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Order of Importance in Reading: Reading Comprehension Review Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 24, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Order of Importance in Reading: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

Another type of text structure that some writers use is order of importance. While chronological order text structure is based on time order, or sequence, this text structure is based on the importance of the information in the passage.

You probably don't even realize you do it, but when you read, you often make decisions about what's important and what isn't. Maybe you don't eat fish, so when you look at a restaurant menu, you immediately skip over all the seafood entrees. This is an example of making a decision about what's important to you in something you read. Writers know that readers make these decisions, so writers often choose to structure their text by putting in the most important stuff they want the reader to know in such a way that the reader will most likely read it and not skip over it.

INSIDE TRACK

IDENTIFYING WHAT THE writer thinks is important gives you a valuable insight into his or her motivations for writing.

Order of importance text structuring can be done in two ways:

    most important least important
    least important most important

Let's look at each way of writing something in order of importance and think about why a writer might choose to use one way over the other.

PACE YOURSELF

WE ALL HAVE something that's important to us. Think of something that's really important to you.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

READING COMPREHENSION IS an important tool to help you understand the world around you.

MOST IMPORTANT LEAST IMPORTANT

There are a few reasons why a writer might choose to begin with the most important point and end with the least. It could be for stylistic purposes because it certainly makes more of an impact to start with the most important thing. Mystery stories are often told in this way, purely for the impact it makes on the reader. Imagine a story in which someone disappears or some other crime is committed in the first scene. The rest of the story might tell all the events that led up to that main, dramatic incident. See how starting with the most important thing can make an impact on readers and draw them into the story?

Read the following opening paragraph to a story:

Keisha didn't know it yet, but she was about to faint suddenly. She didn't know this yet either, but two minutes after she had fainted, she would wake up where she had fallen on the dewy grass and not remember that her name was Keisha.

Are you intrigued? If you are, it's probably because the story starts with such a dramatic event. Of course, there are questions. What will cause Keisha to faint . . . and why won't she remember her name? The answers will be unveiled later in the story, but Keisha fainting is the most important event. It's the thing that grabs the reader and says, "Read on!" It's the incident on which the rest of the story will attempt to shed some light. So, now you can see why especially in fiction, going from most important information to least important information can be a powerful, dramatic tool.

PACE YOURSELF

RANK THE FOLLOWING in order of importance to you, from most important least important. Rank from 1–3, with 1 being the most important.

_____ getting good grades in school

_____ having a lot of friends

_____ playing sports

Beginning with the most important thing can affect a reader in other ways, too. Maybe the writer wants to impress readers by offering his or her best thought right up front. This might immediately capture the readers' attention and make the rest of the text seem all the more believable.

What if you met someone on the street and asked the person a medical question? For example, "Why do people get the hiccups?" So you ask this to a random person, who gives you an answer and walks away. Then you ask someone else. Now you've asked two people the same question. Each gave you a different answer, but there's another major difference between the people. The first person just gave an answer and told you nothing about himself. The second began by telling you that she was a doctor. Whose answer are you more likely to believe? You'd probably believe the doctor. Well, it's the same when writers put their best, most important, and impressive information first. They sound believable.

Unfortunately for writers, there's always a risk that a reader won't be interested in what the writer has to say and won't read the whole thing. Writers are aware of this, so they might structure their writing in order of importance, placing the most important point first to make sure readers at least realize what the most important point is. It's sort of like road signs that show:

    SLOW—Construction Ahead

The most important information is for you to slow down. If you don't read the whole sign, at least you know to decrease speed. Now this is a very simple example, but it helps you see why some writers choose the most important least important text structure!

CAUTION!

EVEN IF SOMETHING'S written in most important least important, you should still read the whole passage. The least important point to the author might be a more important one to you!

PACE YOURSELF

FIND A NEWSPAPER article and determine whether it's written with the most important information first or the most important information last.

Take a minute to read the following passage, written with the most important least important text structure.

There are many benefits to reading more often. First and foremost, reading more will broaden your understanding of yourself and of other people. It will also introduce you to new information and ideas. Furthermore, it will improve your overall reading comprehension, so you'll begin to understand more of what you read. In addition, reading more will improve your vocabulary and increase your reading speed.

You can tell by the phrase first and foremost that the most important benefit of reading is listed first. It's the broadening of your understanding of yourself and others. Each of the other benefits is stated in decreasing importance. Generally, a writer will want you to know which point's most important, so all you have to do is carefully observe the words to figure out what the author thinks is most important. He or she will often use words like first and foremost, most importantly, most critically, or even best of all.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

THE CREDITS FOR movies and television shows are structured in order of importance. Ever notice how the most popular actors' names are always first?

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