9.3 Organizing Your Writing
- Understand how and why organizational techniques help writers and readers stay focused.
- Assess how and when to use chronological order to organize an essay.
- Recognize how and when to use order of importance to organize an essay.
- Determine how and when to use spatial order to organize an essay.
The method of organization you choose for your essay is just as important as its content. Without a clear organizational pattern, your reader could become confused and lose interest. The way you structure your essay helps your readers draw connections between the body and the thesis, and the structure also keeps you focused as you plan and write the essay. Choosing your organizational pattern before you outline ensures that each body paragraph works to support and develop your thesis.
This section covers three ways to organize body paragraphs:
- Chronological order
- Order of importance
- Spatial order
When you begin to draft your essay, your ideas may seem to flow from your mind in a seemingly random manner. Your readers, who bring to the table different backgrounds, viewpoints, and ideas, need you to clearly organize these ideas in order to help process and accept them.
A solid organizational pattern gives your ideas a path that you can follow as you develop your draft. Knowing how you will organize your paragraphs allows you to better express and analyze your thoughts. Planning the structure of your essay before you choose supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and targeted research.
In Chapter 8 "The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?", you learned that chronological arrangement has the following purposes:
- To explain the history of an event or a topic
- To tell a story or relate an experience
- To explain how to do or to make something
- To explain the steps in a process
Chronological orderAn organizational method that arranges events or steps in the order that they have occurred or will occur. is mostly used in expository writingWriting that conveys facts or descriptions., which is a form of writing that narrates, describes, informs, or explains a process. When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first, second, then, after that, later, and finally. These transition words guide you and your reader through the paper as you expand your thesis.
For example, if you are writing an essay about the history of the airline industry, you would begin with its conception and detail the essential timeline events up until present day. You would follow the chain of events using words such as first, then, next, and so on.
Writing at Work
At some point in your career you may have to file a complaint with your human resources department. Using chronological order is a useful tool in describing the events that led up to your filing the grievance. You would logically lay out the events in the order that they occurred using the key transition words. The more logical your complaint, the more likely you will be well received and helped.
Choose an accomplishment you have achieved in your life. The important moment could be in sports, schooling, or extracurricular activities. On your own sheet of paper, list the steps you took to reach your goal. Try to be as specific as possible with the steps you took. Pay attention to using transition words to focus your writing.
Keep in mind that chronological order is most appropriate for the following purposes:
- Writing essays containing heavy research
- Writing essays with the aim of listing, explaining, or narrating
- Writing essays that analyze literary works such as poems, plays, or books
When using chronological order, your introduction should indicate the information you will cover and in what order, and the introduction should also establish the relevance of the information. Your body paragraphs should then provide clear divisions or steps in chronology. You can divide your paragraphs by time (such as decades, wars, or other historical events) or by the same structure of the work you are examining (such as a line-by-line explication of a poem).
On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that describes a process you are familiar with and can do well. Assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the procedure. Remember to use the chronological key words, such as first, second, then, and finally.
Order of Importance
Recall from Chapter 8 "The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?" that order of importanceA method of organization that arranges ideas according to their significance. is best used for the following purposes:
- Persuading and convincing
- Ranking items by their importance, benefit, or significance
- Illustrating a situation, problem, or solution
Most essays move from the least to the most important point, and the paragraphs are arranged in an effort to build the essay’s strength. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to begin with your most important supporting point, such as in an essay that contains a thesis that is highly debatable. When writing a persuasive essay, it is best to begin with the most important point because it immediately captivates your readers and compels them to continue reading.
For example, if you were supporting your thesis that homework is detrimental to the education of high school students, you would want to present your most convincing argument first, and then move on to the less important points for your case.
Some key transitional words you should use with this method of organization are most importantly, almost as importantly, just as importantly, and finally.
Writing at Work
During your career, you may be required to work on a team that devises a strategy for a specific goal of your company, such as increasing profits. When planning your strategy you should organize your steps in order of importance. This demonstrates the ability to prioritize and plan. Using the order of importance technique also shows that you can create a resolution with logical steps for accomplishing a common goal.
On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.
As stated in Chapter 8 "The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?", spatial orderA method of organization that arranges ideas according to physical characteristics or appearance. is best used for the following purposes:
- Helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it
- Evoking a scene using the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound)
- Writing a descriptive essay
Spatial order means that you explain or describe objects as they are arranged around you in your space, for example in a bedroom. As the writer, you create a picture for your reader, and their perspective is the viewpoint from which you describe what is around you.
