How to Write an Interpretive Text?

One of the most common questions I am asked is to explain the process of writing an interpretive text. An interpretive text is sometimes a requirement of the Composing section of the exam along with Persuasive and Narrative writing. 

What are Interpretive texts?

Texts whose primary purpose is to explain and interpret personalities, events, ideas, representations or concepts. They include autobiography, biography, media feature articles, documentary film and other non-fiction texts. There is a focus on interpretive rather than informative texts in the senior years of schooling.

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

The way I describe an interpretive text is that it is somewhere between a narrative and a persuasive story – it’s a personal story with a message. 

As such, it uses a number of the same devices: 

Facts and statistics, selection of detail, sequencing of events, lexical choice, use of persona, colloquialisms, anecdotes, connotative/emotive language, tone, opinionative response, versions of reality, foregrounding, descriptive language, figurative language, irony, satire, rhetorical devices.

The purpose of an interpretive text is to explain all sides of an argument or issue, to inform by examining both sides of an issue, to provide a balanced discussion of different views, to present the pros and cons so readers can make up their own minds. They do not overtly persuade; instead they want their audience to take an active role in determining the message. 

Some examples of types of texts you can do are: 

  • Feature articles
  • Letters
  • Reflective essays 
  • News reports
  • Biographies
  • Autobiographies
  • Speeches

Important! WACE markers want to know you understand the audience. 

A common criticism noted by markers was the lack of attention given to the audience, particularly when composing persuasive and interpretive texts. Candidates would do well to remember that the primary instruction of this section is to choose ‘a form of writing appropriate to a specific audience, context and purpose’

Source: SCSA

In order to write an effective interpretive text, you need to determine the following elements. 

Context
Audience
Purpose

This will then assist with determining the language that you will use. If you don’t make these choices, you won’t be able to determine appropriate voice or language features.  

Interpretive practice questions:

Travel far enough, you meet yourself.’ Using this idea as a central theme, construct an interpretive text that reflects on a travel experience.

Write an interpretive text about a personal experience that changed your life. 

 

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