
Numbers and bullet points are often part of a memo, which makes them easier to read.
Next, we have the posted announcement.
For many different event types, people often choose to publish announcements.
Announcements include notices for missing pets, yard auctions, concerts, food fairs, and more.
These announcements should offer every detail the reader needs to act on so as to be effective.
For instance, the description of the animal as well as contact details for the owner should be included in an announcement about a missing pet.
The audience’s perspective should be a major consideration when drawing up an announcement.
As such, the information within the announcement should come from the question, ‘What is it my audience needs to know to make this an effective announcement and to respond to it?’
At all times, the information in the announcement should be conveyed clearly, but by all means, it can be spruced up (made colorful, for example) so it’s noticed by its intended target audience.
Different from an announcement is a classified ad, sometimes simply called an ad.
They can have a range of functions, from buying and selling to even helping someone meet a potential life partner.
Ads remain an excellent way to make a quick, cheap pitch and are used not only in newspapers and magazines but online as well.
No matter where they are found, classified ads are always set up in the same way.
To start, the service offered or the product to be sold or bought is the first word or phrase in the ad.
The item or product is then described briefly.
Newspaper classified advertisements often use abbreviations for similar features because of space restrictions and high costs.
Bk for black, is an example of these types of abbreviations.
At the end of the ad is the price the seller wants, or what the buyer is prepared to pay for a service, for example, and that is followed by their contact details.
Last, in this section, let’s look at scale readings.
With a little experience, reading the scales on standard measuring devices isn’t that difficult.
Think about a ruler, for example.
There are a variety of units that are marked on the long edge of a ruler, for example, one side might have centimeters and the other, inches.
Understanding a sequence of events
In order for a reader to understand text, it’s necessary to note the events and the sequence in which things are carried out.
One way of doing so is to look out for signal words, which we’ve already mentioned.
These include words such as before, last, next, then, and first.
These aren’t the only tools used by writers when it comes to the sequence of events.
They can make use of verb tenses as well as adverbs, which can also act as signal words.
In some cases, readers should note where the author of a text has only implied a sequence of events.
For example, in the sentence, He walked across his balcony and gave the plants water, the man didn’t walk across his balcony first and then give the plants water.
Instead, he watered his plants as he walked across the balcony.
Also, he would have had to collect the watering can and fill it to carry out this task, something that’s not stated in the sequence of events, but certainly implied.
So in this case, there is no orderly sequence of events either, and it certainly doesn’t have to be.
While this is a simple example, others can be quite tricky, and if a reader is having trouble with a sequence of events, making notes can help significantly.
Structure and craft: Word choice, stereotypes, and biases
Fact or opinion? How to distinguish between them.
When reading a text, being able to tell the difference between fact and opinion is certainly a necessary skill for a reader to have.
When we talk about a fact, it’s something that can be either proved or disproved when subjected to analysis.
The personal feelings or thoughts of an author are what they will convey by sharing their opinion.
This doesn’t have to be based on any type of research or even evidence.
So if an author writes, The capital of England is London, he is stating a fact because we know that to be true.
If he says something like, London is a horrible city, then that is his opinion.
If you are looking to make the distinction between opinion and fact, it’s best to look out for a variety of words that will signal someone’s opinion.
These words include the likes of feel, believe, and think.
Be careful, however, because, in some instances, opinions may be stated like facts by an author.
In some cases, they may even use facts to back up their opinions.
So if an author states that New York is overcrowded, they could state population density figures, which are facts, to back up their opinion.
Of course, if facts are used to back up an opinion, that makes it much more convincing than just someone giving their point of view on a subject, right?
The point of view of the author
The perspective from which the passage is written and told is that of the author, and this is also known as their point of view.
Before any writer starts a project, they will always have one in mind.
Their opinion is formed based on experiences they’ve had before as well as their system of beliefs.
When it comes to a point of view, there are numerous ways that the writer can get it across.
