Tips & Guide

What Are Text Features? Types of Text Features? Why is it Important?

What are text features?

Text features are important in reading because they help you understand the structure of a piece of writing. They also give clues about the genre and tone of a piece, which helps your brain decide how to approach it.

Here’s what you need to know about text features!

What are Text Features?

What are Text Features?
What are Text Features?

Text features refer to elements that are built into words or groups of words that help us understand the text. For example, if you were reading a page out of an encyclopedia, there would be different text features than if you were reading a news article on CNN’s website. There are many different text features, such as: title, headings, bold print , and italics. All of these elements add to the overall understanding of a text.

Text features can be very important in helping us gain meaning from texts we read. For example, if we were reading an article about cooking and it had no titles or explanations at all throughout the entire piece, we would not know when one step ends and another begins. We also would not know which ingredients to put into the pot first or how long to cook for. Therefore, knowing what types of text features there are and what they look like is extremely helpful when reading longer texts such as books and articles on the internet.

What is the Purpose of Text Features?

The purpose of text features is to help provide an understanding of how the text was written. They also help break the text up into chunks so it’s easier for us to read and understand. For example, if we were reading a chapter in a book without any headings, it would be very difficult to know when one section ends and another begins. This can be especially confusing if there are many paragraphs that contain long sentences or complicated words that go on for several lines at times. Without headings, the following chapter may start in the middle of one complete thought with no warning whatsoever, which will make it hard to understand what is being said next.

Text features are important because they help organize texts both physically (into sections) and linguistically (into chunks). This makes it easier for the reader to pinpoint information and therefore understand the author’s intended message.

The most common types of text features are:

The most common types of text features
The most common types of text features

1. Titles

Titles are headings that give us an idea of what the text is about before we even read it. For example, if there was a chapter in a book with no title except for “Chapter 6,” it would be difficult to know what this chapter is about or where it fits within the whole story. However, if there were titles at the beginning of every chapter such as “The Plan” followed by “Finding Allies,” then it would be much easier for us to organize the information into different sections and come up with our own understanding of how each section connects with one another throughout the entire work.

2. Table of contents

A table of contents is a list at the beginning of a text that lists out all of the headings and subtitles within it, along with their corresponding page numbers. This allows readers to have an idea of what they will be reading about before they actually start digging into it. Depending on how long each section is, this can also allow them to skim through the entire text so they can choose which sections they want to read first or last.

In fiction texts , titles are very important because they give audiences an idea of what the story entails without having to read through everything. Readers may decide if a book seems interesting by reading its title alone depending on whether or not it sounds like something they would want to read about.

In nonfiction texts , titles are not usually as important because the author will give headings to sections of their writing so readers know what it is about before they read it. The reason why titles may be important for nonfiction texts is that they help potential readers decide if something would interest them or not.

3. Index and Glossary

An index is a list of words and/or phrases that are found in the text with page numbers next to them so readers can refer to those pages for more information. An example of this would be the back cover of an English textbook where there may be several hundred verbs listed along with their corresponding page number so students know where they are located within the book.

A glossary is a list of terms or difficult words, usually accompanied by definitions, at the end of a text so readers have access to more information if needed. This is especially helpful for nonfiction texts where authors may use unfamiliar terminology throughout their writing. This gives audiences another way of learning about new things without having it come directly from the author’s mouth.

4. Headings/ Subtitles

Headings are titles for sections within a text. Each section of the text should be assigned at least one heading that explains what it is about. Headings help organize long texts into groups of information, which makes them easier to read and understand. For example, if you were reading through an article on CNN’s website, it would be helpful to know where each paragraph fits in relation to the others.

There may be headings such as “What We Know So Far” followed by “How It Happened,” or simply “The Lead Up.” These headings allow readers to get a general idea of what the next few paragraphs entail without actually having to read them, which can make it much less overwhelming since there can sometimes be hundreds of words in one paragraph.

For informative texts , the most common types of text features are headings that break up long paragraphs into smaller pieces that are easier to digest. This makes it much easier for readers to follow along with the author’s message since they can organize what is being said into sections that they can better understand.

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For literary texts , titles are very important so readers know what each section entails without having to read through all of them. This is especially helpful in poetry and short stories where each section can be a separate poem or story. It would be very difficult to understand the author’s intended message without any titles since there are no headings within literary texts, which means readers will have to read every single word in order to figure out what the cutoff between one paragraph/poem/story and another is.

