Category Vs Genre

Before I started writing I thought the word ‘genre’ sounded a bit wanky, and now I use it all the time, even when talking about music and I’ve no doubt there are friends who consider me a bit wanky for saying it, especially as it sounds ‘a bit French’.

From Google Dictionary:

Since ‘genre’ is such a useful term, once you start making use of it you wonder how you ever got on in the world without it.

By using the word ‘category’, probably. Or ‘type’.

‘Genre’ is such a nice word to say that it’s easy to overuse it, and sometimes ‘genre’ is used where ‘category’ would be a more accurate choice.


I think it’s a lack of exposure to contemporary YA lit that makes adults refer to it as a “genre.” Much of the time when people say “the YA lit genre,” what they really mean iscategory rather than genre, and that’s fine. However,  I recently attended a talk by an author who had been writing adult genre fiction and was working on her first YA novel, and she kept referring to the characteristics of the YA genre, as if all YA books were somehow fundamentally the same.

In the library with the leadpipe

The same would apply to short stories. Short story is not a genre; it’s a length.

Likewise, women’s fiction is not a genre; it’s a marketing term.

And if YA is a category rather than a genre, then it follows that there’s no such thing as ‘the genre of children’s literature’. That, too, would be a ‘category’.

Right now I can picture my dad watching the Emmys & muttering “reality shouldn’t even be a category” & my mom telling him to shut up.

– @sarahlapolla

Related Link: Genre Theory — continued, from Michael Rosen.

The Labryrinth of Genre is a web app which helps you to find subgenres of a genre.

Children’s books are also sometimes referred to as a ‘genre’: “The genre has come a long way over four centuries. “Early children’s books tended to be solemn and purposeful,” Marcus says. “They were created to teach a moral lesson of some kind and they spoke to the child from on high.” — The Atlantic.

Why writers should leave book-genre debates to the marketing department