Fact and Opinion
In this lesson, you will learn to distinguish between factA piece of information that can be proven. Something that is true and indisputable. and opinionPoint of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true. in order to help form personal opinions about a reading.
In order to learn how to separate the facts in the reading from the authorA person who wrote a text.'s opinion, you must first understand what makes a statement a fact and what makes it an opinion.
A fact is something that can be proven. For example, consider this statement: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the president of the United States from 1933-1945." This is an historical fact and can be proven to be true. However, the statement, "Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the most successful president of the United States," is an opinion.
Remember that an opinion is not the opposite of a fact. A fact is either true and can be proven true, or it is false and can be disproven. Just because you do not know whether a statement is true or false does not make it an opinion.
An opinion shows biasIn writing, bias indicates a writer's personal prejudice for or against an idea, person, activity, or object. Being objective, or displaying no tendency toward a preference, is the opposite of showing bias. and cannot be proven to be true. If a writer wrote the second statement about Roosevelt, readers would know that he or she has a bias in favor of him as the president. Other people may disagree and think that other presidents have been much more successful. As a result, this is an opinion and not a fact.
You can usually identify fact and opinion by looking at the language a writer uses. Subjective languageWording that shows a writer's feelings or opinions. For example, words such as feel, believe, and think are obvious signs that a writer is being subjective. is wording that shows someone's feelings. For example, words such as feel, believe, and think are obvious signs that a writer is being subjective. However, other forms of subjective language can be a little harder to see, such as the example about Roosevelt being the "most successful president." Take a look at the following examples:
Construction of the White House began in 1792 and took eight long years to be ready for President Adams to move in.
This sentence begins with a fact: construction of the White House began in 1792. It continues with a fact that it did take eight years—until 1800—for it to be ready for its first occupants. However, the sentence then moves into opinion when the writer states, "…took eight long years…" The choice of the word long is subjective. It shows the writer's opinion that this span of time was long, but this is an opinion, and cannot be proven. Only the number of years can be proven because those are recorded facts.
This history of the White House is fascinating.
This entire sentence is subjective. Note the use of the word fascinating. This word shows the writer's opinion, which is something that cannot be proven. If the writer were to have included information about who visited the White House and when, then those would be facts. Readers could then draw their own conclusions about whether those facts constitute a fascinating history.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Separating what is fact from what is opinion is important in order to be a critical thinker and writer. If you are asked to respond to a piece of writing, you need to be able to discern what is something that is certain (fact) from what could be disputed or argued (opinion). You also want to distinguish between the facts you present in your own writing and your opinions about those facts so that your writing does not come across as biased. Writing without bias gives you credibility with your audienceThe group of people a writer expects to read a text. Writers use specific language, details, and examples to speak directly to their intended audience. For example, you would write and organize your work differently if your audience was a group of experts in the field of your work than if it was a group of undergraduate students being introduced to the topic., which is an important part of being a professional in any career.
Review the following sentences and look at the explanations showing whether they are fact or opinion and why.
Opinion. The wording very rewarding is subjective and shows opinion.
Fact. The writer can prove that both two-year colleges and universities offer programs in nursing.
Opinion. Wording like easier is subjective. What is easy to one person is not necessarily easy to another.
Opinion. The word better is subjective language and cannot be proven.
Fact. This is information that can be proven with research.
Review the following sentences and identify whether they are showing fact or opinion and why.
Opinion. The word best is subjective language and cannot be proven.
Opinion. One could research which colleges provide teacher training, but the use of the word best is subjective.
Opinion. The author believes the term normal is odd, so this is subjective.
Fact. This can be proven with research and data about women’s career choices.
Opinion. Use of the word good is subjective. The author may be able to research the difficulty of finding jobs in the profession. If this is true, the author could rewrite this statement using objective language, making it a fact. Also, the phrase very difficult is subjective.
Fact. This is a statistic that could be researched.
How can you determine what is fact and what is opinion?
I will look for language that is subjective and that shows the author's opinion.
Why is it important to understand what is fact and what is opinion?
Determining what is fact from opinion is important because it makes us, as writers, aware of whether we are showing bias in our writing. As readers, it helps us know if the writer is being completely truthful or if he or she is trying to persuade us to see a certain side of an argument.
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