The view must move in an orderly, logical progression, giving the reader clear directional signals to follow from place to place. The key to using this method is to choose a specific starting point and then guide the reader to follow your eye as it moves in an orderly trajectory from your starting point.
Pay attention to the following student’s description of her bedroom and how she guides the reader through the viewing process, foot by foot.
The paragraph incorporates two objectives you have learned in this chapter: using an implied topic sentence and applying spatial order. Often in a descriptive essay, the two work together.
The following are possible transition words to include when using spatial order:
- Just to the left or just to the right
- On the left or on the right
- Across from
- A little further down
- To the south, to the east, and so on
- A few yards away
- Turning left or turning right
On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph using spatial order that describes your commute to work, school, or another location you visit often.
Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.
- The way you organize your body paragraphs ensures you and your readers stay focused on and draw connections to, your thesis statement.
- A strong organizational pattern allows you to articulate, analyze, and clarify your thoughts.
- Planning the organizational structure for your essay before you begin to search for supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and directed research.
- Chronological order is most commonly used in expository writing. It is useful for explaining the history of your subject, for telling a story, or for explaining a process.
- Order of importance is most appropriate in a persuasion paper as well as for essays in which you rank things, people, or events by their significance.
- Spatial order describes things as they are arranged in space and is best for helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it; it creates a dominant impression.
What is Spatial Order in Writing and How Can I Use it in My Essay?
When it comes to writing quality essays, it takes more than having a good command of English to be an effective writer. While this is the focus in essay writing, organization also plays a very important role. Essay organization simply entails the logical development and representation of ideas. The two areas you need to pay attention when organizing your essay include text structure and cohesive elements.
While text structure is responsible with how ideas are drawn together, cohesive organization is responsible with how the details are glued together. There are many examples of cohesive organization writers can use to structure their essay including spatial order. In essay writing, this organization is also known as space structure or order of place. This organization seeks to present things in writing as they actually are in their locations. Unlike with chronological order and other organizational methods, spatial entirely focuses its descriptions on the location. Spatial ordering makes use of phrases such as in front, behind, farther along, on top of, right of, left of, up, under, beyond, alongside and above amongst others.
How can I use spatial order in my essay writing?
Spatial organization is commonly used in descriptive essays. The main idea behind this style of writing is to invoke the reader’s senses and help get a better understanding of facts and concepts. Two most important scenarios in which you can use this organizational style in essay writing is in describing scenes and settings and when giving direction.
What does spatial ordering entail?
If you think spatial ordering is as easy as using the transitions you may want to consider this again. Inasmuch as this organizational style gives your essay the perfect flow, you are required to invest deeply in the thought process. The following are some of the steps you should pay attention to.
Decided which process or scenario needs to be described first
This is the starting point and most important point in this process. If you are writing a descriptive essay or any other type of essay, it is highly likely that you will have more than two scenarios to describe. According with their relevance or whatever your criteria may be, categorize the scenarios and decide which one to start with. This is important as it helps you set the mood for your readers.
Plan on the details of the scene
Planning generally is important in any writing assignment; however, when it comes to partial ordering you need to go further than relying on the initial pan you lay out. When describing a scene setting every detail counts! If you do not want to miss on the smallest description, always note down the physical everything that is found in that location before you begin your writing.
Write your essay describing the elements in a logical order
Spatial arrangement is all about logic. Once you have your events noted down, the next important thing is describing them in a logical order. The rule of the thumb with spatial organization is that always describe your events from the furthest right coming to the furthest left or you may choose to do this from top to bottom. The idea with this strategy is to bring the events closer to the rights of your reader. While it may be hard to form logical relationship with the ordinary use of adjectives, you will find transitions come in very handy. In addition to this, your creativity will help create a spark in the mind of your readers; therefore, it is important to maintain originality as much as you can.
Why is spatial organization important when it comes to essay writing?
- It helps make complex scenes and processes easy to understand and relate
- Improves evoke the reader’s senses thus helping them visualize what you want them to
- Helps you improve the originality of your essay
While using spatial arrangement in your essay writing is of great importance both to you and to your reader, excessive usage of it is discouraged. Describing in detail each situation in your essay means that every situation is of the same importance which is not the case. Therefore, as you use spatial ordering to spice up your writing ensure you do it within the acceptable limits.
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