5. Sidebars

Sidebars are smaller bits of information that are located outside of the main text. These can be in the form of graphs, photographs, illustrations, or even sidebars within an article with special features included. Sidebars can contain definitions, more detailed explanations on a topic discussed within the main text, statistics, and any other information related to what is contained within the main text. This gives audiences another way of learning about topics they might not have had access to before which makes them more accessible for everyone.

For informative texts , sidebars contain supplemental materials that go along with what was written in the main text so readers know where this information comes from and how reliable it is. The reason why people would want this kind of extra information is so they can know what to take away from the main text and what might be the author’s personal opinion.

For literary texts , sidebars can contain explanations on words or phrases that would not make sense within the context of the story so readers have a better understanding of word choice. They can also contain information about characters or real-world references that may allow audiences to see how and why something was written and how it relates to other pieces of literature outside of this particular one. This gives audiences another way of learning about new things without having it come directly from the author’s mouth while still enjoying their writing style.

6. Pictures and captions

Pictures are illustrations of concepts mentioned within the text. They can be graphs, maps, charts, diagrams, or any other visual representation of data. When paired with captions written underneath them, they can help audiences get a better idea of what is being talked about in the main text without having to take up too much time reading it all.

For informative texts , pictures and captions support what was just talked about in the main text by giving readers another way of understanding material that might have been difficult for them otherwise. The reader will also know how reliable this information is based on who created the graph/picture/caption since it might not match up with what was discussed in the main body if it comes from someone else’s research instead.

For literary texts , pictures and captions can help audiences understand complex concepts that would not be very easy to explain in the main text. For example, a picture of a solar system with an accompanying caption describing each planet within it can help readers get a better idea of how the author used this information for their own purposes without having to read through an entire chapter about planets and astronomy. This strategy helps authors avoid being overly didactic while still allowing readers to learn something new from their work.

7. Labeled diagrams

Diagrams are visual representations of information typically seen in mathematical concepts, instructions on how to do something, or any other types of systems. Labels within the image explain what different parts mean so audiences know if they are looking at a map or a flowchart for instance.

For informative texts , labeled diagrams help readers understand complex ideas that might not have been very easy to explain otherwise. They can also be used as a type of “key” since certain words and phrases could represent more than one concept depending on the context which makes it easier for audiences to follow along with what is being discussed.

For literary texts , labeled diagrams can either illustrate things talked about in the main text or simply give visual representation to abstract concepts such as characters’ thoughts/mental states. They give audiences yet another way of understanding what the author is trying to say since things like this can be difficult to convey in words alone. This adds another layer onto the text instead of just making it about facts and information which makes it easier for readers to engage with the material without feeling bored or overwhelmed.

8. Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs are numerical representations of data. They give audiences a visual idea of the information without having to take up too much time reading about it in detail.

For informative texts , charts and graphs allow readers to quickly understand material that would otherwise be difficult for them to comprehend because it uses numbers and statistics as opposed to just words and sentences. This allows the author to either talk at length about what is seen within these images or briefly explain it with a few sentences before moving on which gives readers options depending on how interested they are in this type of information.

For literary texts , charts and graphs can help readers understand abstract concepts such as characters’ thoughts/mental states, social statuses, relationships between different groups, etc since they use numerical data to show the relationships and patterns within it. This strategy can make this kind of information seem less intimidating for readers since it is already visualized and can be easier for audiences to connect what is being shown with the context of the text itself.

9. Maps

Maps visually show different places and how they are connected with one another. They can be used to give details about a specific setting or the journey that is being described in a story.

For informative texts , maps can help audiences get a more concrete idea of where something is taking place since it gives them visual representation as opposed to just saying “somewhere in Europe” etc. They can also be used as a type of “key” since certain words and phrases could represent more than one location depending on the context which makes it easier for audiences to follow along with what they’re reading.

For literary texts , maps can help readers understand where characters are (and how far apart they might be from each other or things that are significant to them) as well as understand the journey they go on better. It can also be used as a type of “key” to help audiences interpret certain scenes in the main text since locations and places mentioned could represent different things depending on where it is located.

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This strategy can make this kind of information seem less intimidating for audiences since it is already visualized and can be easier for them to draw connections with the context of the text itself.

10. Cutaways and cross sections

Cutaways are detailed drawings which give audiences an in-depth look into how things are structured or what they are made of. They can be used to show how machinery works, the different parts of a plant/animal, etc.

