Distinguishing between a Foreword, a Preface, and an Introduction

As you are gathering the front and end matter for your manuscript, you may find yourself wondering what the differences are between a foreword, a preface, and an introduction. These are three separate and very important elements that appear in the front pages of books, and they each have their own specific functions. The roles of these pieces are often confused.

It’s necessary to be able to make the distinction between each of these elements so that as a writer you can have this content labeled properly and in the right place in your book. Different kinds of books require different elements, and you don’t necessarily need each one of these in your manuscript. Most works of nonfiction will include at least one of these manuscript elements, if not all three, and works of fiction will most likely include none of these. Let’s take a look at each one of these elements and explore what each should contain:

  • A foreword is written by someone other than the author and tells the readers why they should read the book.
  • A preface is written by the author and tells readers how and why the book came into being.
  • An introduction introduces readers to the main topics of the manuscript and prepares readers for what they can expect.

The Foreword

Forewords are written by someone other than the author. These people are usually experts in the field that the book is about. If you’re considering including a foreword in your book, you should first think about who you can get to write your foreword and what value it will add to your content. Do you have the right connections to be able to reach out to someone well-known in your area of expertise who can write this piece for you? Name recognition is key. Think of a foreword as the ultimate book recommendation. Having a big name attached to the foreword can be quite helpful when it’s time to market your book.

The content provided in the foreword should introduce the author or work to readers, tell readers why they should read the book, and give credibility to the book or author.

The Preface

The preface gives you, as the author, the opportunity to introduce yourself to your readers and explain to them why they should hear what you have to say. This is where you build credibility, so you should give some insight into how you got to be an expert on your subject. You can toot your own horn a bit here.

You should use a preface to spark curiosity about your content and draw readers in. Here, you speak directly about the purpose, creation, or importance of your book. How did your book’s genesis come about? What was the pain point you were seeking to address when you decided you wanted to write a book, and why is that important to your readers? The preface is where you explain the who, when, and where of it all.

The Introduction

An introduction is much more closely related to the content and is necessary for the book’s comprehension, but it is distinct enough that it should be kept separate from the rest of the text.

In the introduction, you should cover the promise of the book and any necessary definitions or methodology that are necessary to its understanding. The introduction is where you want to explain what your book is about by touching on the major themes. What are your readers going to get out of reading your book? What’s in it for them? Here is where you make your case.

These three front-matter manuscript elements can be very important pieces for your forthcoming book, and it’s good to have an understanding of what they are and what they provide your readers so that you can use them correctly and effectively. Having the necessary information in place and named correctly can benefit your book a great deal.

Would you like to discuss any of these manuscript elements with the editors at Greenleaf Book Group? Do you need help deciding if you should include any of these elements in your manuscript? Contact us at contact@greenleafbookgroup.com, or visit our submissions page. If you have any questions for Greenleaf Editorial about these manuscript elements or your project, tweet us @GreenleafBookGr.