Tell-tale signs that you might be having problems with organization are when you hear people say: “I don’t think this flows well.” Or: “It seems disjointed.”
The reader is always right. So, as hard as it is to hear, I try to listen when people say these things.
Organization is the internal structure of a piece of writing, the thread of central meaning, the pattern, so long as it fits the central idea well. Organizational structure can be based on comparison-contrast, deductive logic, point-by-point analysis, development of a central theme, chronological history of an event, or any of a dozen other identifiable patterns. When the organization is strong, the piece begins meaningfully and creates in the writer a sense of anticipation that is ultimately, systematically fulfilled. Events proceed logically: information is given to the reader in the right doses at the right times so that the reader never loses interest and never the ‘big picture’—the overriding sense of what the writer is driving at. Connections are strong, which is another way of saying that bridges from one idea to the next hold up. The piece closes with a sense of resolution, tying up loose ends, bringing things to closure, answering important questions while still leaving the reader something to think about.
—Source: random piece of paper @ 2004 from a graduate course that I recently retrieved from the floor of my home-office
After you explain what organization is, then you may have to explain how your piece is organized. This is hard for people who “just feel it.” They feel a piece of writing; they feel a piece of art. It works or it doesn’t, but they can’t tell you why. They are unable to deconstruct it. For them, doing that is equivalent to “showing the man behind the curtain”—at which point, the writing looses its magic.
- Have you introduced your topic to your reader in an interesting way?
- Have you concluded your point in a way that gives a sense of resolution?
- Do transitions between ideas and sentences and paragraphs exist? Are they smooth? Do they follow logically?
- Is the separation between elements, ideas, paragraphs natural and appropriate?
Whether it hurts your brain or not, if you care about your writing, you’ll put some thought into how its organized. Maybe the lights will come on, and you’ll see places for improvement. At the very least, you’ll be able to explain your thinking.
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