Paragraph Organization

Types of Paragraph Organization

There are many types of paragraph organization. We will be concerned with the most common types for both textbook writing and literary essays: chronological order, statement-support, comparison-contrast, classification, cause-effect, definition, and description.

Chronological Order

In this pattern, the details are presented in the order in which they happened. This pattern may also be called time order or sequence of events.

On April 23, 1564, William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon in England. He attended a local grammar school in the town. At the age of eighteen he married Ann Hathaway. Several years later he traveled to London. By the time he was twenty-eight he had established his reputation by acting and writing plays. Other than these facts, little is known of Shakespeare's early life.

You will expect that whatever appears next in the paragraph occurs next within the time sequence. You will begin to notice how one idea is connected to or depends on another in time. You will be able to remember each separate fact, detail, or step because they fit together in an orderly fashion.

Paragraphs that describe a process, give directions, or detail a procedure are often arranged in chronological order. The first step in the process or procedure is given first in the paragraph, the second step next, and so forth.

Make own example.

You will find the chronological pattern frequently used in textbooks as well as in literature. History texts will often use this pattern for presenting details. Natural science texts employ chronological order to describe the steps in an experiment or process. Narrative essays tell a story or describe an event and frequently use this form of paragraph arrangement.

Statement Support

In this form the main idea is stated and the rest of the paragraph explains or proves it.

Many people rationalize, or explain away, the difficulties in a fashion that protects their view of themselves. That is, they rationalize their mistakes and weaknesses by inventing excuses for them. For example, if a student failed an exam, he or she might say the exam was unfair or that the instructor did not teach what was on the test. Or, if your friend got a speeding ticket, he would rationalize that the police stopped the wrong car, that the speed was not posted, or that the speedometer was not working accurately.



The comparison-contrast pattern is used when the similarities or differences of two or more actions, ideas, or events are being discussed. A paragraph may discuss only similarities or only differences.

Most beginning college students quickly realize that college is very different from high school. They can build their own time schedules, choose their own instructors, and decide whether to attend classes. In high school, however, freedom is more restricted. Most high school operate within a controlled time frame; teachers and schedules are assigned, not selected by the student, and class attendance is required.

The next paragraph contains both comparison and contrast.

Both red raspberries and black raspberries grow wild in the United States. Both grow on canes approximately five feel tall and have compound leaves. Both berries are much more plentiful, and they are easier to find than red raspberries. Black raspberries grow easier to find than red raspberries. Black raspberries grow easily in forests and wooded areas, whereas red raspberries require more light and space.

You should begin to look for similarities or differences between the item discussed. Begin by identifying the two or more items involved. Usually the topic sentences of the paragraph states the basic relationship between the items or ideas.

Try to determine if the paragraph is written to clarify one item or idea by comparing or contrasting. You can expect to find the comparison-contrast pattern in the social science textbooks where governments, economies, social groups, behaviors, and cultures are studied. Many literary essays also use this pattern.


The classification pattern organizes information about a topic by dividing it into parts. These parts are selected on the basis of things they have in common.

Most people do not realize that they have more than one vocabulary level. In fact, everyone has four different vocabularies- a reading vocabulary, a listening vocabulary, a writing vocabulary, and a speaking vocabulary. There are words that you understand when you hear them, but you may not use them in your daily speech. And there are words that you recognize when you read that you may not normally use in your own writing. Similarly, there are words and expressions that you use in your speech but not in writing.

First identify the general topic or category being explained. Usually the topic sentence will name this general group or category. Next determine how and on what basis the topic has been divided . Then, as you read look for the distinguishing characteristics that make one subdivision different from another.

Remember that the writers' purpose is to show how various parts of the classifications have a common base and also to show how they differ within the common base. Many types of brochures and catalogs.

Cause and effect

When an event or action is caused by another event or action, the cause-effect pattern is used. The primary characteristic of cause-effect paragraphs is explanation by telling why or how something happened. The cause-effect pattern describes how two or more events are related or connected. A tornado for example may have multiple effects Cars turned over, homes destroyed, flooding. Or a paragraph can present several events together that result in a single effect. In the following paragraph, several reasons are given for the expansion of government.

