What Is Informational Writing?

Woman writing at her desk

A specific branch of non-fiction writing that serves the purpose of informing the reader about a topic, informational writing has some unique characteristics that set it apart from traditional reporting. Understanding how this type of writing appeals to your audience and when it's appropriate to use this style can help you be a more effective and professional writer.

Inform Without Embellishment

The purpose of informational writing is to transfer information from the writer to the reader without any extra distractions. This type of writing simply presents the facts without embellishment, such as is common with reference books or "all about" writing.

No or Few Characters

Although some very strictly factual biographies may count as informational writing, pieces in this style do not usually contain characters. This is typically work about nature or science, presented without the addition of a human element.

Not a Narrative

This type of writing is not presented as a story. It's not designed to entertain or engage the reader with anything but the facts themselves. Traditional story elements like setting and plot do not play a role.

Frequently Non-Linear

Informational writing does not need to tell events from start to finish since it isn't trying to tell a story. It often skips around, presenting facts in a way that is useful to the reader but not necessarily related to the passage of time. For instance, a book about dogs might be organized by the breed.

Emphasis on Accuracy

Accuracy is one of the most important elements in informational writing. The facts are the point of this work, so they need to be correct and credible.

Credentials of the Writer or Expert

The writer's authority is very important here. In informational work, the writer must be an expert or must be working closely with an expert in the topic being discussed. The credentials of the writer or expert are often included after the individual's name.

Authoritative in Style

The writing style itself should be clearly authoritative. There should be no "feeling" statements or wording that indicates an opinion.

Clear Sources

You'll often see a bibliography at the end of this type of work. Alternatively, sources may be cited within the text itself.

Language Characteristics

The language a writer uses in informational work tends to be formal and unembellished. In addition to presenting information in a non-narrative style and avoiding feeling or opinion statements, the writing has some unique language characteristics.

Specific Vocabulary

This type of writing may include words that are specific to the topic, often called "jargon." When a new or generally unfamiliar term is used, it's common for the writer to define it.

Passive Voice

Many types of writing avoid the use of passive voice since it can emotionally distance the reader from the work. However, it's common for informational writing to make use of this style.

Third Person Pronouns

Unless the informational writing is a work instruction for accomplishing something, such as a standard operating procedure (SOP), you won't often see first or second person pronouns like "I" or "you." The reader and writer are not addressed directly. Instead, most informational writing is written in the third person.

Different From Other Non-Fiction

Informational writing includes technical writing, reference books, procedures for performing a task, "all about" style books, and many other applications. However, it is very different from other types of non-fiction.

  • Journalism - Because it doesn't include the traditional five Ws of journalism and reporting (who, what, when, where, and why), informational writing doesn't fall under this category.
  • Biography - With rare exceptions, purely informational writing does not include biography. Biography frequently includes narrative style, characters, conjecture, and even opinion.
  • Persuasive essays and books - Persuasive work is designed to get the reader to view things from a different perspective, but informational writing does not have an agenda. Informational writing should not be trying to prove a thesis.

An Important Skill

Understanding how to create effective informational writing is an important skill to have in your arsenal. You'll find that this type of work can be marketable if you enjoy technical writing or other types of academic and science-based work.

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