One of the most commonly used is first person, and by using this, the writer can get their innermost thoughts and feelings across to anyone reading their works.
It is from the perspective of themselves, or I that a writer uses a first person point of view.
For the most part, it’s for narratives, fiction, informal writing, and personal correspondence that this approach is used.
What about the second person point of view?
Well, with this form, the audience is addressed by the writer through the use of pronouns.
It’s characterized by words such as you.
There’s the third person as well, which is seen as the most formal of the three types because it’s not as subjective as the first person and doesn’t directly address others like the second person does.
With this, neither the writer nor their audience is referenced.
It’s also characterized by the use of pronouns.
These will include the following: they, she, and he.
Third person narration is often found in fiction, and there are different types, for example, third-person limited and third-person omniscient.
The personal thoughts and feelings of the writer are not shared in the third person, which means there is a clear focus on the text’s meaning.
That doesn’t mean any prejudice or bias the writer has cannot be detected in third person writing; it’s just not as simple as it would be if the writer had used the first person.
The tone used by an author
When writing about a certain audience or a certain subject, the author’s attitude will come across in the tone they use.
In particular, the language used, particularly their word choice, greatly influences tone.
Don’t get confused with mood and tone, however.
What a reader feels from a written piece is defined by the mood (or feeling) thereof, whereas tone describes the subject or audience and the way the writer feels about them.
The purposes or biases of a writer can be revealed through the tone used, and because of this, it should always be kept in mind by a reader.
Stereotypes and biases
A point of view is something that any author will have.
It’s when they ignore any counter arguments that are reasonable to that point of view, or go out of their way to cloud opposition viewpoints through their writing, that they show a bias towards something.
When, in their presentation, an author is inaccurate or unfair to a large degree that it can be said that they are evidently biased.
An example of this can be seen if an author uses a judgmental or overly critical tone in their writing, but it’s worth noting that while it’s often intentional on their part, it may be totally unintentional as well.
Don’t assume that an author who is showing bias is incorrect about a subject; they may well still be right, but not because of their obvious bias.
When a bias is a generalization, we call it a stereotype, and this is often applied to a place or group.
Because a stereotype helps to enforce negative generalizations about people, places, or other subjects, using them is generally viewed in a negative light.
When used by an author, it’s their overall lack of curiosity as well as their general ignorance that’s actually being highlighted.
Context and inferring word meaning therefrom
Expanding a person’s vocabulary is one of the major benefits associated with reading.
That said, being able to understand the definition of a word from its context is a necessary skill associated with vocabulary improvement.
Based on the way the word is used in the sentence, as well as the words used with it, this is how we can define the meaning of words.
Choice of words
Writers all have different styles, and that’s often a result of their word choice.
The tone of a written text is also greatly influenced by the word choice of the writer.
Ultimately, the purpose of their writing is defined by a writer’s word choice as well.
As an example, by using more specific nouns than general ones, a writer can elevate a piece significantly.
Connotative and denotative meaning
The literal meaning is sometimes called the denotative meaning of a word.
When we speak of the connotative meaning, however, this includes any emotional reaction the word may produce, and it moves further past its denotative meaning.
In other words, because of the association the reader makes with the connotative meaning of a word, its denotative meaning is enhanced.
The way in which authors make use of each of these meanings helps a reader distinguish between the two.
For example, the use of figurative, flowery language is not something that you will see in non-fiction.
This is always more fact-based writing, and because of this, it’s mostly denotative in terms of the meanings of words.
Fiction is different, however, and it’s here that authors make use of more connotative language.
Here, by looking at various context clues within the text, a reader can decide whether denotative or connotative meaning is being used by the author.
Let’s also expand a little on dictionary entry.
A dictionary is one of the best tools available for readers and writers alike.
Not only can it help with spelling, but also with word pronunciation as well as to find out the meaning of words that you don’t understand.
Placed in alphabetical order, a dictionary will have guided words at the top of each page, usually two of them.
