Writing Organizational Strategies Study Guide

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Updated on Oct 1, 2011

Writing Organizational Strategies

Good writing is always a breaking of the soil, clearing away prejudices, pulling up of sour weeds of crooked thinking, stripping the turf so as to get at what is fertile beneath. - BLAISE CENDRARS (1887–1961) SWISS NOVELIST AND POET

This lesson supplies you with additional helpful strategies for organizing your writing. In Lesson 14, you learned about some f the most common ways to organize the material in an essay. In this lesson, you'll explore additional ways to organize your ideas and information.

Order of Importance. This system of organization is frequently used, and is quite similar to the general-to-specific system that you read about in the previous lesson. You can use this system when you have a major idea or a shocking statement that out want to begin with, and then go on to develop ideas out of your bigger statement as the essay progresses.

When you think about it, you'll realize that most individual paragraphs are organized this way, with a topic sentence that is most general, or inclusive, followed by supporting sentences that elaborate upon the general statement. You can also use this pattern backwards (you might even say upside down) by starting a paragraph or a section with the least important information and then working up to a strong statement supporting your thesis. If you build your argument in this upside-down way, you are guiding the reader, point by point, and slowly but surely convincing him or her to agree with your argument. (Think of how you construct an argument when you are asking your parents for something you think they might not want to give you. Isn't this the pattern you use in trying to convince them to come around to your way of thinking?)

Classification or Analysis. The lesson you are currently reading, and the one that precedes it, are good examples of organization by classification. What you are reading here is a list of types of organizational strategies; these lessons have created a classification system for you, the reader. Notice how much easier it is to learn about several types of writing strategies if they are presented to you in a list, with headings to separate them. Consider incorporating a list and headings into essays that you write in the future. They are useful devices—efficient signposts to help the reader stay interested.

Often you can use the classification strategy in essays where you are writing about several parallel things or ideas. For example, what if you were asked to write an essay about the various classes that you take each day? Couldn't you classify them by class period? Or subject matter? Or size of the classroom? Or even by how much you like (or dislike) the teacher? All of these ways to organize your ideas are actually using a classification system to present ideas.

The analysis part of the classification system appears in the details of your presentation of ideas. For example, if you have created a classification system for the various classrooms you visit every day, your explanation of the variations among those classrooms would constitute your analysis of the separate elements in your system. If you are describing your teachers, your descriptions of why you like certain teachers are really your analysis of the qualities that you think make a good teacher.

Problem and Solution. This organizational principle is fairly obvious. You present the problem and then you offer a solution. Your job as writer is to state the problem clearly enough, and interestingly enough, that the reader will want to keep reading, and will agree with the solution you offer. For example, imagine that you have been asked to write an essay about global warming. Where would you start and how would you organize in such a way as to retain the reader's interest? One obvious organizational plan would be to begin by describing the problem and then offering a list of ways in which the reader could participate in solutions to the problem, for example, conserve energy, do more recycling, drive a hybrid vehicle, save more trees. You could then end with a strong statement convincing readers to get involved personally and do something about global warming.

Compare and Contrast. You've probably heard of this strategy; it's a favorite with lots of teachers because it's a good way for students to tackle the problems of organization in a fairly simple way. First, of course, you must be comparing ideas, objects, or events that share significant points of comparison. It wouldn't make sense to compare and contrast completely unlike things, such as jumping rope and driving a car. But you could easily compare driving a car and piloting a plane.

Let's assume you are going to compare driving and piloting. There are a couple of ways you could organize the comparison.

Organizing Consecutively. In this instance, you would first discuss all the aspects of driving a car, such as training techniques, observing safety rules, observing road signs, managing passengers, and so on. Then you would separately discuss all the aspects of flying a plane. And then you would perhaps write a conclusion in which you summarize the similarities and differences between the two tasks. This organizational structure would probably work, but it isn't exactly fascinating. You're asking the reader to stay with you for a long time before you get to the interesting part in which you actually compare the two tasks.

Organizing Point by Point. A better way to organize the essay about driving and flying would be to compare and contrast individual aspects of the two things. For example, you might compare and contrast the age requirements of both tasks, then the training requirements, and then the safety issues involved in each. And you could end with a comparison of the thrill and danger involved in both. Do you see how using this point-by-point strategy is likely to create a more interesting essay? One that holds the reader's interest and offers you a path to an impressive ending?

Practice 1: Choosing Organizational Strategies

The following chart offers several essay topics that you might be asked to write on. For each subject, suggest the organizational strategy that you think might work best.

Consider carefully. The obvious solution might not be the best solution. And don't forget to look back at Lesson 14 to review the strategies described there.

Additional Organizational Strategies

Practice 2: Revising Your Organizational Strategy Choices

For this exercise, pretend that your teacher has looked at the choices you made in Practice 1, and she says that your choices don't reveal sufficient imagination or originality. Revisit the chart and suggest different organizational strategies for each of the essay topics.

Completing this exercise should remind you that there is always another ay to organize the essay you're planning.

Additional Organizational Strategies

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