organization (composition and speech)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

principle of organization
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In composition and speech, organization is the arrangement of ideas, incidents, evidence, or details in a perceptible order in a paragraphessay, or speech. Also known as arrangement.

In classical rhetoric, organization was known as arrangement or dispositio (defined by Aristotle in Metaphysics as "the order of that which has parts, either according to place or potentia or form"). 

See the observations below.

Also see:

Methods of Development and Patterns of Exposition

From the Latin, "tool, instrument"


  • "If you explain to your readers where you're taking them, they will follow more willingly; if you lead carefully, step by step, using a good road map, they will know where they are and will trust you.

    "Your method of organization should be simple, straightforward, and logical, and it should be appropriate for your subject and audience."
    (Toby Fulwiler and Alan Hayakawa, The Blair Handbook. Prentice Hall, 2003)
  • "Although paragraphs (and indeed whole essays) may be patterned in any number of ways, certain patterns of organization occur frequently, either alone or in combination: examples and illustration, narration, description, process, comparison and contrast, analogy, cause and effect, classification and division, and definition. There is nothing particularly magical about these patterns (sometimes called methods of development). They simply reflect some of the ways in which we think."
    (Diana Hacker, The Bedford Handbook, 6th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002)
  • The Basic Principle of Organization
    "[T]he great basic principle of organization: put everything on the same subject in the same place. I remember when an editor, Ralph Ingersoll I think, casually explained this trick of the trade to me, that my first reaction was 'obviously,' my second 'but why didn't it ever occur to me?' and my third that it was one of those profound banalities 'everybody knows'--after they've been told."
    (Dwight Macdonald, review of Luce and His Empire in The New York Times Book Review, 1972. Rpt. in Discriminations: Essays and Afterthoughts, 1938-1974, by Dwight Macdonald. Viking Press, 1974)
  • Organizing Paragraphs
    "Paragraphs range from tightly structured to loosely structured. Any scheme will do as long as the paragraph seems to hold together. Many paragraphs begin with a topic sentence or generalization, followed by a clarifying or limiting statement and one or more sentences of explanation or development. Some conclude with a resolution statement. Others delay the topic sentence until the end. Others have no topic sentence at all. Each paragraph should be designed to achieve its particular purpose.

    "The most tightly structured paragraphs, common in on-the-job writing (where paragraphs tend to be shorter--usually two to four sentences), follow a three-step approach: topic, development, resolution. These paragraphs state a topic, develop it with explanations and examples, and offer a conclusion. A paragraph beginning with 'I recommend we change our policy for three reasons,' for example, might then enumerate the reasons ('First . . . Second . . . Third . . .'), and then conclude with a statement of benefits."
    (Stephen Wilbers, Keys to Great Writing. Writer's Digest Books, 2000)
  • The Craft of Expository Writing
    "We see the simple way such writing works: points are made and then substantiated. We hear the beat of a great two-stroke heart:
    assertion . . . demonstration
    thesis . . . example
    opinion . . . justification
    claim . . . evidence
    generalization . . . particulars
    argument . . . proof
    All writing that means to convince a reader by rational means moves to this beat. All such writing is an interchange of assertion and demonstration, thesis and proof."
    (Bill Stott, Write to the Point. Anchor Press, 1984)
  • Organization in Classical Rhetoric
    "Ancient attitudes toward arrangement were very different from modern ones. In modern thought, the proper arrangement of a piece of discourse is often dictated by genre: there are formulas for arranging business letters, papers written in school, scientific reports, and even romance novels. . . .

    "While ancient discussions of arrangement were formal and prescriptive to some extent, ancient rhetors paid much more attention to rhetorical situations than to formal rules."
    (Sharon Crowlee and Debra Hawhee, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, 3rd ed. Pearson, 2004)
  • The Lighter Side of Organization
    "The first act is getting the cat up the tree, the second act is throwing rocks at the cat, the third act is getting the cat down from the tree.”
    (Alison Merkel, quoted by Larissa MacFarquhar, "Master Class." The New Yorker, June 23, 2014)

Pronunciation: or-geh-neh-ZA-shun