Factual writing is used in many different applications ranging from
things such as information leaflets which may be used to raise
awareness or inform people, through to journalism and even things
such as instruction guides or how to manuals.
Illustrations and diagrams often accompany factual writing. They can
come in many different forms, some technical and some more artistic.
They have many different purposes, some may illustrate how to do
something and some may be to give visual examples of what in
contained in the print part of the information.
They must follow certain codes and conventions in order to ensure
that they effectively communicate their point.
Clarity: the creators of the media must ensure that their work
is clear and easy to understand. This is extremely important in
something such as a leaflet due to the fact that they are often
handed out or picked up by someone when it is relevant to
them. They must be able to easily understand the contents of
the leaflet immediately without having to think too much into
it. Often the consumer will quickly skim through the
information picking out key parts and for this reason it must
be clear and easy to read.
Conciseness: the creators of the media must ensure that they
keep the product simple. They can do this by using as few
words as possible and keeping to the point without
overcomplicating things. One of the reasons this is important
is due to the fact that it must be easily readable to all different
types of people as they do not want to exclude certain groups
of people from being able to access the information. In the
leaflet shown they make use of bullet points so that the
information is easy to read. They also break it up into different
sections by using different headings.
Accuracy: accuracy is hugely important in all types of factual
writing. The publishers must make sure that what they have
written is correct. This includes things such as dates, locations,
names, and the actual information that is contained within the
media. A time when this can often go wrong is when
information is open to interpretation. However this leaflet is
made by a company which go out and test equipment so you
must assume that they are slightly bias and you must be
skeptical of things they say.
Avoiding ambiguity: this means making sure there is no room
for interpretation by presenting clear information as opposed
to vagueness and uncertainty. However in the leaflet shown
the statistic states that “up to 50% of all RPE used does not
offer the wearer the level of protection assumed”. This is
quite vague and open to interpretation by using text such as
“up to 50%” and “assumed”. It is not clear exactly what this
means and there is no source shown so you must be skeptical
with these sort of claims, especially when coming from a
company which is likely to be bias.
Bias: when someone or something is bias it means it leans in favour of one thing or another.
Factual writing should avoid bias but it can be hard due to the fact that people tend to try and
find evidence that supports their ideas and beliefs and avoid evidence which opposes them.
This leaflet is bias due to the fact that it was created by a company which go out and test
respiratory protection equipment. Obviously they are going to want the reader to think that
this is an issue and they are going to use language which supports this. For example the
statistic which I mentioned above.
Register: register is referring to the language which is used for a particular purpose or in a
particular social setting. When writing formally they are more likely to use words such as father
as opposed to dad, or child as opposed to kid. For example, in this leaflet they refrain from
using grammatical contractions and say things such as “does not” as opposed to “doesn’t”.
Images: the images used demonstrate some of the applications where RPE might be used. It
shows a firefighter, a construction worker and someone who appears to be in a biohazard suit
of some sort. They use a wide range of different applications so that the reader is more likely to
be able to relate to the service, as opposed to if they only included images of construction
Clarity: for instruction manuals one of the most important
aspects is definitely clarity. It must be clear and easy to read
and understand with little knowledge of the subject. It is
common for important information to be presented in bold.
The instruction manual I looked at was for a DSLR camera, and
when talking about specific buttons or words which were
present on the display they would be featured in bold so that
the reader could identify them more easily (e.g. Date/Time).
Conciseness: something else which is hugely important when
talking about instruction manuals is conciseness. It is very
important to be concise and not overcomplicate things when
you are trying to teach someone to do something, also it is
likely they will have little knowledge of the subject and you do
not want to overwhelm the reader with unimportant
information. If the information is not presented in a concise
manner it can become confusing and hard to follow, as well as
hard to locate the information/help that you need. If the
publisher doesn’t ensure their work is concise it will push
people away and deter them from the product as they will
find the instructions unhelpful and frustrating.
Accuracy: furthermore accuracy is also a huge importance for
instruction manuals. If the information presented is not
accurate it is essentially useless and not fit for its purpose. The
purpose of instruction manuals is to instruct someone who
may have very little knowledge of the subject on how to do
something. If the information is not accurate the instructions
are not going to work and will lead to frustration and unhappy
customers. It is simply not an option for the information to be
inaccurate in this context.
Avoiding ambiguity: when talking about avoiding ambiguity in
instruction manuals it means making sure that the information
is not open for interpretation. This is important because
ambiguity can lead to confusion and may result in the reader
doing the wrong thing. If you look at the instruction manual it
is very specific in what it says and doesn’t leave anything open
Register: when talking about register in instruction manuals it often refers to the type of
language used for a particular purpose. In this type of application the language is very formal
and they avoid using grammatical contraction (e.g. they may say do not instead of don’t or will
not instead of won’t).
