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What Are the Different Types of Nonfiction Articles?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several types of nonfiction writing. In contrast to fictional writing, nonfiction articles address events, experiences, and individuals who are real rather than imagined. Experts break down nonfiction into four broad categories: writing designed to entertain, to inform the reader, to persuade or convince the reader, and to instruct the reader. Within these categories are a plethora of variations.

Nonfiction that is entertaining seeks to give the reader something of interest that is easy to absorb and understand. Nonfiction articles that fit into this category can range from very simple and direct writing to works that are complex and literary. Oftentimes, these pieces are found in hobbyist, home, and travel magazines as well as in Sunday newspaper magazines and editorials. For example, a magazine designed by an airline that contains articles about restaurants and activities that can be found at some of their destinations would fall into this category, as would an article on antique guns in a hobbyist magazine. A piece of creative nonfiction prose in the pages of a literary magazine can also be a member of this category.

Informative nonfiction articles also range from the most basic and transparently understandable to those that are far more complex, even specialized, and assume the reader comes to the text with some degree of understanding about the subject matter. A piece that looks at the differences between alligators and crocodiles in a magazine for children is one example, as is an article that explains DNA mapping. This category of nonfiction articles includes biography and autobiography; writing that takes an aspect of history, sociology, or the natural sciences as its subject; and writing that addresses a political position.

A persuasive nonfiction article offers readers a position on a topic that may be controversial and provides evidence in the form of statistics, quotes, and graphs. This category includes political speeches, editorials, and sermons. Even marketing pieces can be considered persuasive nonfiction as their purpose is to help a potential customer see the benefits of a particular product or service.

One example of a nonfiction article that offers instruction is a recipe. Recipes give the reader a list of ingredients along with the steps they must undertake to achieve a specific result. This type of writing is often found together with articles designed to entertain in popular culture magazines. A travel magazine, for instance, might feature an article about little-known sites outside of Athens, Greece, and pair it with another article about how to do Athens on a budget.

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Discussion Comments
By jcraig — On Jul 23, 2012

@jmc88 - You are very right about people needing to learn about writing instructions. One of the things I hate is when I pick up driving directions for somewhere and they aren't clear. I think one of the keys for anyone who is writing instructional nonfiction is to go back through the article or list and pretend that you are reading it for the first time. Is the article clear? Would you understand the directions if you had never been to that place before or had never used a certain ingredient in a recipe?

As far as persuasive writing goes, it has become a full-fledged job for many people in politics. Although it might not have been as prominent in the past as today, almost every major politician has had someone to write their speeches or at least help them. I think it can be a very lucrative career once you get to the point where you're writing speeches for the President or other officials. The writers now are so skilled that they can even weave in different psychological techniques to hopefully win over listeners.

By jmc88 — On Jul 22, 2012

@cardsfan27 - I'm not much of a fan of Krakauer's books, but I do agree that he can be an effective author. I think another good example of nonfiction writing that kind of combines the informational and creative is just a biography or autobiography. The people that can effectively use the two formats together are great authors. It would be easy enough for anyone to make a list of the accomplishments of their life, but being able to pick out the interesting stories and write them in a way to hold people's interest is a difficult skill. I have read several accounts of World War II battles, and they often cover the exact same details, but some writers are much better at finding interesting angles and presenting information.

I think being able to write effective instructions is also a valuable skill. I can't count the number of times that I've been slowed down trying to fix something or put something together just because the directions were poorly written.

By cardsfan27 — On Jul 21, 2012

@kentuckycat - I would completely agree with you. All of the other types of writing are pretty straightforward. Making persuasive arguments can involve using a little psychology, but people aren't usually expecting to be entertained.

I think a great example of someone who writes very good creative nonfiction is Jon Krakauer. He is the author that wrote the books "Into Thin Air" and "Into the Wild." The first book is about the author's experiences climbing Mount Everest while the second is about a young man who ran off to Alaska to try to live in the wilderness.

I think Krakauer does a very good job of taking what could be considered dull information and weaving it together into a story that makes for an interesting read. He is also good at relating the plot of the story to other similar events, which also helps add interest.

By kentuckycat — On Jul 21, 2012

Interestingly enough, I noticed that the different types of nonfiction articles are also the same as the different types of speeches that we had to give when I was in a college speech class. It makes sense, of course, because most speeches that people give won't be telling a story. Instead, they will usually be relating true information to the listeners.

I haven't done much writing of nonfiction articles, but if the speeches are any indication, the creative prose would be the most difficult for me. I think most of it stems from the fact that I'm not a very creative person when it comes to telling stories. I don't really have much of a problem with the other parts like giving people information, trying to persuade them to do something, or giving them direction. I think it is a valuable skill to be able to make a true story interesting to a wide audience.

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