Reading Nonfiction Study Guide: GED Language Arts, Reading
Practice questions for this study guide can be found at:
Reading nonfiction will use many of the skills you developed in the last chapter on reading fiction—but there are two important differences between fiction and nonfiction. First, nonfiction is not fictional—that is, it purports to be a factual and accurate recounting of actual events involving real people and places. Note that we say it purports to be true—in other words, nonfiction writing claims to be true. This will be a very important distinction to understand in some areas of nonfiction. Nonfiction writing addresses real issues and people and events—but it may also be presenting a matter of opinion rather than simply stating a string of facts. We will discuss this more fully as we go along.
Second, nonfiction does not use a narrator in the way that fiction does. You'll remember that some fiction might be told by a first-person narrator referred to in the text as I and me. In nonfiction, however, the words are directly those of the author, not of some fictional narrator who is created for storytelling purposes.
This is an important distinction as you move from fiction into nonfiction. Keep in mind that in fiction, an author might use a narrator to say things that are directly contrary to what the author believes.
This is generally not the case in nonfiction, however. In this sense, reading nonfiction is more straightforward and less complicated than reading fiction. The exception to this, of course, is when an author uses irony to make a point, saying the opposite of what he or she means in order to underscore a point. We will discuss this further in this chapter.
There are countless types of nonfiction writing. Every time you send an e-mail or jot a note for someone, you are writing nonfiction. If you write a memo or fill out a report at your job, you are writing nonfiction. There are as many types and styles of nonfiction writing as there are people and careers in the world. But, for purposes of preparing for the GED, we will divide nonfiction literature into three broad categories: informational nonfiction, literary nonfiction, and visual communication.
The term informational nonfiction refers to written pieces whose sole purpose is to inform the reader of something. This is probably the broadest of the three categories, as it includes almost anything that is written for the purpose of passing on information. If you leave a note for your spouse or roommate saying where you've gone, you are writing informational nonfiction—assuming, of course, that you are telling the truth!
Informational nonfiction can be divided into a variety of subsections covering the sorts of nonfiction writing that you will encounter on the GED. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a good overview of how to read and interpret informational nonfiction.
One of the most important areas of informational nonfiction that you will be called upon to understand is the type of document that you will encounter in the workplace. Understanding how to read and interpret such documents will do more than prepare you for the GED—it will also assist your career goals.
Business documents include memos, reports, proposals, employee handbooks, and many other forms of business writing. You will quickly notice that there is a key difference between most business documents and the fiction that we looked at in the last chapter: business documents come straight to the point and stick to it.
Good business writing is clear and easy to understand, and makes its point plainly and without any extra side issues. Most business documents include all the basic information that is needed right at the beginning—such as whom they are addressed to (the audience), what they're about (the subject), and what the major points include (the thesis). Consider the following memo as an example.
- TO: J. Miranda
- FROM: P. Aspensen
- SUBJECT: Tomorrow's Meeting
- DATE: January 12, 2008
The agenda for tomorrow's meeting does not include the topic of the storm drains, which we have discussed recently. Please add that to the list of things to discuss, as the problem is getting worse every day.
We hope the committee can find a quick solution to the drainage issues that are making life so difficult for our drivers.
Notice that the memo begins by stating basic information: who the recipient is (M. Miranda), who wrote it (P. Aspensen), and what it's about (tomorrow's meeting). Sometimes a memo uses RE: (which means regarding) instead of SUBJECT: at the top. This approach to writing leaves nothing to the reader to infer, as everything is clearly stated in a straightforward manner.
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