Lesson Plan - Get It!
Read this statement and decide if it is a fact or an opinion:
Burger House is the best restaurant in town.
If you said opinion, you're right.
- But what if it was slightly different?
Burger House was voted Best Burger Restaurant in Beefville for the third year in a row.
- Does that change your answer?
It should! It has shifted to fact.
In this lesson, you'll learn signal words for facts and opinions and how to distinguish the two statements.
Fact and Opinion
Writing is typically made up of two things: facts and opinions.
Facts are true, while opinions are the thoughts and feelings of an individual. Facts are observable and can be proven. Opinions cannot.
Although it may sound like a very simple task, readers often find it difficult to differentiate between facts and opinions in writing.
One reason why this is true is because, often, writers present their opinions as if they were facts. One type of writing that utilizes opinions that sound like facts is persuasive writing.
In persuasive writing, the goal of the writer is to convince the reader that his or her position in the text is the correct position. In an attempt to be persuasive, writers often avoid using personal pronouns such as me, I, or myself. By doing so, writers avoid overtly presenting their supports as opinions.
Example: I think that apple pie is the dessert that best represents the American tradition.
In this statement, it is clear that what is being presented is the opinion of the writer. However, notice how by removing the personal pronoun, I, the statement seems to change.
Revised Example: Apple pie is the dessert that best represents the American tradition.
Although the statement is still the writer's opinion, it reads as if it were a fact.
Two types of opinions you might encounter are stereotypes and exaggerations.
Stereotypes are beliefs that make a generalized statement about a broad topic. Even though stereotypes have little to no truth to them, they are usually strongly held by those who believe them.
Also, stereotypes often involve prejudice against a certain group revolving around physical appearance, socioeconomic status, geographical location, or religious belief, just to name a few.
Example: All blondes are dumb.
This is a stereotypical statement. It is also a prejudicial statement against one's physical appearance. This statement cannot be proven to be true; therefore, it is an opinion.
Another type of opinion is an exaggeration. An exaggeration begins with a truth but stretches it to such a degree that it is no longer true.
Example: I am so hungry that I could eat a cow!
Although it might be true that the speaker is hungry, it is a little far-fetched to believe that a person could eat an entire cow. After all, cows are pretty huge!
Another example: President George Washington was the best president to ever serve the United States.
Certainly, no one would disagree that George Washington was a great president. In fact, a writer could provide evidence as to his positive contributions to the country while in office.
However, it is an exaggeration to state that he was the best president the country ever had. This is the writer's opinion, rather than a statement of fact.
Fact and Opinion in Fiction
It can sometimes become difficult to distinguish fact from opinion in fiction. The reader often must consider how reliable the narrator is.
Even though fiction isn't real, within that fictitious world there is a reality with facts and opinions. Part of actively reading fiction means considering how much you can trust a narrator and in what ways their perception of their reality is swayed or influenced by potential bias.
Sometimes a story will have a third-person omniscient narrator, which means the narrator is an all-seeing, all-knowing non-character. Although a third-person omniscient narrator is not any one particular character in the story, they will sometimes have access to characters' inner thoughts. This type of narrator is reliable.
A third-person limited narrator, on the other hand, has access to only one character's inner thoughts and might not be entirely reliable. The reliability of a third-person limited narrator must be determined through critical reading and evaluation of the narrator's words and tone.
In the Got It? section, you'll have the chance to try your hand at telling fact from fiction. When you're ready, click through!