Organizational Patterns for Writing: Purpose and Types

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  • 0:01 Organization of Writing
  • 0:30 Chronological Order
  • 1:47 Order of Importance
  • 2:43 Compare and Contrast
  • 3:42 Cause and Effect
  • 5:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Ever read a piece of writing and simply not understand the message? Knowing the structure of the writing will often help you understand it. Watch this video lesson to learn about structure of writing.

Organization of Writing

All writing has a structure. This can be thought of as a specific format or how the writing is organized. It is important to understand this structure in order to fully comprehend the material written. If you know the organization of the piece of writing, you will better understand the author's message.

There are many types of organization an author can follow in his writing. Some of those include chronological order, order of importance, compare and contrast, and cause and effect. Let's take a closer look at those types of organizational patterns.

Chronological Order

Perhaps the easiest pattern to identify is chronological order. For this organizational pattern, the writing follows the order of time. This means that the plot sticks to a specific timeline. The best example of writing in chronological order can be seen in any novel or short story. For the most part, all fiction is written in chronological order. These stories have a specific beginning, middle, and end. For example, think of the story of 'Cinderella.' It starts when she is a child, then follows what happens to her father and how she grows up with her stepmother. There is a sequence of events that is fairly easy to follow since it stays in order of time.

Besides fiction, there are some examples of nonfiction, or writing based on real life, that is also written in chronological order. For example, a biography is the story of a person's life. This is written in chronological order because a biography almost always begins with that person's birth, then describes their childhood, young adulthood, and on and on as they age. This is a perfect example of chronological order. Any writing that strives to show a sequence of events in order of time is following chronological order.

Order of Importance

A second type of organizational pattern is order of importance, which is exactly how it sounds. The importance of the ideas determines the order each occurs in the writing. The most important idea is described in the writing first, followed by the second most important, then the third, and so on and so forth.

This type of pattern is often seen in essays, which focus on a single topic with supporting details. The writer of an essay should analyze his supporting ideas. Whichever idea is the strongest should be the first one explained in the essay. For example, imagine you are writing an essay on the importance of recycling. You have found much information on the benefits of recycling, but which idea has the most support? Perhaps you found the best reason to recycle is that it saves trees, which helps the environment. This, then, should be the first idea you explain in your essay. Using this organizational pattern helps to strengthen any piece of writing centered on supporting arguments.

Compare and Contrast

A third type of organizational pattern is compare and contrast. In terms of writing, compare means to describe the similarities between two objects or ideas. Contrast, on the other hand, means to describe the differences. With this in mind, there is a simple way to identify this pattern. For example, imagine you are reading a magazine article on a matchup between two football teams. Does the author explain how the teams are alike and how they are different? If so, then the organizational pattern is compare and contrast.

This pattern is often used in works of nonfiction that focus on two ideas within the same subject. You might see writing that compares and contrasts in newspaper articles, and magazine articles, or even speeches. If similarities and differences is the central theme, the author is comparing and contrasting. Any piece of writing evaluating something would benefit from using a compare and contrast organizational pattern.

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