There are many elements that must come together to create an excellent essay. The topic should be clear and interesting. The author’s voice should come through, but not overwhelm, the piece. And there should be no errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, or capitalization. Another element that is sometimes overlooked when editing an essay, but is just as important as the previous elements mentioned, is organization. An organized essay is clear, focused, logical and effective.
Creating order makes it easier to understand the task at hand. For example, imagine putting together a bike. Having all of the necessary tools, parts, and directions will make the job easier to complete than if the parts are spread across the room and the tools are located all over the house. The same logic applies to writing an essay. When all the parts of an essay are in some sort of order, it is both easier for the writer to put the essay together and for the reader to understand the main ideas presented in the essay.
Although organization makes tasks easier to complete, there is not just one way of organizing. For example, there are hundreds of ways to organize a kitchen. The glasses can go in the cupboard to the right of the sink or to the left of it. The silverware can be placed in any number of drawers. And the pots and pans can be hung on hooks over the island in the center of the kitchen or hidden in cupboard space beneath the counter. It does not matter as much where these items are placed, but that they are organized in a logical manner. Essays, like kitchens, can also be organized in different ways. There are four patterns of organization that will be discussed here. However, it is important to note that these are very broad categories. Variations of these patterns can be used, and they may be combined with one another. The first pattern is to organize chronologically. This refers to organizing events in the order that they occur. Chronological organization can be used in narrative essays and personal essays. This pattern is also useful when explaining a process or describing how something works, since this is usually done by understanding what happens first, next, last, etc.Spatial organization, the second pattern, refers to describing items based on their physical location or relation to other items. When describing the contents of a refrigerator, one may start from the top and move down, or begin from the left and move right, etc. Spatial organization is used for a variety of purposes including in descriptions, comparisons, and narrations.
Third is organizing by importance or climactic order. This is when items, examples, descriptions, narrations, etc. are described from the least important to the most important.
Finally, topical organization is based on the topic which is being written about. The topic at hand may lend itself to first describe one aspect, then describe a second aspect, and so on. For example, explaining how a restaurant works might mean first discussing the menu, then discussing the kitchen, next detailing the front of the house, and finally describing the management.
This is only a brief summary of a variety of patterns of organization. The most important thing to remember, however, is that an organized essay, no matter the type of organization used, is an effective essay.
Patterns of Organization for Essay Assignments
Patterns of organization for essay assignments vary, but the one thing they all have in common is creating a logical and organized way to present information. No particular pattern is perfect for every type of essay, writer or piece of content. Only by carefully considering the information you identified in prewriting and learning about your topic can you decide on the best pattern of organization.
Patterns of organization do two things for your essay assignments. They present information logically, and they present information in an order that stays interesting to your readers. Essentially, patterns put all the pieces together to create a strong and effective essay. Learn about the different patterns or organization below to decide how to best organize your essay.
Chronological pattern of organization
A chronological pattern organizes information as a progression of time. The time can move forward or backward as long as a logical progression takes place. Best suited for topics that are broken into segments of time, a chronological pattern consists of main sections covering a particular period of time and subsections under each main section covering segments or events within the time period of the main section. When you’re writing about a historical topic, this pattern works well.
Sequential pattern of organization
A sequential pattern organized information in a step-by-step process. It is similar to the chronological pattern because the steps occur over a period of time in a particular order. However, the sequential pattern essentially describes the steps in a certain process. The main sections cover each main step, and the subsections cover the sub-steps. This organization allows you to identify the key steps and to provide the detailed process for that step within the subsections. When you’re writing an essay assignment to describe a process that occurs in a series of steps, the sequential pattern works well.
Climactic pattern of organization
A climactic pattern organizes information from the least important to the most important. As your essay assignment develops and builds throughout the essay, the crescendo of information holds the attention of readers. In essence, you’re saving the best information and part of the essay for last. When you’re writing an essay that builds up to a finishing point, your journey to winning a medal for example, the climactic pattern works well.
Reverse climactic pattern of organization
A reverse climactic pattern organizes information in the exact opposite of the climactic pattern: the most important information precedes the least important. Use caution in choosing this method. While it works well in journalism with the inverted pyramid style of writing, it makes it more difficult to keep your readers’ attention in essay assignments. Using your journey to winning a medal as an example, your essay would start with the act of winning the medal and work backward through the process that got you to that point.
Spatial pattern of organization
A spatial pattern organizes information in a way that leads your readers from one point to the next according to how things fit within a physical space. It allows you to create a mental picture of the parts of something using description to describe psychical location. When you’re writing about geography or explaining multiple things located in different locations (think of a to-do list for a popular city), for example, the spatial pattern works well.
Topical pattern of organization
A topical pattern organizes information into subtopics that fall into larger topics, or examples of types falling into a category. When another pattern of organization doesn’t work, the topical approach generally does; think of it as the catchall pattern. For this reason, it is the most commonly used pattern of organization for essay assignments. If you were writing about cheeses, for example, you would have types of cheese as a larger topic and the individual types as subtopics.
Whatever pattern of organization you use for your essay assignments, make sure to consider any specific instructions from your instructor first by thoroughly reading and understanding the assignment. While these are some of the most common patterns not covered in a specific essay format, they are not the only patterns of organization. Always consider the scope and nature of your topic to pick the pattern best suited to writing a strong paper.