In the past century, government has expanded and become more involved in many new fields and aspects of life. One reason for this change is that government has more to because the population has increased by 600 percent over the past 100 years. More rules and regulations are needed to keep larger numbers of people living and working together peacefully. Another reason for government expansion is the growth of cities. The government has been forced to accept responsibility for the water supply, transportation, fire and police protection, and waste disposal in urban areas.

Usually it states the primary cause(s) and the primary effect(s). It usually also explains the basic cause-effect relationship that is detailed throughout the paragraph. Now determine the connection between the causes and effects: Why did one action occur as a result of a previous action?

The cause-effect pattern is commonly used in the natural and their effects. You may also find the cause-effect pattern used in the reporting of current events in newspapers and magazines, and in description of historical events in history and reference material.


A writer who introduces or used a term that he or she feels the reader won't understand often includes a definition and explanation of the term. The term being defined is often printed in italics or darkened(bold) print, underlined, or otherwise made stand out.

Family therapy is a method of helping troubled families work out their problems and conflicts. Therapy involves discussion sessions directed by a trained therapist. All members of the family are encouraged to come to the sessions. The goal of each session is to work out possible solutions to a particular problem.



The topic sentences of a paragraph that uses definition usually provides a general meaning of the term. The rest of the paragraph narrows the meaning of the term to the specific situation intended. To move from general to specific, form a literal definition to a situational meaning.

When reading a definition paragraph, pay close attention to the topic sentence. It will identify the term and suggest the overall context in which the term is commonly used. Notice how details that follow narrow or specify the author's intended meaning of the word. To be sure that you have understood the definition, try to express it in your own words without referring to the passage.

The definition pattern frequently occurs in textbooks where new terms are regularly introduced. It is also found in many types of writing , including newspapers, magazines, and directions for assembling an item.


A writer who wants to create a word picture of an event, person, object, idea, or theory, often uses the descriptive pattern. This type of paragraph often consists of a list of descriptive facts or characteristics. These particular pieces of the description may not seem to have an easily identifiable order, but writers do not arrange their descriptive details randomly. They usually arrange them in some order.


Practice Paragraphs

Directions: Read each paragraph and identify the predominate organizational pattern. Write the names of the pattern in the space provided.

1. In the simplest outline, how is a President chosen? Fist, a candidate campaigns within his party for nomination at a national convention. After the convention comes a period of competition with the nominee of the other major party and perhaps the nominees of minor parties. The showdown arrives an Election Day. The candidate must win more votes than any other nominee in enough states and the District of Columbia to give him a majority of the electoral votes. If he does all these things, he has won the right to the office of President of the United States?


2. All life is a game of power. The object of the game is simple enough: to know what you want and get it. The moves of the game, by contrast, are infinite and complex, although they usually involve the manipulation or people and situations to your advantage. As for the rules, these are only discovered by playing the game to the end.


3. It was market-day, and over all the roads round Goderville the peasants and their wives were coming towards the town. The men walked easily, lurching the whole body forward at every painful labors of the country-by bending over to plough, which is what also makes their left shoulders too high and their figures crooked; and by reaping corn, which obliges them for steadiness' sake to spread their knees too wide. Their starched blue blouses, shining as though varnished, ornamented at collar and cuffs with little patterns of with stitch-work, and blown up big around their bony bodies, seemed exactly like balloons about to soar, but putting forth a head, two arms, and two feet.


4. If animals could talk, what wonderful stories they would tell. The eagle already knew the earth was round when men were still afraid of falling off its edge. The whale could have warned Columbus about a barrier between Europe and India and saved that explorer a lot of anxiety. Justice would be more properly served if animals could give testimony. There would be a reduction in crime, no doubt. and quite possibly an increase in the divorce rate. All of us would have to alter out behavior in some way or another, for our environment would be considerably changed.


