Literature is the written word used to entertain, persuade, or provide information to readers. As literacy (the ability to read literature) has increased in modern society, people find themselves surrounded by literature of some sort at all times: books, articles on the internet, scrolling news on the television, magazines, instruction manuals, even movies can be read and interpreted as literature. Reading literature has transitioned from a solitary endeavor into a social outlet for discussion, reflection, and fellowship through social networking internet sites and book clubs.

All literature can be classified into two general areas - fiction and nonfiction. Fictional literature involves stories that are not true, such as novels, short stories, and most plays. Nonfiction is information that is true and accurate, such as autobiography, biography, memoir, news accounts, and instruction manuals. Almost all writing can be labeled as true or not true, so it can be classified as fiction or nonfiction.

Within the fiction and nonfiction areas, there are many different genres of literature. The most common form of literature is prose. Prose is basically any writing that is not verse (poetry). Novels, short stories, articles, instruction manuals, and essays are all categorized as prose. Prose does not have a formal structure and does not sound as formal as poetry. Each genre within prose has its own requirements within the genre. For example, all instruction manuals should have clear and concise directions on how to do something, while a short story will always have some sort of conflict (problem) and resolution. Some common conflicts include man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society, and man versus machine.

Poetry is written in verse and often has a structure to it. Many poems often have a set rhythm using the meter and rhyme scheme. A Shakespearean sonnet is one of the most common forms of poetry. It is a fourteen line poem written in iambic pentameter with a specific rhyme scheme in three quatrains and ends with a couplet (ABABCDCDEFEFGG). There are many other types of poems with other meter, rhyme, and stanza requirements, but not all poetry has to be so formal. Free verse is poetry with no specific requirements, and is a popular choice for new and inexperienced poets due to its freedom.

Drama is another word for a play. Drama is one of the oldest genres of literature and many plays from hundreds of years ago are still performed today. Intended to be performed for an audience, a drama is made up of mostly conversations between characters. Most plays still follow the same plot line that a traditional fictional story would follow: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The plot is revealed through the dialogue and actions of the characters.

Whether people realize it or not, literature is an important part of life today. From reading texts to tweets, Shakespeare to the instruction manual for the new blueray player, most people spend at least a portion of their day engaging in reading a form of literature.