For informative texts , cutaways can help audiences better understand materials, objects, processes etc by giving them detailed diagrams of what is being talked about. It also allows the author to talk about it at length since they can use a lot of text and/or include footnotes with further information on things that may not be as easily shown through drawings.

Cross sections are detailed diagrams which show what part of an object or material is visible from the surface or how different layers of something can look like. They can be used to show audiences how a structure or object is built, the different parts of a plant/animal, etc.

For informative texts , comparisons and contrasts can help readers better understand materials, objects, processes etc by giving them detailed diagrams of what is being compared/contrasted in relation to one another. It allows the author to talk about it at length since they can also use a lot of text and/or include footnotes with further information on things that may not be as easily shown through drawings.

For literary texts , cutaways and cross sections can help readers understand abstract concepts such as characters’ thoughts/mental states, social statuses, relationships between different groups, etc since they use detailed diagrams to show the relationships and patterns within it. This strategy can make these kinds of information seem less intimidating for audiences since it is already visualized and can be easier for them to draw connections with the context of the text itself.

11. Inset photos

Inset photos are detailed photographs which can be inserted in text to show data or proof for claims made in the main text. They can be used when showing proof (e.g. number of accidents/deaths per year, damages of floods, damages of earthquakes etc), design (e.g. description and comparisons of different building types, people’s changing needs etc), or explanation (e.g. process of photosynthesis, the effects of deforestation etc).

For informative texts , inset photos can help audiences better understand things that are being talked about by providing them with detailed images to go with it. It allows the author to talk about it at length since they can use a lot of text and/or include footnotes with further information on things that may not be as easily shown through photographs.

For literary texts , inset photos can help audiences better understand abstract concepts such as characters’ thoughts/mental states, social statuses, relationships between different groups, etc since they provide detailed images which show more than just their words alone could describe or illustrate. This strategy can make these kinds of information seem less intimidating for audiences since it is already visualized and can be easier for them to draw connections with the context of the text itself.

Strategies for Introducing Students to Text Features

– Breaking the text into smaller chunks (e.g. first paragraph, whole page etc)

– Asking students to identify other strategies used before (bold, italics, color words, diagrams, inset photos etc)

– Explaining how each strategy can help audiences better understand what they are reading about (in an informative text) or make the text easier to understand (in a literary text)

– Asking students where they have seen these strategies used before in texts they are familiar with

– If time allows, having students create their own examples of how each strategy can be used for informative or literary texts

– Writing exercises based on the main text

Students should start by breaking the text in smaller chunks and try to identify other strategies used in the main text. For example, in an informative text about a building, students might notice that before introducing the structure’s different parts or sections, it first started by giving its name and location (i.e. Janey Hall is located at the University of Louisville).

They could also note how the text uses color words (i.e. the walls and floors are all white) to draw attention to certain aspects of it before introducing other sections or parts, such as “there is a small kitchen and lounge on each floor”.

Students should then explain how these strategies can help audiences better understand what they are reading about (in an informative text) or make the text easier to understand (in a literary text). In an informative text, for example, students could explain how naming and describing the structure first helps readers better understand what they are talking about.

For example, if they started by saying “the University of Louisville’s newest residence hall is grandiose”, it would be difficult for audiences to make any connections about it since they don’t know what this building looks like. But if the author first introduced Janey Hall by saying “it is located on Floyd Street”, students can make these comparisons much easier for audiences, which helps them better understand the text itself.

Teaching Text Features for Nonfiction Reading

Teaching Text Features for Nonfiction Reading
Teaching Text Features for Nonfiction Reading

– Showing students how different text features help them understand what they are reading about or helps obscure information from audiences

– Demonstrating the effectiveness of each text feature in a sample passage for students to compare their own writing with

– Asking students which strategies they think would be effective in certain contexts and why

In nonfiction, it is important to highlight the different text features used to make certain information clear and accessible for readers. For example, if students are reading a scientific journal article about transplanting human organs , one strategy might be using color words (i.e. green: tissue; blue: blood vessels) to draw attention and show how these two things work together in the passage itself.

In a sample passage, students should conduct a close-reading of the different text features used and how they help audiences better understand what they are reading about. For example, if students noticed how the author only referred to Janey Hall by its name before introducing other sections or parts, they can use this as one strategy in their writing for an informative text about it themselves.

How to Teach Text Features for Fiction Reading

Because there aren’t as many text features in fiction books as there are in nonfiction, we didn’t have a unit focused specifically on them when we were in high school. And when we were in college, most of the text features we were taught and assessed on in our English classes focused on nonfiction texts.