5. This process of selecting details favorable or unfavorable to the subject being described may be termed slanting. Slanting gives no explicit judgments, but it differs from reporting in that it deliberately makes certain judgments inescapable. Let us assume for a moment the truth of the statement "When Clyde was in New York last November he was seen having dinner with a show girl....." The inferences that can be drawn from this statement are changed considerably when the following words are added:"... and her husband and their two children." Yet, if Clyde is a married man, his enemies could conceivably do him a great deal of harm by talking about his" dinner-date with a New York show girl." One-sided or biased slanting of this kind, not uncommon in private gossip and backbiting, and all too common in the "interpretative reporting" of newspapers and news magazines, can be described as a technique of lying without actually telling any lies.


6. Many children of this generation have never witnessed the birth of a baby or experienced the death of a family member. Nowadays, children are born in the hospital, a sterile environment detached form the family. And when a family member becomes seriously ill or approaches death, he is transferred to a hospital where children are forbidden to visit terminally ill patients. Children are deprived of feelings and situations related to birth and death. As a result, children do not develop healthy, natural attitudes toward either experience.


7. So Grant and Lee were in complete contrast, representing two diametrically opposed elements in American life. Grant was the modern man emerging; beyond him, ready to come on the stage, was the great age of steel and machinery, of crowded cities and a restless, burgeoning vitality. Lee might have ridden down from the old age of chivalry, lance in hand, silken banner fluttering over his head. Each man was the perfect champion of his cause, drawing both his strengths and his weaknesses from the people he led.


8. The tax structure ensures that, as incomes rise for individual taxpayers, they move into higher tax brackets. They pay higher taxes and thus are only able to spend a smaller portion of their higher incomes. On the other hand, as incomes fall, lower tax rates go into effect and help keep consumer spending stable.


9. Studies of different cultures have shown that there are many people in the world who as a group are friendly and kind. Anthropologist Margaret Mead(1939) found that the Arapesh, a primitive tribe living in the mountains of New Guinea, were peaceful people who thought that all human beings were naturally cooperative, unaggressive, self-denying, and primarily concerned with growing food to feed growing children. Curiously enough, a neighboring tribe, the Mungudumor, were highly aggressive, warlike, and cruel. Early studies of American Indians also indicate the peaceful nature of some tribes, such as the Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo; while others, such as the Apaches and Comanches, were aggressive and warlike.


10. Various kinds of degrees of determinism have been argued since ancient times. The great dramatic tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles, for example, are pervaded by the ancient Greek belief that men and women are, in the last analysis, the pawns of fate. There is an inevitability to their actions, an end from with they cannot escape. This fatalism is clearly illustrated in the well-known legend of Oedipus. In trying to avoid fulfilling the oracle's prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus turned headlong into fate's trap and unwittingly did as prophesied. A later example is the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which holds that at birth every individual has already been elected to salvation or condemned to damnation.


11. All human societies overcome death by creating and maintaining institutions that are handed on from one generation to another. Sex is a still more awkward feature of our biological inheritance than death, and our nineteenth-century Western society handled sex in relative success. By postponing the age of sexual awakening, it prolonged the length of the period of education. It is this, together with the seventeenth-century Western achievement of learning to think for oneself instead of taking tradition on trust, that accounts for the West's preeminence in the world during the last few centuries.


Examples from the internet:


The mission - February 26, 1943

The first and last official mission of The Writing 69th occurred on February 26th 1943. On that

day, American B-24s and B-17s were dispatched to bomb the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory in

Bremen, Germany. Bremen was overcast so the planes bombed the secondary target, the

submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven.

Each journalist was assigned to a different plane. Of the eight journalists, six took part in the

mission: Bigart, Cronkite, Hill, Post, Rooney, and Wade. Of the six, only five returned. Near

Oldenburg Germany, Post's plane was attacked by German fighters. The plane exploded in

mid air. Miraculously, two of the crew members survived. Eight others and Post died. The

other journalists' planes returned safely although Rooney's was damaged by flak.

