Organizing an Essay
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.
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.