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– Identifying examples of how the main text uses different strategies to convey meaning to audiences

– Comparing their own writing with the writing they find in a sample passage

– Discussing why certain strategies make texts more accessible or easier to understand for audiences

In fiction, it’s important audience members get a sense of what is going on within the story itself. But because it can be difficult for readers to keep track of all the characters and plots running throughout each chapter without some sort of reference point, authors often use different text features that help them tell their stories more effectively.

In a sample passage, students should look closely at how the text features enhance the overall experience for audiences and compare it with their own writing. For example, if students noticed how the author only referred to Janey Hall by its name before introducing other sections or parts, they can use this as one strategy in their writing for an informative text about it themselves too. When doing so, however, they should also consider which strategies would be best suited for different contexts and why.

Tips for using these features so they have the desired effect :

Tips for using these features
Tips for using these features
  1. Include an appropriate title or label when introducing a text feature to audiences. This can help them better understand why they’re being used and what information they’re aiming to show since it can give a quick overview of the most important aspects of the feature. For example, if you have a map that shows certain regions with specific climate and geographical conditions, you might want to include a title that says something like “the parts of the world with similar climates”.
  2. Make sure your text feature is necessary for explaining the information being presented. This can help them better understand what they’re looking at since it’s directly related to what the author is discussing in the text. For example, if you have an inset photo of different kinds of concrete structures used in building, but your main point is just talking about how they’re built and why, then the inset photos might not be necessary for understanding that part of your text.
  3. Use labels or captions when including text features that are ambiguous or difficult to understand. This can help them better understand what they’re looking at since it provides further information that may be necessary for breaking down the different parts/elements within the feature itself. For example, if you have a map that has labels but also includes an inset photo of certain parts of the world, then using captions to explain what is in the inset photo can be helpful for audiences.
  4. Make sure text features are relevant and necessary to explain the information being presented. This can help them better understand why they’re looking at a certain map or diagram since it’s directly related to what you’re talking about in the main text and won’t just be there for decoration. For example, if you’re talking about the different kinds of materials used in green roofs, then an inset photo showing them might be relevant to explain that kind of information further.
  5. Do not make up text features or use ones that are fabricated out-of-context to the information being presented. This can help audiences better understand that the text feature they’re looking at is directly related to what you’re talking about in the main text, thus preventing them from being confused. For example, if you have a map showing certain agricultural regions but there are no labels for where they are or what they produce, then audiences might get suspicious of their authenticity since it doesn’t make sense.
  6. Make sure text features are presented in an appropriate size and format for audiences to understand them easily and quickly. This can help them focus on what you’re saying more since they won’t have to spend time on figuring out the information being presented, thus allowing them to better understand your essay as a whole without any distractions. For example, if you have a complex diagram that’s very small and requires them to look at it up-close, then audiences might get frustrated since they’re not able to see the whole picture more easily.
  7. Avoid placing text features in places where they can be distracting or disruptive for audiences (e.g., on the sides of your essay). This can help them better understand what they’re looking at since it’s clearly related to what you’re talking about in the main text and won’t be there for decoration or any other purpose. For example, if you have a map showing climate zones on one side of your essay while discussing how regions like deserts were formed, then it can be distracting for audiences since they might focus more on the map than what you’re saying.
  8. Make sure text features are presented in an appropriate font that’s easy to understand and looks great! This can help them better understand what they’re looking at since it’s clearly related to what you’re talking about in your text and it also looks good, making audiences want to read more. For example, if you have a map with different kinds of labels but the font is tiny and faded out, then audiences might be less inclined to read them since they’re not designed nicely.

FAQ about What are Text Features

1. What are the three different types of text features?

Descriptive text features, expository text features, and informative text features.

2. What are the 3 most important text features?

Pictures, diagrams, and graphs.

3. What are the 7 types of text structures?

Sequential-narrative, sequential-problem-solution, process, definition and example, classification and division, compare/contrast, problem/solution.

4. What is a text feature caption?

A caption is a short explanation underneath or next to an illustration that describes what the audience will see in that specific picture, diagram, or graph.

Reading nonfiction is a great way to increase reading comprehension and vocabulary, but it can be hard for some students. When we teach kids how to use text features such as headings, subheadings, bolded words, bullet points and more in their own writing they are able to read with greater understanding. It also helps them learn the different ways that information can be organized so they’re better prepared when they start learning about expository essays or research papers later on in school. Which of these text features have you used? Tell us below!

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