Getting Started

Using compositional elements strengthens your writing.

Lets quickly look at three areas (Complexity, Genre, and Topics) where a text’s structure effects the readers understanding. This will be helpful when composing and editing your final draft.

Text Complexity

Adding or eliminating complexity in a text makes the degree of comprehension challenging in two ways, the text itself (the words on a page and how they are combined) and the meaning it conveys (understanding the content):

Element 1: While reading, the text itself (vocabulary, syntax, punctuation, phrasing, or sentence length) can make it more or less difficult to read through.

Element 2: After reading, to what degree does the reader comprehend the content explicitly and implicitly (the reader’s depth of understanding)?


There are a number of genres and many sub-genres not listed here. Any of these can be mixed together, structured, and contain a variety of shared elements. However, the two largest classifications are fiction and non-fiction.

Note: Any story or topic can be structured as a poem (Fictional/Nonfictional). So, it’s actually considered a separate genre even though it has been listed here under both categories for organizational purposes.

Fiction (imaginary story telling literature)

  • Dramas (Imaginary characters with a plot.)
  • Fables (Imaginary characters, animals with human qualities usually dramatizing a lesson or moral.)
  • Fantasy (Other worldly characters and settings in imaginary realms)
  • Historical Fiction (Accurate in period and setting but imaginary characters and accounts.)
  • Myths (Imaginary characters with super natural powers, cultural explanations of the natural world.)
  • Narrative (Imaginary events and characters that seem real in action, circumstances, and personalities.)
  • Native American (genre specific to American indigenous folk lore, legends, creation stories, etc.)
  • Poetry (Imaginary places, persons, and/or events.)
  • Realistic Fiction (Imaginary events and characters, settings could be real or imaginary.)
  • Science Fiction (Imaginary setting , characters, events, of futuristic advancements.)
  • Tales (Imaginary characters doing amazing feats, a variety of sub-genres.)

Non-Fiction (actual characters, events, and/or information)

  • Biographies & Autobiographies (Chronicling the life and times of significant individuals.)
  • Essays on Art or Literature (Descriptive accounts with or without opinions.)
  • Expository (Information supported by facts i.e. dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. Not particularly in the scope of creative works.)
  • Historical Accounts (Usually significant events.)
  • Journalistic (Either eye witness or second hand accounts.)
  • Narratives (Accounts of actual places, people and events, usually the first person (eye witness accounts.)
  • Opinion/Persuasive Essays (Using facts and experiences to justify a position.)
  • Poetry (Accounts of actual places, persons, and/or events.)
  • Sciences ( Earth, Life, Physical, Social, Space, etc.)
  • Technical Instructions (How to, how it works, manuals.)

Topics & Subject Matter

Topics are just as endless and varied as genres. Topic and Subject Matter can effect element 2 of complexity. For example, the understanding of a cell’s parts from how they look to how they function in organisms are lower and higher levels of biological complexity. A cells’ parts could introduced in a coloring book. Their functions, however, would be studied in a college. Both topics are about the same thing, cells. But, the content complexity addressed different learning abilities.

When composing short passages the complexity, genre, structure, and topic & subject matter will be a major consideration. We suggest looking through other passage websites that have educational materials in the Resources menu. Those examples will be very helpful in developing materials for readers of a particular grade level.