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Introduction to Informative Writing

Introduction to Informative Writing

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Author: Gavin McCall
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This lesson introduces the genre of informative writing.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

What are we going to learn today? Today, we're going to be learning about informative writing, which is sometimes also referred to as expository writing. We'll talk about the importance of objectivity or the honest attempt at objectivity in informative writing. And then we'll look at examples of informative writing outside the context of academia.

Informative writing is a very common form of essaying, found both in and out of academic context. This is writing designed to inform, describe, or explain something. It is generally written with the goal of objectively conveying information, as opposed to say argumentative writing, which is more aimed towards persuasion.

That being said, there's no clear line between the two, as informative writing often requires the writer to take a particular stance.

If, for example, a student decides to write her assigned informative essay on treatment options for breast cancer-- let's say, her mother is going through this-- chances are she'll end up not just listing the different treatment options but also stating the advantages and disadvantages of each or something to that effect, taking a stance, one that could also be seen as argumentative and one that definitely makes use of her personal context.

Still, however, when we think of informative writing, we generally mean writing that's not specifically trying to convince its readers of anything but rather just to give them information about the subject.

If, for example, a professor writes a short article for the campus website describing career paths open to graduates of the program he teaches in, part of this goal would no doubt be to persuade students to enroll in his classes or the classes of his colleagues. But mostly, he simply wanted to provide information that he had access to, to share information that he gained through research or expertise. That's one of the primary signs of informative writing.

Because the goal of informative writing is to inform the reader about something, it's important for a writer seeking to do this to remain as objective as possible. By this, I mean they should do their best to set aside their personal feelings and opinions and simply report on the information they've gained as clearly and as honestly as they can.

Of course, true, pure, 100% objectivity is impossible, because a writer is always interpreting or filtering information through his or her own perspective. Of course, striving for objectivity is a noble goal. And the best way to do it is to use the rhetorical situation. Performing a meta analysis of one's own biases and assumptions and addressing them accordingly will bring a writer closer to an objective stance, no matter the subject or the writer's own subjectivity.

Informative writing isn't just confined to the academic context. Even outside it, this is one of the most common forms of written communication, not to mention writing that poses as informative, like advertisements and public relations work. But that's a whole other subject.

We can find informative writing everywhere. But the most obvious examples are journalism, news stories and articles in magazines covering millions of subjects. From reports in the Middle East to reviews of what kind of tires put on your car, they're everywhere.

Journalists are both trained and expected to maintain objectivity. That's why, when you read an article about the new law your state's governor just signed, for example, you won't see anything about what the reporter thinks about it, just facts about the law and probably some quotes from experts, the governor, some politician or activist who opposes the law, or something to that effect. It's writing intended to keep readers informed about current events, not to persuade them to believe or act a certain way.

Other common forms of informative writing are instructions, like recipes and how-to guides, as well as technical writing. Textbooks and encyclopedic entries are other examples, everything from your sixth great math book to the Wikipedia page on Alaskan king crab. The purpose is to inform.

And another obvious place to find writing that aims to objectively convey information is the realm of science. For example, a report from a researcher looking into the effects of eating nothing but broccoli for a month will be sure to state in no uncertain terms what exactly the researchers did and did not do and to list their findings.

There's a chance it will include a very short section about possible applications of the research to, say, encourage people to eat broccoli, perhaps. But if it does, that section will almost certainly be labeled as such, something to the effect of interpretations. And even then, it will rely very heavily on research-based conclusions. Here, too, the primary purpose will be to inform, to share information gathered through research.

What have we learned today? We learned about informative writing, from its goals of objectivity to where and how we can find it outside the academic context. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Informative Writing

    Writing designed to inform, describe, or explain.