This shows the word that’s listed first on the left-hand side of the page, and then the word that’s listed last on the right-hand page, which aids with overall navigation when looking for a specific word.
Dictionaries will often have more than one definition for a word, and these will be numbered in the word listing.
If words are used as different parts of speech, then their definitions are separated as such.
The way a word is used in a specific sentence defines the correct definition thereof.
If unsure, apply the definition as found in the dictionary and see if it fits in with the way the word is used in the sentence.
If you are still unsure, the definition with the best fit is usually the right one.
Authors use many types of language to convey their meanings, and one of these is figurative language.
For the most part, this is very descriptive, and it’s beyond the literal meaning of a phrase or word that this operates.
The use of this type of language aids in creating imagery in the mind of the reader.
When we talk about types of figurative language, we include metaphors and similes.
When something is equated with something else by a writer, and they aren’t that similar in any way, they’ve made use of a metaphor.
To consider what is being described from a different perspective is the overall goal of using a metaphor, and authors use them in a way that’s not obvious and without having to be direct.
It’s an excellent tool to provide more information to the reader.
Note, however, that it’s not always explicitly mentioned that the reference to a metaphor is made by an author.
A simile, while similar to a metaphor and also a figurative expression, uses the terms as and like.
For example: As quick as a cheetah.
There is a space created between the subject described and the description itself in a simile that uses like and as.
The description is not the same as the thing it describes in a simile, unlike in a metaphor, where no such distinction exists.
Based on the tone the author intends to use, a distinction will need to be made about whether they should use a simile or a metaphor.
Last, in this section we have personification.
This is another type of figurative language used by writers.
It describes something as if it were human, even when it’s not, for example, an object or an animal.
Making it more comprehensible to readers is one of the reasons why personification might be used by a writer.
For example, a tone of sadness or suffering can be brought about by describing a tree as groaning in the wind.
The tree cannot groan for a mouth it does not have, but instead, the author means the noise it makes from moving in the wind sounds like a groan.
If the author said, The tree dances in the wind, the tone is now one of joy and happiness.
Structure and craft: Text structure and types of writing
An author’s purpose
When compared to finding an author’s position, finding their purpose is usually far easier.
For the most part, they don’t want to hide their purpose from the reader.
So the reader always comes first if the author is writing an entertainment piece, because the main objective here is to keep the person entertained.
While entertainment is often the goal of writing, that’s not always the case when it comes to purpose.
In some cases, an author might want to persuade a reader of their point of view, or they might just want to inform them regarding a subject.
Of all types of text, a persuasive one is the most difficult purpose to identify, while an informative one is the easiest.
A reader should be wary of a statement when they recognize that the author is trying to convince them of something.
As a result, persuasive texts regularly seek to adopt a lighthearted or entertaining tone in an attempt to persuade the reader to agree.
An informative tone may be used to show objectivity, or authority, in other cases.
The way a piece is organized often makes the author’s intentions clear.
This is true of the use of section headings as well as where they might make use of bold fonts, for example.
If, from the beginning, an author makes their main idea pretty clear, then they are more than likely looking to inform the reader.
If their intent is persuasion, then the author will have a main idea, but that will be supported by various other pieces of information and arguments.
If, instead of trying to deliver a certain point or provide information, the author is telling a story, then the entertainment of the reader is their end goal.
You must evaluate authors based on how successfully they achieve their goals.
To put it another way, you must take into account the type of passage the author has written (such as technical, persuasive, etc.) and if the author has adhered to the standards of the passage type.
Let’s look at various passage types that you might come across.
We start with informative texts.
Educating those reading them is the main aim of this type of text; because of this, it’s not often that they are written in a story format.
That would be too long-winded, so instead, an informative text is about using the most understandable way to deliver information to the reader.
There’s a structure that’s followed here, so toward the end of the first paragraph, the writer will include the thesis statement.
