When you’re fiddling with a blog post, you often want to make several major points. In what order will you introduce them?
Did you know that there are more than thirteen classic ways of sequencing ideas in formal writing? If you match your article to one of those models, even loosely, it’s a win for you (control) and a win for your readers (confidence). They can see that your information is under control. By contrast, if readers feel that information is coming at them in a chaotic mess, they’re more likely to switch off.
Classic ways to sequence information in formal writing
This knowledge can help you when you are struggling with a piece of writing. By shuffling information into a logical sequence you can often make it clearer to readers—and to yourself. These basic models are useful in blog posts.
- Chronological or Historical. Used when telling a story. For example you might write about a day in Isfahan step by step, just as it happened.
- Procedural. First, next, then, finally. Recipe ingredients are listed in the exact order they will be used, and instructions in the order that they must be performed.
- Spatial. Information is structured according to location. The attractions of a city might be listed from north-west to south-east, or along a train route.
- In order of importance. News items start with the most important points and continue through to the least important last. (Thus, if the article is too long, the final paragraphs can safely be deleted.)
- Comparative. You discuss aspects of A & B, noting differences. This is a useful structure when you want to prove a point.
- Logical. You may be writing about a topic where the reasons and background are crucial to the situation. You would present a logical argument. (Easier said than done!)
Knowledge is power. Frameworks give security.
In real life, very few long documents use just one type of sequencing from beginning to end. More likely, different sections will use different structures. Moreover, there are many other ways to structure a series of ideas or events or facts.
However, the mere knowledge of these different possibilities gives you power and security. The power of perception—
- “Oh, I see. I was telling a story and I stopped half way through to give the background…”
- “I left the most important fact until last as a surprise, but I should have put it first.”
- “My story jumped from Ghana to Liberia, and I need to actually say that.”
- “In my vegan pavlova recipe I should have told them to turn on the oven first.”
And you have the security of options: you’re not stuck with a bad first draft. We are so lucky in our technology! We can cut and paste with a flick of the fingers and play with our stuff, our raw material, our writing. You do this anyway, I know. But if you’re aware of these simple frameworks, you’ll have far more choices than you did when flying blind on trial and error.
Article by Rachel McAlpine — feel free to share. Photo of wooden framing by Jaksmata on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo of MIT Strata Center, Wikimedia, no attribution.