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Copyright Melanie Spiller 2011. Do not copy without permission.
Organizing Principles

Some people write compelling prose. You read the first sentence, and you’re captivated. You find yourself pulled in and reading all the way to the end, even if it’s not a subject that you expected to interest you. Sometimes, the author’s “voice” is what pulls you through, but much more often, it’s that the piece was carefully crafted around an organizing principle.

 

You can tell whether writing is well organized using four tests: *

  1. The subject is stated clearly and briefly at the outset.
  2. Key generalizations summarize major points at emphatic spots and make an adequate outline of the work.
  3. Subheadings make an adequate outline of the work and display a linear thought process.
  4. Paragraphs, major sections, and the whole piece are dominated by an easily identified order.

 

There are nine common ways to organize material. Think about your topic and your audience, and see which one is most likely to provide compelling reading.

 

 

This blog entry was organized using Psychological order for the introduction, Function order for the list of identifying factors, and then Definitions were organized alphabetically. The conclusion is organized by Space order (top to bottom).

 

 

* This list is adapted from “Scientific and Technical Writing and Editing”, by Susan Schwartz, 1993, self-published.

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