The explanatory text:
In the explanatory text a relationship is established between the author and the reader in which the main function is to convey an acquired knowledge or ideas in a certain field: humanistic, scientific, technical, judicial etc.
Every exposition has an objective attitude. Its aim is to provide useful and necessary information to someone who is reading or listening to it and lacks it.
Three steps in the explanatory text:
- The invention or gathering of facts.
- The disposition or order of explaining the facts.
- The elocution or linguistic expression of the text.
- Invention: In the explanatory text, it is called documentation. Before explaining anything, it is necessary to document oneself, that is, to read as many books and articles as possible with reference to the topic he is going to explain.
If it is possible, we also have to take into account plastic documentation, that is pictures, drawings, photographs, graphics etc. which will enable a better understanding of the text. The documentation has to be:
ü Complete: we don´t have to take just one source of information, we have to contrast different sources. We will begin with general sources and then we will go on with particular ones.
ü Modern: we have to consult the most recent sources.
ü Strictly referred to the topic: we have to keep the topic and not deviate ourselves to other topics.
Once we have gathered enough material, we have to begin to select it, we don´t have to use everything, we have to eliminate superfluous material. In this step it is very useful to work with cards. We can take down in different cards, different aspects which are important for our explanation, trying always to note down just one aspect in each card.
Once we have finished the step of documentation, we have to order the cards. We can group them according to the topic, points of view etc. This step is the preparation for the second step: the disposition.
- Disposition: The author has to draw up a plan. We have to make a clear enunciation of the topic. The topic has to be reflected in the title. The first lines of the text can be devoted to its presentation. If the topic is very wide, we can delimit at the beginning the limits we are going to cover, explaining if possible the questions we are not going to cover.
ü If we are dealing with a historical topic, we should follow a chronological order. We will use the cards we have, leaving apart the less important ones depending on the time and space we have.
ü If we are dealing with a non-historical topic, the difficulties increase because we don´t have the help of a chronological order. We have to establish our own plan. We should divide the topic into subtopics. We can go on dividing into arguments for ad against.
The explanatory text can finish with a short summary of what has been explained in it, the ideas and opinions.
- Elocution: Due to the objective character, the qualities of order and clarity must be clearly emphasized. Language has to be clear, simple and appropriate. This is not incompatible with the possibility that the author explains his point of view in the different aspects of what he is explaining: respect, admiration, irony, humour, support, rejection etc.
ü Clarity and precision: It is important that the auditory doesn´t lose the thread. The understanding of the text has to de done easily and quickly without any kind of misunderstanding.
ü Simplicity: The style and language has to be simple without any ornaments. It is advisable to use short sentences instead of subordinate clauses.
ü Concision: We have to avoid to give unnecessary lengthening to what we are conveying. It is better to say more with less number of words. We have to get to the point and not beating about the bush.
The explanatory text can reelaborate previous materials. This can be done in 3 different ways:
- With a summary of what has already been said or written by others. They intend to highlight the main theses and ideas defended by someone. The addressor can give a new form to the material without without betraying the original sense. The writer shows his ability of selecting the main ideas. He has 3 different ways of doing it. He has 3 different ways of doing it:
ü A) basic idea B) subsequent development
ü A) antecedents B) basic idea C) derivations and consequences
ü A) development of facts and exposition of ideas B) basic idea as a consequence of what has been said before.
- With a synthesis of what has been said before. In the synthesis, the writer merges with different texts and interpretations. He has the ability of analysing each interpretation. He accepts one and rejects the others or takes different elements from all of them.
- With an extract of what has already been said by an author. It is similar to the summary of one work. We distinguish it because it follows the order of the original work and it reproduces faithfully different parts of it.
The pedagogical texts are produced by people who have some knowledge and they convey it to an auditory which lacks it in different degrees. So we have knowledge vs. ignorance.
3 Types of explanatory texts:
- Didactic texts: that is, textbooks for schools and universities. This knowledge is acquired through the oral medium, mainly in schools and then the audience will be tested on it to see if they have properly acquired the new knowledge.
Its main characteristics are:
o They are presented in different units or lessons with the same elements (text, pictures, summary, questionnaires).
o They are arranged in a double page.
o The pictures are considered to be simple illustrations of the text.
o They have different kinds of printing so as to underline the essential knowledge and help memorization. Some words are printed in italics.
o The text has also a questionnaire, which has some questions with open or closed answers with the same pedagogic function.
o They have discursive and non-discursive elements, which are 2 different ways of presenting the same knowledge.
- Popularization texts: that is, articles from the mass media, which can be specialized or not. The audience acquires punctual knowledge and they are not going to use it later on nor they are going to be tested on it.
Its main function is to convey some information, but as they have to be sold, they are subject to the public to which they are addressed.
Its main characteristics are:
o The reader can understand the article without having technical knowledge. This absence is due to the desire of knowledge simplification. The reader doesn´t need to have political, judicial or institutional notions.
o In this kind of text the italics refer to proper nouns and not to the main elements of the text. However, when they do it, the aim is not to memorize them, but to attract their attention because their semantic content is important.
o These texts have illustrations together with several notes. Their aim is to ease the reading of the text.
o If the reader is more interested in the topic than the usual thing, these texts are accompanied with complementary information and bibliography referred to the topic.
- Research texts: that is, scientific communications, work papers and articles from specialized magazines. They have a social function and they convey newly-acquired knowledge. These new developments in some given fields will be used later on by other specialists.
Its main characteristics are:
o There is a relationship between 2 subjects as far as knowledge and circulation is concerned: the author and the reader are placed on the same level, up to the point that their roles are interchangeable. There is a relationship of equality.
o In this kind of texts the reader must have a given knowledge so as to be able to understand it and so they can´t be understood by readers who don´t have this knowledge. These texts are full of technical words.
o They are periodical publications which are presented as work tools. The title and the author are placed on the frontispiece and they also have some bibliography with all the articles that have been already published on the topic. This outlay will enable its consultation.
o These texts have a complete index or chart with critical summaries, bibliographical notes, list of articles that have been published in other magazines even in other countries. These texts are never outdated because they always have permanent references.
o The text of these articles has different printings to underline the lexical items in the original language or the titles of the previous works hat have been consulted.
o These texts are also accompanied by non-discursive elements such as statistic charts, schemes, maps etc. These elements are integrated with the text, they can´t be isolated from the main text. They are not superfluous. All the notes that appear either footnotes or all grouped at the end of the article are very important. Its aim is to give a schematic and graphic image of the knowledge they convey.