27 Text Features Examples

text features examples and definition, explained below

Text features refer to the organizational and structural elements of a text that generally help with navigating and meaning-making.

There are common text features that span most fiction and non-fiction genres, like the title, subheading, table of contents, captions and images.

Then, there are additional text features of specific genre-texts, such as hyperlinks within digital texts and in-text citations in academic texts.

Below are a range of text features, their description, and the value they provide in organizing written texts.

Text Features Examples

1. Title

The title is the heading at the top of a text, often written in larger or bolder type. It serves to introduce and briefly summarize the topic or theme of the document. The title gives an initial impression of the content, and often determines whether the reader continues to engage with the text.

Generally, a title should engage and intrigue the reader, such as the title “Tomorrow, when the war began” which plays with tense to make the reader pause and wonder, and also indicates that the book will involve a war of some sort.

You’ll find titles in nearly all genres of text, including books, academic papers, articles, blog posts, and emails.

Prompts for Learners:

  • Where can you usually find the title of a book?
  • After reading the title, what do you think the book will be about?
  • After reading the text, can you think of two alternative titles for this text?

2. Subtitles

Subtitles come after a title either on a new line or following a colon (:). They tend to add more detail and context to the title to help the reader develop a greater understanding of the purpose or contents of the text they’re about to read.

Here are some real-life examples:

  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
  • Oliver Twist: The Parish Boy’s Progress
  • Cleopatra: A Life

Note how the title is designed to be catchy, brief and ‘punchy’, whereas the subtitle is designed to be more descriptive. For the book “Quiet”, the title is designed to catch our attention while the subtitle explains what the text is about (introverts). Similarly, “Oliver’s Twist” has a subtitle that informs us that Oliver is a parish boy.

It’s also interesting to note that “A life” is a common subtitle to denote that the book is a biography of the book’s namesake person.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What extra details did you learn about the book from the subtitle alone?
  • What context does the subtitle give (place, time, personality, etc.)?
  • After reading the book, can you come up with 2 alternative subtitle ideas?

3. Cover Image

Also on the front of a book (before we even open the first page!) we have another text feature: the cover image.

This image could be a photograph or an artist’s depiction of a key feature of the text.

A very famous cover image, for example, is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which depicts Harry and Ron in a flying car. Harry’s scraggy hair, round glasses, and lightning-bolt scar are visible. This image gives a lot of context: the lighting scar being important to the storyline, and the flying car demonstrating that magic will be in the book.

Cover images are common in both fiction and non-fiction texts, with actual photographs more likely on a non-fiction text.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What can you guess the book is about based on the cover image?
  • Why do you think they chose a drawing/photo and not the other way around?
  • After reading the book, can you come up with an alternative scene for the cover image?

4. Table of Contents

Often, when you open a book, you will not find the text immediately. Instead, you will come across a table of contents. This is here to help you navigate the text in a non-linear fashion.

Tables of contents are found in both fiction and non-fiction texts. For non-fiction texts, they serve a greater purpose, because non-fiction texts are often designed to be read in a non-linear fashion. A classic example is an encyclopedia, where you don’t read it cover-to-cover. Rather, you browse the table of contents (or index, discussed later) to find what you want to red, then only read that section.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What is the purpose of a table of contents?
  • How can using a table of contents save you time?
  • Which types of texts are tables of contents most useful for?

5. Chapter Titles

Longer texts, such as novels, tend to have chapters. These are ‘sections’ of a book that each have a coherent theme or reason that they are clustered together. In non-fiction texts, it’s usually because each chapter addresses a particular idea or topic. In fiction texts, it might represent a certain segment of the storyline.

Non-fiction texts will often strategically end a chapter on a cliffhanger or a similar compelling point in the storyline, designed to keep you reading the next chapter, then the next one, then the next one. We’ll often call books that do this well ‘page turners’.

Like a book title, a chapter title might have a compelling name that tries to draw you into the chapter or give you context about what it’s about. Or, it might just be “Chapter 1”.

Prompts for Learners:

  • Why do non-fiction books have chapters?
  • Why do fiction books have chapters?

6. Subheadings

Subheadings are found throughout a text and function to divide a text into sections. They provide a brief summary of the content of each section, allowing readers to scan and locate relevant information quickly.

Generally, subheadings are more common in non-fiction than fiction texts. They might be used in texts such as academic articles, textbooks, business reports, blog posts, and how-to guides.

In these sorts of texts, they allow us to skip a section and scan through to the sub-sections that contain the information we are seeking.

Prompts for Learners:

  • How can readers use subheadings to navigate a text?
  • What sorts of texts are subheadings most common in?

7. Bold Print

Bold print is a stylistic choice in which the text is darkened to stand out from the surrounding text.

It id used to emphasize certain words or phrases that the author might want you to focus on. In other words, bold print highlights the most important information for the reader. It makes it easier for the reader to spot key points.

Most commonly, bold print will be used in instructional texts (e.g. manuals and guides). It’s also common in textbooks to emphasize key terms or concepts which might be returned to later in a glossary. Similarly, in my own blog posts, I use bold print to stress main points.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What words or phrases are in bold print, and why do you think the author chose to highlight them?
  • How does the use of bold print help you understand the text better?
  • If you were to revise this text, what other words or phrases would you put in bold print?

8. Italics

Italics is a text style where the letters lean slightly to the right. It’s used to emphasize a point, such as if a character yells something! Italic text could also denote titles of works in some referencing style, or indicate foreign or latin words.

