8 junio, 2024

Prescriptive text: characteristics, types and examples

The prescriptive texts are those that include regulations (as in the case of laws) or instructions (in the case of manuals or cooking recipes). A text written in this way does not pursue literary or aesthetic purposes, and are sometimes considered by some scholars as «non-texts», in the sense that their intention is not to enrich the language or produce pleasure in the reader.

The first and last purpose of prescriptive texts is to indicate how to carry out an activity and send a message that is as clear and concise as possible, without any possibility of confusion or mistake on the part of the reader.


Characteristics of the prescriptive text

Several characteristics of this type of text can be established:

They regulate something or set rules

The communication purpose almost always determines the structure of the texts. In the case of the prescriptive text, the fact of wanting to regulate or induce a reaction in the reader causes it to be written in a particular way.

The language

The language used will be simple, and the appellative function, habitual. The appellative function is the one that demands direct attention from the reader, waiting for a reaction (“read, reader”, “follow the instructions”).

This appellative function can be seen in elements such as the use of the imperative mood of verbs (do, take, get, place, etc.), the vocative (you, you, you) and the infinitive mood (put, adjust, cook).

It also uses technical terms specific to the matter in question, be it legal, cooking, mechanics, etc.

the syntax

The prescriptive text makes use of mostly simple sentences, always trying to be as clear as possible for maximum effectiveness. Put aside complex linguistic constructions in favor of simplicity.

Verbal constructions with the impersonal particle «se» abound, which generate the idea of ​​greater objectivity and distance.

Types of prescriptive text

Basically, there are two types of prescriptive text: the normative and the instructive, collecting in both that communicational intention that was mentioned before. The normative and instructive texts always try to influence the receiver in one way or another, generating actions in the case of the instructive ones, or behaviors, in the case of the normative ones.

– Regulatory texts

These types of texts establish norms and order the world, so to speak. They regulate the actions of people, constituting a starting point of behavior.

An example of a normative text is, precisely, a legal text where the rules of a contract are established, or the rules of games –backgammon, chess, dominoes– and sports.

Structure of normative texts

Since it can be adapted to the situation, the structure will be different depending on what is going to be regulated. The most common are legal texts, contracts or explanations for calls for awards, among others, which will detail the different factors that may influence the reading and understanding of the same, and consequently, its compliance.

These factors that must be named are, broadly speaking, the following: to whom the text or law is directed, who approves it, who applies it and is in charge of enforcing it, its objective, what regulations it establishes and what sanctions are established in case of non-compliance, and the date.

Each normative text, depending on its nature, will have sections, subsections and specifications to explain its objective, and for this it will use titles, themes, sections and articles.

Characteristics of normative texts

As prescriptive texts, they will have a concise and objective language. The verbs are in the present indicative, but they are also usually conjugated in the imperative, in the conditional, or in the future. They are often in the infinitive.

On the other hand, the particle «se» appears regularly, and they can follow a logical or chronological order.

Examples of normative text

A normative text can be composed of a single order or norm, or of many. An example of this could be a sign: “No smoking in this space”.

Another example could be the rules of coexistence of a school, in which each actor or «social entity» must comply with certain regulations. In this way, school students have a section where they are told what they can or cannot do, as well as teachers, administrative staff and even parents or representatives will have their powers.

The clearest examples are the Decalogue, the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, and similar books that want to regulate human behavior.

– Instructive texts

Instructional texts are those that present indications, instructions (and that is why they are called that way) to do something.

Structure of the instructional texts

The structure in this type of text is typical; there are no arguments and no problem is raised. In general, the structure is presented as follows:

There is an introduction in which the objective or goal of the text can be established. A development, which is not such but rather an action program, the phases that must be followed to reach the objective.

Lastly, there may or may not be a closure. If there is, it is generally indicated to carry out a test (for example, if it is the assembly of an electrical device).

Characteristics of instructional texts

The language is clear and even more concise than that of the regulations. The issuer, that is, the person who writes or dictates the instructions, has technical capacity, and therefore speaks properly.

The sentences are short, direct, as if it were a dialogue with the reader: “take the screwdriver and place the screws in the indicated place”.

The tense is the present indicative, but the infinitive and the imperative are also common. The order is chronological, since the intention is to get from point A to point B, and temporal linguistic markers abound such as “first”, “after”, “next”, etc.

There are also plenty of graphic aids, arrows and numbers, to indicate the sequence, and they are often supported by drawings, diagrams, illustrations or photos.

Examples of instructional texts

The classic example is the cooking recipe. The objective is already established in the title, which in this case would be the recipe itself (example: «Mushroom soup»), and the content will develop everything that is needed to prepare a mushroom soup, from the ingredients to the method of preparation. do it.

Another example is the manuals: for construction, assembly of electronic devices, furniture, etc.

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