Ask the coach: Book front matter defined

Ask the Coach, Beth Mende Conny, your writing questions

Q: What is the difference among a foreword, preface, introduction, and prologue? Do I have to include all or any of them my book?

A: The four sections are optional. A foreword usually is written by an expert or public figure. It can lend credibility to your work, as well as help market it, especially if a contributor’s name appears on the book cover, (e.g., “Foreword by John Doe.”)

A preface discusses the story behind the book. The introduction summarizes the book’s purpose, contents, organization, etc. The prologue, which is used primarily in fiction, sets the stage for the book, signals a later event or outcome, etc. Generally, the author writes each of these sections.

Other optional front matter:

  • half title page (lists only the book title)
  • maps, timetables, lists, charts, illustrations, characters’ names, terms
  • acknowledgements (which can also go in back)
  • advisories (i.e., that the book is purely a work of fiction; that it isn’t intended to substitute for the advice of a doctor or lawyer; etc.)

Have a question? Drop me a line.

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