Prologue vs. Introduction – What’s the Difference?
  • 3-minute read
  • 11th August 2022

Prologue vs. Introduction – What’s the Difference?

Books don’t always begin at Chapter 1. In fact, authors can lead readers into their main work in several ways, such as with a prologue or introduction. But what’s the difference between the two?

The type of work they come before determines when to use a prologue or introduction. But each sets the tone and gives the reader an idea of what to expect. Check out our guide below to find out more!

What’s a Prologue?

In fiction, a prologue establishes a backstory that hooks the reader and is essential to their understanding of the main narrative that follows by:

  • Providing background information on the story’s setting, characters, and themes
  • Introducing elements that foreshadow significant plot events
  • Setting the point of view and tone for the rest of the book

Generally, a prologue will provide enough details to compel the reader to continue reading without revealing or explaining the story. Although William Shakespeare’s prologue to Romeo and Juliet alluded to major plot points while setting the stage, it also drew the audience in by promising that much more was to come: 

         Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,

A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.

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The which, if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

What’s an Introduction?

An introduction, which is most often used in academic and non-fiction works, differs from a prologue in that it offers the author’s viewpoint. Introductions are often more formal and structured, and they include:

  • A summary of the main topic and/or argument
  • Definitions of important terms
  • Background details or context to help the reader understand the rest of the book

A good introduction will draw the reader in without overwhelming them with too much content. One way to do so is to start with an anecdote to help establish the objective of your book and why the reader should care about it.

Other Opening Sections

If a prologue or introduction doesn’t suit the needs of your book, there are other front matter sections that can also be used to provide your reader with an idea of what to expect in your writing:

1. Foreword

Commonly used in non-fiction writing, forewords introduce the reader to the main subject of a book. To offer credibility, a subject matter expert in the relevant field or the author’s friend or colleague often writes a foreword.

2. Preface

You’ll often see prefaces in non-fiction and academic writing as an introduction to the author. These are typically written by the authors to establish who they are as a writer, other relevant works they’ve written, and what led them to their current work.

Proofreading & Editing

Books can contain one or more of the openers we’ve talked about – or even none of them. If you choose to include front matter in your book, it should ultimately elevate your writing.

And, as this is some of the first writing your readers will see in your book, it’s important that it’s clear, concise, and error free. Fortunately, we have expert editors who are ready to help. You can submit a free trial document today to learn more.

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