Post's death effectively put an end to The Writing 69th. Others did fly afterwards, including

Manning and Scott, who both missed the Wilhelmshaven raid. Homer Bigart later claimed that

he owed his life to Post because Post's death ensured that journalists wouldn't make a regular

job of flying on bombing missions.

The mission is remarkable for the number of first-hand accounts that were written at the time.

These include articles about the training, the mission, and its aftermath. Most remarkably, the

German pilot who shot down Post's plane wrote about the experience in a book he published

after the war. A surviving crew member from Post's plane also wrote an account.

Return to The Writing 69th home page

Writing 69th biographies

Wayne Gotke account (surviving crew member)

Leni Eilers account (German civilian)

Heinz Knoke account (Luftwaffe pilot)

Unanswered questions

About this research

Copyright 1996, Jim Hamilton


The Disney Institute is a whole new Disney vacation

experience. A resort community with a campus-like setting,

the Disney Institute offers dozens of hands-on programs

and activities taught in a relaxed, social atmosphere by

fun-loving instructors who are experts in their fields.

Imagine trying your hand at animation, gourmet cooking, TV

production, and much more, plus enjoying our

state-of-the-art Sports and Fitness Center and spa.

Evenings offer live entertainment or film screenings by

some of the most respected names in the business. And

don't forget to save a day to visit one of the Walt Disney

World® Theme Parks.

Discover this vacation, where every day is different, and

every day is yours to design. It's unlike anything you've

ever experienced.

What's a day at the Disney Institute like? The

possibilities are endless, but imagine a morning where you

head for a rock wall and discover the exhilaration of rock

climbing. After a fantastic lunch at Seasons Dining Room,

you walk to the South Studios for a clay animation

workshop, where you create a clay character and bring it

to life on film. Then it's on to The Spa at the Disney

Institute for a massage or facial. It's already been a day

like no other, and it's not over yet. After a wonderful

meal at Seasons, you complete the day with an evening of

world-class entertainment...maybe a screening in the

Cinema or a jazz group in the Performance Center.

Tomorrow? Eighteen holes in a golf program, followed by an

afternoon at a Walt Disney World Theme Park.

The Disney Institute is its own resort community located

inside the Walt Disney World grounds, just minutes from

all the Disney Theme Parks. In addition to programming for

adults, there are also Youth Programs for kids seven and




Once again Hollywood wants to stuff your summer with cataclysm: a catastrophic caravan of dinosaurs on the loose, boats and planes hurling toward uncertain fates,aliens bent on turning Earth into a crispy ball of falafel, and a whole bunch of good-looking stars playing rocket scientists. So, you

might ask, what makes this summer different from all the rest? How about the

prospect of real doom and destruction? With the studios serving up nearly a dozen

films whose budgets, with marketing costs, cross the $100 million mark, it's not just the survival of the world at stake--it's the survival of Tinseltown itself. As you'll see in our comprehensive guide, 1997 marks the make-or-break year for the high-stakes studio stratagem known as the Event Movie. And if too many of these expensive Events go kablooey, well, the studio executives will be living the disasters--not just making them.


Men in Black

An $80 million will Smith aliens-on-Earth sci-fi spectacular

opening on the Fourth of July weekend--why does that sound so familiar?

"This movie is drastically dif-ferent fromIndependence Day," promises Smith. "It's an

all-out comedy. It's much brighter and the aliens are a lot cuter." The premise: Smith

and Jones are top secret dark-suited government agents who police extraterrestrial

visitations--sort of like Ghostbusters meets The X-Files. ("The X-Files?" asks Jones. "That's a TV show, isn't it? Never seen it.") Loosely based on Lowell Cunningham's Men in Black comics, the project has been hovering around Hollywood for several years, enduring one casting change after another. First, Chris O'Donnell was slated for Smith's part but backed out because he felt there was too much similarity between the character and his Robin alter ego in the Batman flicks. Then David Schwimmer was mentioned as a possibility, and he stayed that way. Director Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty) came aboard in mid-development, replacing Les Mayfield (Encino Man). In fact, one of the few involved from the beginning was Jones--a point that had Sonnenfeld a tad terrified at first.

