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English Review of Types of Nonfiction

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There are also a number of types (or genres) of nonfiction, including biography, essays, history, and reports.  Nonfiction differs from fiction in that nonfiction deals with accurate reporting of events, while fiction creates imaginary events.  Much of the writing that students do is nonfiction, whether in essays, reports, or papers.

Biography and Autobiography

A biography is a detailed, factual description of a person’s life, often a famous person.  It might be as short as an article or as long as a book or several volumes. An autobiography is written by the author, sometimes with another writer (especially if the person is a celebrity).  It goes beyond a brief outline to give a portrait of the individual.

History and Science

The stories of famous events and famous places are the basis of articles and books about history.  Some events might be in the ancient past, such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia, or in records left from prehistoric times in South America or in Africa.  Other events might be in more recent times, and include writing about artifacts and written records dating from those times.  Science writing is also in articles and books.  Sometimes scientists explain their findings in books written for people who are not scientists, such as the many books by physicist Stephen Hawking.  Sometimes people who are not scientists describe scientific achievements.


Essays, like other forms of nonfiction, may be as brief as the answer to an essay question on a test or as long as a focused opinion piece.  There are many different formal structures to essays, including cause and effect, compare and contrast, descriptive essays, and argumentative essays.  They are an important type of writing in many schools and colleges, throughout education.


Reports can be as short as a blurb in a newspaper or magazine, or as long as a book.  Students write reports during all the school years, from the earliest reports on field trips and books, through year-long reports about field projects or study trips.  In addition, reports are valuable outside school, in the workplace, and about activities in agencies.

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