Writing Structure Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Writing Structure Practice Exercises

Like architects designing a building, writers need a plan for how they will organize their ideas. In the last section, you learned to recognize the parts of a fictional plot. You learned some organizational strategies that writers use: arranging ideas according to time, order of importance, similarities and differences, and cause and effect. You also learned how to take effective notes about fiction and nonfiction readings. Now it's time to review these strategies and combine them with the basics you learned in Section 1.

What You've Learned

Here's a quick review of each lesson about structure.

Lesson 6: The Parts of a Plot. You examined the four stages of plot development in fiction stories: exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. Each stage reveals important details about the characters and the meaning behind their actions.

Lesson 7: Organizing Principles. You learned that ideas are often presented in chronological order—the order in which they occurred or should occur. Writers often provide sequence clues through transitions. Ideas can also be organized by rank. They can begin with the most important idea and work to the least important idea, or vice versa, from the least important to the most important.

Lesson 8: Similarities and Differences: Comparison and Contrast. You saw how ideas are arranged by similarities and differences. Writers match corresponding features of A and B and show how they are alike or different. Ideas can be presented either point by point or in blocks.

Lesson 9: Cause and Effect. Here, ideas are organized so that readers can see what caused an event to take place or what effect(s) an event had. Sometimes writers describe a chain of cause and effect as well as multiple causes and multiple effects.

Lesson 10: Summaries and Outlines. You learned how to build your own notes in summary form, as complete sentences, or in outline form, as an organized list of ideas. By identifying the structure of the piece of writing, you can decide which type of notes will be most helpful.

If any of these terms or strategies are unfamiliar, STOP. Take some time to review the term or strategy that is unclear.


  1. Look again at the passages you read in Lessons 1 through 5. What organizational structures do you notice at work in those paragraphs?
  2. As you read (and write) in the next few days, be aware of the structure of each paragraph and of passages as a whole. Choose one of the passages you like a lot, and try to identify the author's overall organizational strategy as well as other strategies he or she may use throughout the text.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Writing Structure Practice Exercises

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