What are Text Features?

Text features are elements of a text that help the reader understand and navigate content. They can be found in almost any text, but are most common in informational or non-fiction text. They can include headings, subheadings, lists, tables, and graphs, and diagrams among others. Text features are used to provide visual cues and organizational structure that can make the text more predictable and easier to follow. 

For example, an illustration of a plant life cycle might include a diagram or chart showing the different stages of growth and development. This type of text feature can help the reader understand and visualize the process of how a plant grows and changes over time.

To make the illustration more effective, the diagram could include labels or captions to explain each stage and provide additional information. For example, the caption for the seed stage might explain what happens during germination and how the seedling begins to grow. The caption for the adult plant stage might describe the plant’s mature size, the type of flowers or fruit it produces, and how long it lives.

By including labels and captions, the illustration becomes more than just a picture – it becomes a way of presenting and explaining information in a clear and organized way. This can help the reader better understand and engage with the content of the text, improving their reading comprehension skills.

Example of a diagram text feature illustrating the lifecycle of a plant
Text feature example of a diagram with labels

Here are some of the more common text features:

  • Title: a name or heading that gives an idea of the content of the text.
  • Headings: used to divide the text into sections and provide an overview of each section’s content.
  • Subheadings: used to divide the text within a section and give the reader a sense of what each subsection covers.
  • Lists: a way of presenting information in an orderly and clear format, often using bullet points or numbers.
  • Tables: a way of organizing and presenting data in a grid format, making it easy to compare and contrast.
  • Graphs: a visual representation of data, used to show trends and patterns.
  • Diagrams: a way of explaining complex concepts or processes by showing the relationships between different parts.
  • Captions: a brief explanation of an image, figure, or table, providing context or additional information.
  • Footnotes: additional information or sources for the information in the text, placed at the bottom of the page or as a reference in the endnotes.
  • Glossary: a list of terms and their definitions, often found at the end of a document to provide a reference for the reader.
  • Index: a list of terms and their page numbers, allowing the reader to easily locate specific information within the text.

Here are some text features that are less common:

  • Callout boxes: used to highlight important information or to set off quotes or examples.
  • Sidebars: used to provide additional information or context related to the main text.
  • Timelines: used to show the order in which events occurred or to show how a process progressed over time.
  • Maps: used to show the location of places or regions mentioned in the text.
  • Charts: used to display data in a graphical format, similar to graphs but with more flexibility in the types of data that can be shown.
  • Cross-references: used to direct the reader to related information elsewhere in the text.
  • Appendices: used to provide additional information that is useful but not essential to the main text.
  • Bibliographies: used to list the sources cited in the text.
  • Acknowledgments: used to credit people or organizations that contributed to the creation of the text.

Text features are like the strings on a guitar – they may seem small and insignificant at first, but they play a crucial role in the overall performance. Just as the strings help the guitar produce a range of beautiful sounds and melodies, text features help the reader make sense of the text and understand the content. Whether it’s through headings, lists, tables, or captions, text features provide structure and context that make the reading experience more enjoyable and meaningful. So the next time you pick up a book or article, don’t be afraid to strum the strings and see how the text features can help you rock your reading comprehension skills!

Be sure to check out our text features anchor chart resources too!