Italics provide a visual hint that the text holds special significance, whether it be for emphasis or following a referencing style or other stylistic guidelines.

Italics are widely used in non-fiction writing. They’re common in newspapers and blog posts, where they may be used for emphasis. They can also be found in academic articles, where they often signify the titles of books or journals. In fiction texts like novels, where they might denote a character’s thoughts.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What words or phrases are in italics, and why do you think the author chose to italicize them?
  • How does the use of italics change your understanding or reading of the text?
  • If you were to revise this text, what other words or phrases would you put in italics?

9. Bullet Points/Numbered Lists

Bullet points and numbered lists make it easier for a reader to scan through items, instructions, or other ordered and structured data. It is used to organize information in a clear, concise format.

These formats provide a straightforward way to digest and comprehend information. As a result, they can provide a better reader experience when presenting complex or difficult text.

Bullet points and numbered lists are common in instructional texts where a list of steps or procedures may be required. They’re also prevalent in business reports for listing data or key points. You might also see them at the beginning of a text or blog post to summarize the upcoming information.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What information is presented in bullet points or numbered lists in this text?
  • How do bullet points or numbered lists help you understand the information better?
  • If you were to revise this text, what other information would you put in bullet points or numbered lists?

10. Tables

Tables are a structured way to present data and complex information, whether numerical or textual.

By aligning data in columns and rows, we can scan, compare and contrast, and order the data easily. It can be a lot faster to present and receive this complex information than if it were presented in textual format. In other words, tabulated data provides a clear, efficient method of receiving data.

You’ll often find tables in academic articles, where they may be used to present research data. They’re also common in textbooks to summarize and compare information, in business reports to present financial data, and in technical manuals to list specifications.

Prompts for Learners:

  • What information is presented in the table in this text?
  • How does the table help you understand the information better?
  • If you were to revise this text, what other information would you present in a table?

Full List of Text Features

Text FeatureDescriptionCommon Text Types
Graphs/ChartsVisual representations of data. They help to illustrate and explain datasets in a fast and consumable way. Great for demonstrating relationships between data.Academic work, scientific papers, business reports, textbooks, news articles.
Images/PicturesUsed to supplement textual information, bring descriptive writing to life, sustain user attention, support storytelling, and (for images) add veracity to claims.Textbooks, children’s books, cookbooks.
CaptionsBrief descriptions typically used with images or graphs to provide context or explain what is being shown.Photography, news articles, research papers, social media.
FootnotesNotes at the foot of the page used to cite sources or to provide additional information about something mentioned in the main text.Academic papers, research reports, books.
HyperlinksText or images that provide a link to another page or a different section of the same page. Often underlined and colored differently.Web pages, digital documents, e-books.
Pull QuotesA brief, attention-grabbing quotation, typically in a larger or distinctive typeface, taken from the main text.Magazines, newspapers, blog articles.
GlossaryAn alphabetical list of terms with their definitions, usually placed at the end of a book.Textbooks, technical manuals, academic books.
IndexAn alphabetical list of names, subjects, etc. with reference to the pages on which they are mentioned.Books, reports, technical manuals.
Bibliography/ReferencesA list of the books, articles, websites, etc., used or referred to by the author.Academic papers, research reports, books.
InfographicsVisual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.Websites, magazines, business reports.
MapsVisual representations of an area of land or sea showing physical features.Travel books, geography textbooks, research reports.
SidebarsA short article or information that is adjacent to and complements the main text.Magazines, academic papers, textbooks.
TextboxesBoxes containing additional or highlight information, separate from the main text.Textbooks, presentations, digital documents.
Cover PagesThe first page of a document, often containing the title, author, and publication date.Books, academic papers, business reports.
ProloguesA separate introductory section in a book that provides background information, often before the start of the main story.Novels, plays, literary works.
EpiloguesA section or speech at the end of a book or play that serves as a comment on, or a conclusion to, what has happened.Novels, plays, literary works.
TitlesThe name of a book, composition, or other artistic work.Books, songs, films, articles.
SubtitlesSecondary titles that provide more information about the content. Also, the transcriptions of dialog in films or video.Books, academic papers, films.
Cover ImageThe image presented on the cover of a book or magazine.Books, magazines, albums.
Table of ContentsA list of titles or chapters and the page numbers where they start, usually located at the beginning of a book.Books, reports, manuals.
Chapter TitlesThe titles given to specific sections of a book to divide the content into manageable parts.Novels, textbooks, guides.
SubheadingsTitles for sections within a chapter or article, helping to break up and organize content.Articles, textbooks, reports.
Bold PrintText that has been made thicker to stand out, often used for emphasis.Books, articles, websites.
ItalicsText that is slightly tilted to the right, often used for emphasis, titles, or foreign words.Books, articles, research papers.
Bullet Points/Numbered ListsA list format that breaks information into easy-to-read, discrete parts.Presentations, textbooks, articles.
TablesA structured set of data made up of rows and columns, used to organize information.Textbooks, scientific papers, business reports.
FootnotesNotes at the foot of the page used to cite sources or to provide additional information about something mentioned in the main text.Academic papers, research reports, books.


There are countless text features, and I needed to stop somewhere – so I stopped at 27. A great strategy you can use when teaching about text features is to simply give students a range of different texts (e.g. a textbook, a novel, and an academic paper) and ask them to identify, describe, and even reproduce each text type they can find within the text.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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