Text Organization

Classroom
David Schaffer/Getty Images

Text organization refers to how a text is organized to help readers follow and understand the information presented. There are a number of standard forms that help text organization when writing. This text organization guide will help you logically guide your readers through your text.

Text Organization: Referring to Ideas Already Presented

Pronouns and determiners are used to refer to ideas, points or opinions that you have previously introduced, or will immediately introduce.

Here is a quick review of pronouns and determiners with examples.

Pronouns

Remember that ideas, opinions and arguments are considered objects in English which take object pronouns.

it / it / its -> singular
they / them / their -> plural

Examples:

Its importance can not be underestimated.
It now becomes clear that their role in production is vital.
The government has given it ample consideration, but rejected its validity.

Determiners

this / that -> singular
these / those -> plural

This is key: Children need to be encouraged in order to succeed.
Jefferson referred to those as unnecessary complications.

Make sure that pronouns and determiners are clearly defined either before, or immediately after their introduction in order to avoid confusion.

Examples:

The need for economic growth is vital to any society. Without it, societies become defensive and ... ('it' refers to 'need for economic growth)
These are vital for any job: interest, skills, manners... ('these' refers to 'interest, skills, manners')

Text Organization: Providing Additional Information

A number of forms are used to provide additional information in text organization. These forms are used at the beginning of a sentence to link text to the previous sentence:

In addition to X, ...
As well as X, ...

Examples:

In addition to these resources, we will require a further investment of ...
As well as his difficulties in childhood, his continuing poverty as a young adult caused many problems.

These phrases can be used in the middle of a sentence or a phrase to provide additional information in your text organization:

also
as well as

Examples:

Our commitment to the cause, as well as our financial resources, will make this possible.
There was also time considerations to take into account.

Sentence Structure: Not only ... but also

The sentence structure 'Not only + clause, but also + clause' is also used to provide additional information and emphasize the later point in your argument:

Examples:

Not only does he bring experience and expertise to the company, but he also has an outstanding reputation.
Not only are the students improving scores, but they are also having more fun.

NOTE: Remember that sentences beginning with 'Not only ...' use inverted structure (Not only do they do...)

Text Organization: Introducing a Number of Points

It's common to use phrases to signify the fact that you will be making different points in your text.

The simplest way to indicate that you will be touching on a number of different points is to use sequencers. The appearance of sequencers indicates that there are points to follow or that precede your sentence. For more information on sequencers, continue on to the section on sequencing your ideas for text organization.

There are also some set phrases that point to the fact that there are a number of points to follow. Here are the most common:

There are a number of ways / means / manners ...
The first point to make is ...
Let's begin with the assumption that / the idea that / the fact that ...

Examples:

There are a number of ways we can approach this problem. First, ...
Let's begin with the assumption that all of our courses are necessary for our students.

Other phrases are used to indicate that one phrase is related to another in an additional sense. These phrases are common in text organization:

For one thing ...
and another thing / and for another ...
besides that ...
and besides

Examples:

For one thing he doesn't even believe what he's saying.
..., and another thing is that our resources can't begin to meet the demand.

Text Organization: Contrasting Information

There are a number of ways to contrast information in text organization. In most cases, two clauses are used: one with the most important information, as well as a clause introduced with a word or phrase showing contrast. The most common of these are 'although, though, even though, but, yet' and 'despite, in spite of'.

Although, Even Though, Though

Notice how 'though, even though' or 'although' show a situation which is contrary to the main clause to express conflicting information.

'Even though', 'though' and 'although' are synonymous. Use a comma after beginning a sentence with 'although, even though, though'. No comma is required if you finish the sentence with 'although, even though, though'.

Examples:

Even though it was expensive, he bought the car.
Though he loves doughnuts, he has given them up for his diet.
Although his course was difficult, he passed with the highest marks.

Whereas, While

'Whereas' and 'while' show clauses in direct opposition to each other. Notice that you should always use a comma with 'whereas' and 'while'.

Examples:

Whereas you have lots of time to do your homework, I have very little time indeed.
Mary is rich, while I am poor.

Whereas, While

'But' and 'yet' provide contrary information that is often unexpected. Notice that you should always use a comma with 'but' and 'yet'.

Examples:

He spends a lot of time on his computer, yet his grades are very high.
The research pointed to a specific cause, but the results painted a very different picture.

Text Organization: Showing Logical Connections and Relations

Logical consequences and results are shown by beginning sentences with linking language indicating a connection to the previous sentence (or sentences). The most common of these include 'as a result, accordingly, thus, hence, consequently'.

Examples:

As a result, all funding will be suspended until further review.
Consequently, the most important elements combine to provide a rich tapestry effect.

Text Organization: Sequencing Your Ideas

In order to help your audience understand, you need to link ideas together in your text organization. One of the most important ways to link ideas is to sequence them. Sequencing refers to the order in which events happened. These are some of the most common ways to sequence in writing:

Beginning:

Firstly,
First of all,
To start off with,
Initially,

Examples:

Firstly, I began my education in London.
First of all, I opened the cupboard.
To start off with, we decided our destination was New York.
Initially, I thought it was a bad idea, ...

Continuing:

Then,
After that,
Next,
As soon as / When + full clause,
... but then
Immediately,

Examples:

Then, I started to get worried.
After that, we knew that there would be no problem!
Next, we decided on our strategy.
As soon as we arrived, we unpacked our bags.
We were sure everything was ready, but then we discovered some unexpected problems.
Immediately, I telephoned my friend Tom.

Interruptions / New Elements to the Story:

Suddenly,
Unexpectedly,

Examples:

Suddenly, a child burst into the room with a note for Ms. Smith.
Unexpectedly, the people in the room didn't agree with the mayor.

Events Occurring at the Same Time

While / As + full clause
During + noun (noun clause)

Examples:

While we were getting ready for the trip, Jennifer was making the reservations at the travel agent's.
During the meeting, Jack came over and asked me a few questions.

Ending:

Finally,
In the end,
Eventually,
Lastly,

Examples:

Finally, I flew to London for my meeting with Jack.
In the end, he decided to postpone the project.
Eventually, we became tired and returned home.
Lastly, we felt we had had enough and went home.