Images: the images used help demonstrate what the text instructs you to do. Some are
diagrams of the camera itself while others are screenshots of information which is presented
on the LCD. A lot of the information is presented in steps and there is generally a picture to go
with each step in order to help improve the readers understanding of the instructions.
Typography: the text used is very clear and easy to read, and does not distract the reader from
the information. In some areas the font is bolder than others, this is done to draw the readers
attention to specific areas of the page. It is usually things such as titles and header which are
presented like this, but as mentioned before some of the buttons and words which appear on
the screen of the camera are presented in bold so that the instructions are easier to follow
Clarity: just like instruction guides, it is essential for how to guides to be clear. This is due to the fact that they are giving instructions
on how to perform a task. They are presented in a step-by-step format, in order to make it easy to follow and avoid confusion. The
reason using a step-by-step format makes it easier is because you can read what you need to do a bit at a time in chronological
order and then easily find where you were and read the next step, as opposed to having to try and find the point you were at again.
Conciseness: another huge factor in the success of a how to guide is conciseness. If the how to guide is not concise then its is going
to be hard to understand, as the user will dip in and out of it while they are trying to complete the task at hand, and if it is
overcomplicated then it is going to be much harder to do this, which in turn means that the guide is less effective than it could be if
unnecessary information were to be taken out of it. If you look at the example shown it is very easy to follow and there is not much
Accuracy: obviously the information provided must be accurate otherwise it is not going to be of any use and will create more
problems than it is going to solve.
Avoiding ambiguity: it is simply not acceptable for a how to guide to be ambiguous. This is because someone is obviously using the
guide because they are unsure on how to do something, so if the how to guide isn’t easy to understand exactly what it means or
some parts are open to interpretation then this is going to lead to confusion in the reader. When talking about how to guides
ambiguity is going to push the reader away and potentially lead to them using something else instead of your guide. Ambiguity can
essentially make or break the guide.
Register: a lot of the time how to guides are much less formal than something like instruction guides. They often make use of
colours and images in order to attract the reader and make the instructions easier to follow.
Images: the vast majority of how to guides will feature images which accompany the text. Their purpose is to demonstrate what the
text is instructing because many people benefit hugely from actually seeing what the words are talking about. Often each step is
accompanied by its own diagram or image.
Typography: the fonts used are often basic so as not to make the guide confusing. Sometimes the title may be presented in a more
intricate font which may relate to the guide. In the how to guide shown here you can see that the subheadings for each step are
presented in a different colour than the rest of the text. This is done to make it easier to follow and find which step you are on. It
also allows you to quickly look through the steps and see what sort of thing you are going to need to do. The subheadings are also
done in bold. This is to draw you attention and also so that it is easier to differentiate between headings and the main bodies of text.
Bias: bias is a huge issue in factual journalism. While technically
factual journalism should not be bias this is very hard due to the fact
that people tend to try and find evidence that supports their belief
and tend to ignore things that oppose their beliefs. Some stories are
more likely to be bias than others, for example the story in the
newspaper which is shown here is less likely to be bias than say a
story which discusses different political parties. Some sources are
more bias than others and some are largely unbiased, but personally I
do not believe that there is anywhere which is 100% unbiased 100%
of the time. Instead if you want to truly get a good idea of something
the best thing to do is look at multiple sources in order to gain a
better understanding and perspective of what has occurred.
Evidencing of argument: evidencing of argument is essentially clearly
explaining something and the different opinions of that thing. The
vast majority of the time there will be two sides to the story and this
is talking about reporting both of them. This ties in directly with bias
and sometimes it can be hard to find somewhere which does this.
Referencing sources: in factual journalism it is important to reference
any sources for information which has been taken from elsewhere.
The reason why this is important is to make sure that you are being
as least bias as possible. It also means that the information you are
presenting is more reliable as people can go and check the source
and see if what you put is the same. If you don’t include the source
then who knows if you are just making the information up? Also if the
information is wrong then you wont get in as much trouble because
you can send them to the source and say you were only stating what
they have said and did not make it up yourself.
Legal constraints: there are many legal constraints found within
factual writing. There are issues of libel. This is where you can get in
trouble if report information about someone which is false and may
damage their reputation or offend them. For this reason you must
make sure you check your facts when talking about other people
because libel can be very serious and end up costing you a lot. People
can go to court and take out what is known as a gagging order on
you, this essentially means that legally, you are not allowed to talk