MEN AT WORK: (left) Smith and Jones have a blast pursuing aliens that land on Earth;

(right) Smith hopes to have an eye-popping July 4 "I saw Tommy do a TV interview a few years ago, and he was so mean I remember thinking 'Thank God I never have to work with this jerk,'" he says. "But I ended up loving every minute of it. He can be difficult if you don't have clear opinions, but we got along extraordinarily well." {UPSIDE} "I've been a little successful with the July 4 weekend," Smith concedes, "so I'm feeling pretty confident these days." {DOWNSIDE} Sooner or later, movie audiences are going to get alien-ated.





Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bipartisan Senate majority is lining up behind a proposal to reject

President Clinton's policy and lift the arms embargo on Bosnia. With a vote scheduled for today, the only issue in doubt was whether the Republican-controlled Senate would muster the two-thirds needed to override a promised presidential veto. Even the

White House admitted it was moving its lobbying effort to the House. The debate over how to stop the killing in Bosnia and the "ethnic cleansing" of Muslim civilians by

Bosnian Serb rebels was similar to half a dozen such encounters in the Senate last year, but with some key differences. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., co-sponsor of the measure, is now the leading GOP presidential challenger. The designated "safe areas" in Bosnia are crumbling under rebel Serb military pressure. And the possibility of U.S. ground troops fighting in Bosnia looms if the United States helps U.N. peacekeepers leave the former Yugoslav republic. While the Bosnian people may understand the international community's unwillingness to protect them, they cannot understand the international community's unwillingness to allow them to protect themselves against genocidal aggression," Dole said. Dole argued that the embargo was both invalid and illegal. It was imposed in 1991 over Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists, Dole said, and it violates Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which affords nations the right to self defense.

The Clinton administration warned that lifting the arms embargo would spark intensified fighting inBosnia, lead to the hasty withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers, split the NATO alliance and erode support for embargoes imposed over other nations such as North Korea and Libya. "If Dole prevails the likelihood is that the Serbs will launch an attack and the question is whether or not the Congress will stand by and watch the Bosnian government be overrun," Secretary of State Warren Christopher told reporters after a contentious private meeting Tuesday with Democratic senators.

A hastily arranged visit to Capitol Hill by Christopher and Defense Secretary William Perry helped delay a vote by a day. But Christopher acknowledged there was little hope of swaying a Senate that was voting "in an atmosphere of enormous frustration."

The legislation requires the United States to lift the arms embargo after the withdrawal of U.N.peacekeepers from Bosnia or within 12 weeks of a request by the Bosnian government for their departure. The measure contains a waiver enabling the president to delay lifting the embargo if the safety of the peacekeepers is in jeopardy. Unlike many Senate actions on foreign policy issues, the measure is not just a sense-of-the-Senate resolution, but a binding bill.

The House voted 318-99 last month to lift the embargo - more than enough votes to override a veto. But because that measure was attached to separate legislation, Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday the House would have to vote again on a free-standing bill to match the Senate. While Dole repeatedly disclaimed any political motive, other Republicans said the Senate was acting in the face of a complete failure of Clinton administration foreign policy.

"The American people do not have tremendous confidence in the president's management of foreign policy, certainly not on this issue," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Those Democrats who sided with Clinton said supporters of the unilateral move against the arms embargo were abdicating responsibility. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the Senate was saying to Bosnia, in effect, "Have a nice war," and was "pulling the rug out from under" NATO allies. France and Britain have said they would withdraw their peacekeepers from Bosnia if the United States acted unilaterally against the embargo. Clinton, in turn, has promised 25,000 ground troops to help with that evacuation.

"Consequently, at the least, unilateral lift by the U.S. drives our European allies out and pulls theU.S. in," Clinton said in a letter to Congress on Tuesday.

AP-DS-07-26-95 0115EDT