Friday, 8 March 2013

Defined: prologue, epilogue, foreword, preface, introduction, afterword, postscript, footnotes, end notes

There is great confusion between the names of material used to sandwich the main portion of a book. Here are some brief guidelines to distinguish between them. It is based upon my own research. Apologies for any errors!

A prologue or epilogue is only used in fiction. All the rest are names for different types of material used in either fiction or non-fiction. 

All these things are optional. None of them presume the need for any other.

Prologue. Only use a prologue in fiction. It comes BEFORE the actual beginning of the story to introduce characters or to explain past events or history that might need to be explained, or to generally intrigue the reader. It's a great place to provide information relevant to your story without have to go through flashbacks or torturous dialogue in your first few chapters. Keep it short. Bear in mind many people skip it!

Epilogue. Only use an epilogue in fiction. It comes AFTER the story in order to provide some conclusion when the story leaves something hanging. Don't include plot spoilers in case someone reads it before the story!

Foreword. A foreword (NB NOT 'forward'), are words BEFORE the main text which are NOT written by the author. Someone else tell readers WHY they should read the book. This is the place for a guest celebrity or author to praise and introduce the book. It should make an emotional connection with the reader. A foreword should always be 'signed off' by someone other than the author.

Preface. A preface explains HOW the book came about. It is similar to a foreword, but it is written BY the book's author.

Introduction. An introduction does what it implies: it introduces WHAT follows as a concise overview for the reader.

Afterword. An afterword is similar to a foreword except that it comes AFTER the main work instead of before it. Another purpose is to respond to critical remarks made about a previous edition.

Postscript. Seldom used today, a postscript provides further information about the preceding work, perhaps containing brief information about a sequel or related material.

Footnotes. These are used at the foot of a page to amplify topics raised on the SAME page.  They are linked to by reference numbers within the main text. Ensure they are on the correct page in the final printed work! If you need more than a couple on any given page, perhaps you should consider using End Notes instead. Too many footnotes become tiresome!

End Notes. These are used at the end of a book to amplify topics raised within the main body. They are normally linked to by reference numbers within the main text. They are less intrusive than footnotes, but are less likely to be read.

I hope you found this article helpful. Please visit my website, iankingsley.com to see what else I write!


23 comments:

  1. Thank you for this helpful list of definitions. I just read Angle of Repose and the edition had an Introduction but it is not signed...but does not appear to be by the author...contains info about the accusation of plagiarism etc...who would usually write an introduction? It is quite long with lots of background about Stegner and the creation of this story which is based on a real person.
    thanks
    Jean

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  2. I was not quite sure whether a prologue and epilogue were appropriate for a non-fiction work. None of the numerous sites that I poured over even explained this, and merely "assumed" that this was already understood. Yours was the only one that provided the rule. All your definitions are simple and concise. Thank you!

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  3. Thank you Sir,great post.Very informative.

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  4. Thank you Sir,great post.Very informative.

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  5. Ian, everything's great here except your information on Prologues and Epilogues -- they're also used in nonfiction, especially exciting memoirs and biographies (e.g., Rachel Carson: A Witness for Nature). Not being a hater -- just needed to give a counterpoint. Thanks! CJ Schepers, ghosty, editor, author

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    Replies
    1. Great, just when I thought I finally got the terminology for prologue, etc., you say not so? Jeez!

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  6. Thank you for these points of usage. May I also mention my biography of the mysterious and beautiful Li Xianglan:
    www.yoshikoyamaguchi.blogspot.com

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  8. I believe your article quite helpful as I was looking for a name for an epilogue that links to either a next in a series or a postscript linking several like works as the proper name for such an after thought I suppose could be self-inclusive.

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  9. I believe your article quite helpful as I was looking for a name for an epilogue that links to either a next in a series or a postscript linking several like works as the proper name for such an after thought I suppose could be self-inclusive.

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  10. دائماً ما نسمع أن الكثير من الناس يبحثون عن شركة نقل عفش بجدة ولكن الأهم فى هذا الأمر أن تحصُل فى النهاية على خدمة تتسم بالكفائة العالية , حيث تعتبر الشركة السعودية كبرى الشركات التى تهتم بتريمي الأثاث ومحتويات العفش المنزلية أولي الشركة التى تقدم خدمات رخيصة حتى أصبحت ارخص شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    فعملية البحث عن شركة تقوم بنقل العفش والأثاث ليست مهمة صعبة , ولكن الأصعب أن تكون قد أخترت وحددت الهدف المناسب سواء من ناحية الأسعار الرخيصة أو من خلال كفاءة الخدمة التى ستحصل عليها , فشركتنا أصبحت من ارخص شركات نقل العفش بجدة فنحن نُقدم لكم خدمات متميزة لا مثيل لها فلا تتردد فى التواصل معنا على أرقام شركة نقل عفش بجدة

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  11. Instead of Introduction which synonym can be used in thesis as a heading for introductory chapter?
    Please reply

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I'm working on a memoir and have written a prologue and epilogue, as I have seen these in already published memoirs.

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  14. what about postface? is that an opposite of preface?

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  16. If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.
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