Reading Order of Importance Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Least Important to Most Important

Some writers prefer the opposite approach, depending on the subject and the effect they want their writing to have. Rather than starting with the most important idea, they prefer to end with what is most important. Not only do they leave you with a strong concluding impression, but they also take advantage of the "snowball effect." The snowball effect is the "buildup" or force that a writer gets from starting with what's least important and moving toward what's most important. Like a snowball, the writer's idea builds and builds, getting bigger and bigger, more and more important. By starting with the least important point, writers can also create suspense—the reader is waiting for that final idea. And each idea or item builds upon the ones that come before it.

Here's an example of a passage that builds from least important to most important. Read the passage, marking it up as you go along. Answer the questions that follow.

There are a number of reasons why the current voting age of 18 should be lowered to 16. First, a lower voting age in the United States would encourage other countries to follow this example. Many countries are discussing and debating the pros and cons of lowering the voting age, and if the United States gives 16-year-olds the right to vote, it will serve as an important example for the rest of the world.
More importantly, if 16-year-olds are old enough to engage in other adult activities, then they are old enough to vote. In many states, 16-year-olds can work, get a driver's license, and engage in many other adult activities that make them mature enough to vote. If, at 16, young people are old enough to manage the responsibilities of work and school, then it is clear that they are responsible enough to make informed decisions about politics and politicians.
But the most important reason why the voting age should be lowered to 16 is that it will decrease apathy and cynicism while stimulating a lifelong interest in political participation. Many young people feel as though their opinion doesn't matter. By the time they reach voting age, they are often disenchanted with politics and cynical about the entire political process. If the voting age were lowered to 16, young people would know that their opinion does count. They would be inspired to exercise their right to vote not just as young adults but throughout their lives. The long-term results—a much higher percentage of interested voters and better voter turnout—will benefit our entire nation.

In the following spaces, list the reasons the author provides for why the voting age should be lowered in the order in which they are listed in the passage. In the next set of blanks, list those same reasons in their order of importance.

Order of Presentation


Order of Importance


You can see that the orders are reversed: The author starts with what is least important and ends with what is most important. Why? Why not the other way around?

This author uses a least-to-most-important organizational strategy because he is making an argument. He's trying to convince you that the United States should lower the voting age to 16. In order to be convincing, he must have a strong argument. If he starts with what he feels is his most important (and most convincing) point, he has already shown his hand, so to speak. Especially when the issue is controversial, writers often use the least-to-most-important structure. That way, if their less important points make sense to the reader, then their more important points will come off even stronger. Also, if they were to organize their ideas in the reverse order, most to least important, readers might feel let down.

Thus, you can often expect to see this type of structure—least to most important—in an argument. As the saying goes, "save the best for last." In an argument, that's usually where "the best" has the most impact.

In the first example, about choosing a doctor, the writer was not trying to convince. She was simply giving some advice. There's no need, then, for a buildup. Indeed, in that kind of paragraph, readers might stop reading after the first tip if they don't find it helpful. That's why the most important ideas come first—to make sure they'll be read.

In other words, the writer's purpose—his or her motive for writing—influences the choice of organizational patterns. In turn, the structure influences how you take in and understand what you read.

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