Organizing Documents


Steve Reid, English Department
The strategies we use for writing have common organizational patterns. If I'm going to define something, what I do is I take a specific case, and I look at the class of objects or things to which it belongs, and then I say, "Here's how it belongs to this class, but here's how it differs from something else." For example, a computer is a writing instrument, so how is it different from a pencil, which is also a writing instrument? Then, within the act of definition, there are organizational patterns.

Comparisons allow you to analyze and evaluate two or more concepts. You can compare two concepts by showing either the differences or the similarities between them. This type of organization is especially effective in showing how one concept is better than another. This way, you can persuade readers to choose one over another. For example, car commercials constantly use comparisons to show us how a specific car gets more mileage than other cars.

When you use comparisons between two or more objects, be sure to compare them on the SAME issues. For instance, to show the differences between a Ford Escort, a GEO Prism, and a Honda Civic, you might examine only passenger space, engine size, and trunk size, depending on what issues will interest your readers the most.

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