Paratext

ParatextParatext (”side text”), meaning frame or way-into the text pur sang. The text isn’t just, say, a novel; it’s an experience: A sexy cover catches your eye; a screaming title and subtle subtitle play with your naughty lizard brain; a table of contents or epigraph or short foreword make you want to learn more.

Paratext helps you ease into the text. Even the dullest novel benefits from a title which refracts its principal themes. And, yes, texts benefit from illustrations, and they always have. Each piece of front matter has a specific paratextual purpose, often simply to delay you as you flip towards Chapter One.

Good paratext adds a thematic dimension—something to keep in mind as you read. The title is an especially good opportunity to put a thought into the reader’s head.

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