Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What is Attitude in Literature?

When analyzing a work of literature, one aspect to think about is attitude. Attitude’s definition in literature is how an author or character feels about something in the novel. An author’s attitude, or their tone, tells the reader how the author feels about the subject he or she is writing about. An author’s tone can be seen in the figurative language, sentence structure, and diction that they use, as well as in the details, descriptions, reasons, and evidence given. Asking ” What is the author’s attitude toward a subject?” is a great way to analyze a text, as the attitude or tone of a piece can help to shed light on the meaning of that work. In addition to helping a reader better understand the meaning of a work, attitude can also be used to help the reader connect with the writing and better understand the author’s intentions.

Determining Attitude

Understanding an author’s attitude can be a useful tool in analyzing literature. There are a few questions to ask when reading that can be helpful in determining the writer’s attitude. Some good questions to ask are:

  1. What type of diction, or word choices, does the author use? Do they use emotional words or neutral ones? Is the vocabulary simple and conversational or more formal and scholarly in nature?
  2. Is there figurative language present? Does the author use metaphors or similes in order to compare things? Do they use literary devices like hyperbole in order to exaggerate things?
  3. What type of sentence structure does the author use? Are their sentences short and simple or longer and more complex?
  4. How does the author approach the subject? Do they provide a balanced overview of the subject or just one side? Do they have rational details, reasons, or evidence to support the views presented, or are their supporting points emotional in nature?

These questions can help readers identify an author’s attitude toward the subject and help the reader identify the meaning of their attitude within the work itself. For instance, if the author uses scholarly diction, limited figurative language, complex sentences, and rational evidence in their work, then perhaps the purpose of their formal and educational attitude is to inform or instruct the reader about the subject matter.

Types of Attitude in Writing

There are many possible types of attitudes in writing; however, a writer’s attitude will usually fall into one of two broad categories: formal and objective and informal and subjective.

If a writer has a formal and objective attitude, they will typically use formal speech and focus on providing facts to the reader. In this type of writing, the author will not express their personal emotions or feelings toward a subject but rather present an unbiased view. When applying the questions above, an objective tone will often use neutral words, formal and higher-level vocabulary, and a third person point-of-view (he or she pronouns). The author might avoid figurative language, especially any involving exaggerations, and will use longer, more complex sentence structures. They will approach the subject in a balanced manner, such as by presenting rational details, reasons, and evidence to support the viewpoint and acknowledging other viewpoints on the subject. The reasons and evidence they give will be backed up by reliable sources that can be checked.

In contrast, if a writer has an informal and subjective attitude, they will typically use more informal speech and be more emotional. Their diction might include conversational vocabulary that demonstrates feelings and emotions, and they might write in the first person (I) or second person (you) point-of-view. The author can utilize figurative language to the fullest extent with extensive metaphors and full, descriptive details. They might use shorter sentences, longer sentences, or a mix of both. Subjective tones will usually be more biased, and although the author might present rational reasons for arguments, they will likely be based more on emotion than fact.

Many author attitudes in literature will fall under these two categories. For instance, an author that is writing an article on the effects of different health trends would most likely use an objective tone in order to educate the reader on the topic. Most nonfiction literature will employ this type of attitude. In contrast, an author writing a biographical account of their experiences trying different health trends would use a subjective tone, as they would be recounting their own experiences rather than facts. This approach might help them connect to or seem more genuine to the reader. Literature like poetry, fictional novels, short stories, and biographies are more likely to use this type of attitude, though there are some exceptions.

Examples of Attitude in Literature

Though a writer’s attitude will often fall into one of the two broad categories above, they will also have a more specific attitude, as attitude can convey a wide range of feelings and emotions within a work. One of the best ways to better understand and practice determining attitude is to look at some examples of attitude in literature.

” When I walked into the kitchen, I was immediately transported back to my childhood. The gingham curtains, old-fashioned stove, simple table and chairs, and wonderful aromas reminded me strongly of my grandmother’s kitchen years and years ago.”

The attitude of this paragraph is nostalgic. The word choice is simple, but words like ” wonderful” help to display some emotion, and it is written in first-person point-of-view. The writing is very descriptive, which helps to paint a picture of the reader’s surroundings. The author’s argument that the kitchen reminds her of her grandmother’s kitchen is a personal, subjective one. Because of the fond and emotional characteristics, the reader can surmise that the author’s attitude is nostalgic.

” On Margate Sands.

I can connect

Nothing with nothing.

The broken fingernails of dirty hands.

My people humble people who expect


This example is a short excerpt from Part III of ” The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot. The attitude is somber, as it demonstrates the author’s unhappiness toward the negative aspects of society. The diction is somber and simple, utilizing words like ” dirty” and ” nothing.” Additionally, it is written in first person, the sentences are short, and figurative language is used to create a scene of suffering. It is clear it is subjective in nature and because the emotions are so negative, the reader can infer that the author’s attitude is somber.

” I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold”

This third example is the famous poem ” This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams. The author’s attitude is lighthearted. The diction used is very simple and pleasant in nature, with words like ” delicious” and ” sweet.” The author uses very short sentences with no punctuation, indicating light and casual feeling toward the subject matter. Though there is some regret presented, the overall attitude is more lighthearted and casual, rather than serious or apologetic.

Lesson Summary

One aspect to consider when analyzing literature is attitude. An author’s attitude is their feelings about the subject they are writing about, which can be expressed through figurative language, sentence structure, word choice, details, reasons, and evidence within their writing. Most attitudes will fall under two broad categories: formal and objective and informal and subjective.

A formal and objective attitude uses formal speech, longer and more complex sentences, high-level diction, third-person point-of-view and will provide rational reasons and evidence. In contrast, an informal and subjective attitude uses conversational speech, a mix of sentence structures, emotional diction, first and second person point-of-view. It will present more biased and emotional details and reasoning. In addition to being objective or subjective, an author’s attitude can also express a wide range of feelings and emotions. A nostalgic attitude can be seen in the example: ” When I walked into the kitchen, I was immediately transported back to my childhood. The gingham curtains, old-fashioned stove, simple table and chairs, and wonderful aromas reminded me strongly of my grandmother’s kitchen years and years ago.”

Join the conversation