Reading non fiction text 2

English Language > Reading > Reading non-fiction text

The question on identifying presentational devices

The second question relates to the way the text looks. To get all the marks on this question you need to do two things:

  1. List the presentational devices the text uses.
  2. Explain why these devices are used and what effect they have.

To answer the first part of the question you need be able to recognise presentational devices such as:

  • Headings (titles) and sub-headings
  • Photos
  • Pictures
  • Illustrations
  • Font size and style (bold, italic etc)
  • Colour
  • Layout features (bullets, boxed text)
  • Structure (short or long paragraphs)
  • Quotations (things people said either in quotation marks or highlighted in the text)

A good way of revising is to analyse any text you see or read. Pick up a magazine and look at a page at random. You should be able to spot a whole range of devices being used.

Why presentational devices are used

The devices used depend on:

  • Purpose - what the text is trying to do (eg inform, advise, persuade).
  • Audience - who it is trying to talk to (eg children, adults, men, women).

Choices in layout (such as the use of pictures, diagrams and lists) are made to meet a specific purpose and communicate with a specific audience. Choices in colour and font, for example, can be made to appeal to a specific target group. You might use lively colours and playful fonts in a text for kids and more serious fonts and colours for adults. Different presentational devices create different effects.

Remember: there are three main reasons for using presentational devices: mood, memory, clarity.


A piece of writing will always try to express feelings. The mood created could be fun and excitement (eg in a brochure for a theme park) or perhaps fear and concern (eg in an advice sheet about road safety). The feelings should always be in tune with the target audience.

Devices to look out for in mood:

  • Pictures
  • Fonts
  • Colour
  • Quotes


If the main purpose of a piece of non-fiction writing is to inform, then it is important that readers find and remember key bits of information. These can include website addresses or phone numbers, advice or statistics.

Devices to look out for that are used to aid memory:

  • Bold text
  • Headlines and sub headings
  • Bullet points
  • Diagrams, maps and illustrations


Most non-fiction texts are written for people in a hurry, so it is important that the purpose and audience of a text is clear. This will make the right people pick it up and read it. The information within the text also needs to be clearly presented otherwise people will stop reading.

Devices to look out for to aid clarity:

  • Bold text
  • Bullet points
  • Sub-headings
  • Paragraphs
  • Colour
  • Images and captions
  • Quotes

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