Clarity and precision in language are the order of the day in the way these texts are written, and often they will include figures and facts.
They simply don’t appeal to us on an emotional level as readers.
Note, however, that as a reader, you still need to be aware that a writer presenting an informative text can still be biased in the way they present facts to the reader.
What about persuasive texts?
Here, the writer is attempting to use what they’ve written as a way to convince the reader of something or even change their minds.
You can notice persuasive writing as a reader because it has several identifying characteristics.
An example of this is the passing of an opinion but dressing it up as a fact.
While statements might sound factual, the reader will find that, because they cannot be experimented with, observed properly, or researched, they are in fact the opinion of the writer.
The use of emotional language is another method often used in persuasive writing.
Here, an appeal is made to the reader’s sense of morality or sympathy as the writer plays on their emotions.
A writer may be attempting to play on a reader’s emotions when their writing is evocative.
This is an attempt to hone in on the passion of the reader.
Then there are texts that are entertaining.
These can be both nonfiction and fiction, and their success or failure ultimately depends on whether readers are entertained.
An example of this type of text is a poem, and here, as in other entertaining texts, our emotions are engaged through the writer’s use of colorful, figurative language.
In entertaining texts, readers can be informed and persuaded, although the author might not have these intentions specifically in mind.
When compared to other types of writing, the personality of the writer comes out most in these entertaining texts.
Descriptive texts are when a writer is describing something; it could be people, ideas, events, or more, so in a way, all writing is descriptive.
That said, description is sometimes the primary goal of a text from a writer.
Here the idea is to give a clear picture to the readers about a particular subject, and you’d be able to identify these types of texts because you will find extensive use of adverbs and adjectives.
Readers of the text will get a clearer mental picture of what the writer is trying to convey as a result of their use.
When unclear to a reader, however, a text that is intended to be descriptive simply isn’t doing its job properly.
It’s also important to note other characteristics that descriptive texts might have; for example, they could be entertaining and persuasive too.
While we won’t go into them in any detail, make sure you check your coursework regarding expository, narrative, and technical passages.
Let’s look at how text is structured.
We begin with text structure, which is done as a problem-solution.
Often, a problem is presented in some nonfiction texts, and the writer follows that with a solution to that problem.
The solution might be introduced right at the beginning if the text covers a problem that is well-known.
In some cases, the problem is only referenced now and again, while the solution to that problem is what the text is mostly about.
Occasionally, a reader might be left to choose from multiple solutions to a specific problem, but in some cases, the writer might be biased towards a particular solution, highlighting it and providing more information than the others.
When reading through a problem-solution text, always be aware of the agenda of the author.
Proposed solutions and your proper judgment of them can only be achieved if the perspective of the author is properly understood.
The next text structure is comparison and contrast.
As a way to ensure their writing is as clear as possible, writers make use of various writing and stylistic devices, of which comparison and contrast are two.
Comparing things in the text is done when they are alike, while contrasting them is done when two things are different.
In nonfiction writing, one of the most common types of essays is compare and contrast.
Terms used here include as well, too, like, same, and both.
Another text structure type is that of cause and effect, but you can read more about this in your coursework.
Structure and craft: Writer credibility
Assessing relevance and credibility
The internet gives us so many sources that are now available to us, and these, over and above those we find in print, should always be evaluated.
That evaluation is not only in terms of relevance with regard to the information we want to know but also about how credible that source is.
Here are some tips for assessing source credibility:
- Who wrote the source, and what was their reason?
- Is the writer qualified to write about the topic?
- Does the source appear in a scholarly publication?
- Is the source peer-reviewed?
- Who publishes the source?
- What’s the target audience?
- In which way is the source written? Look at the jargon; is it technical, academic, etc.
- Is the information in the source manipulated in terms of bias?
- When was the information published?
- Is the writer’s claim backed up by other sources?
- Are other sources cited within the text cited in an appropriate manner?
- Is the information presented accurate?
