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Introductions, Forewords, and Prefaces—Which Do You Use?

It is common to see some form of introduction before nonfiction books, but did you know there are differences between introductions, forewords, and prefaces? We’ll break them down so you can decide which is best for your book.


Introductions are best used for self-help books or nonfiction books geared toward a general audience. An introduction is written by the author and introduces the subject of the book and also describes why the reader should read it. It may also include information about the author’s background and why he/she is qualified to write on this subject, as well as how he/she came to write the book. An introduction does not include an author’s name nor date at the end.


Prefaces are similar to introductions but vary slightly in which works they are used for. Prefaces are best utilized for academic or technical books. Like an introduction, a preface is written by the author and gives the author’s background/qualifications and describes how the book came to be written. The end of a preface features the author’s name and date, and sometimes a location.


Forewords differ from introductions and prefaces in that they are not written by the author. A foreword can be used for any nonfiction book, though they are not required, and should be written by someone notable who is familiar with the subject and will lend credibility to the book. For example, Oprah Winfrey wrote a foreword to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Because Winfrey is a well-known figure, her foreword gives credibility and positive attention to Angelou’s book. A foreword should end with the name of the foreword writer as well as date and location.

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