Let’s talk a little more about the credibility of the writer and their overall purpose.
As a way to determine if the source is credible or appropriate, first knowing who wrote it and then determining why they did so can help significantly.
The subject in question should be something the author knows about; in other words, they should be qualified to write about it.
For a source to be seen as credible, there should be references to other sources within it too.
The more there are, the more credible the source is.
Knowledge integration and ideas: Sources, arguments, and predictions
Coming to a conclusion and making predictions
When we guess what will happen next, we are making a prediction.
This is something that, as readers, we do all the time when reading.
It’s based on our knowledge and frame of reference that we make these predictions too.
The predictions that we make, however, don’t turn out to be true, but the thing is, with their writing, expectations are being created by the author, and that leads us to try to predict what will happen.
When we get given information in a text, we sometimes draw conclusions from that information.
Several phrases will appear in the text when a writer wants you to draw a conclusion.
These are numerous but can include the following: will often, can, may, and likely.
Predictions, conclusions, and interpretations: The evidence to support them
There are a number of interpretations, conclusions, and predictions that readers can come to when reading a text.
Often, these texts are left open-ended by the writers, leaving the reader to make a prediction as to what they might have written afterward.
It’s critical, however, that any conclusion, prediction, or interpretation that the reader does make is supported by what has gone before in the text.
A reader’s prediction can be guided by the form the text takes as well as the context thereof.
Finding explicit or implicit information within the text can help as well.
To make full interpretations, predictions, and conclusions, the reader combines what they find in the text with their own knowledge.
Often, a theme in a text can be difficult to pinpoint because often, it is not directly expressed by the author.
When we speak of a theme, we are referring to one of the following: A question raised within the text, an idea, or an issue.
Over and above that, it must be applicable to all people as well as understood universally.
There doesn’t need to only be one theme either; there could be multiple themes, although raising more questions than they provide answers to is something that’s common in many themes.
By asking what general issues the text is bringing to the fore, a reader can identify the different themes therein.
In passages that are persuasive or argumentative, the writer is covering an issue that can be debated.
Often, they are giving what they feel is the best possible solution while looking at various sides of the issue at hand.
In doing so, they won’t (or shouldn’t) use an approach that can be seen as combative by the reader or abusive in any manner.
While you may think of the word argumentative as people raising their voices when dealing with a topic or issue, in writing, whenever a writer uses this or a persuasive approach, they should always look to present their ideas in a reasonable and calm manner.
The idea here is never to have the last say but instead, show an understanding of the problem and give the reader a possible solution.
The main goal here is to find the best possible solution.
There are various factors to consider.
This includes evidence and counterarguments, but you can read up more on these in your coursework.
Rhetorical devices: Analyzing their overall effectiveness
To start, it’s the thesis of the writer, or what they are arguing for or against, that the reader is looking to identify first.
Look at both the content of the writer’s argument and why they are covering it in their writing.
Look for any solutions that are proposed and whether they could work or not.
Move on to any other evidence the writer provides to give backing to their thesis.
If you find any words the writer uses that you don’t understand, research them for further valuable insight.
Once you’ve carried out all of the above steps, make a summary of the work.
Follow that up by finding the various appeals the writer has made, and from your perspective, see how well the meaning is communicated by the writer.
Now, has the writer provided enough reasoning to change the mind of the reader, and was their presentation as well as the content therein delivered in a clear, cohesive, and accurate manner?
Finally, is what the author presented believable?
If so, or if not, why have you as the reader come to this conclusion?
Let’s take a look at rhetorical devices, which are often used as a way to distract a reader when the argument is weak or to persuade them in a particular way.
One of the ways in which this is carried out is to deliver a story that’s heart-rending so that the reader feels pity.
Another method is that because the majority holds the same opinion that they do, the writer is correct in their ideas, also known as the bandwagon approach.
Other rhetorical devices include name-calling as well as celebrity testimonials.