Top 9 Writing Organizational Patterns

If you are interested in learning about writing organizational patterns, here are some of the top patterns below that are perfect for your next writing project. 

Regardless of whether you are an avid reader or an avid writer, there are numerous patterns of organization that you may spot in writing. Different organizational patterns are helpful in different types of writing, so the proper organizational structure in one piece of writing might not be the same as the correct organizational pattern and another essay.

What are some top writing organizational patterns you may want to incorporate in your work?

1. Sequential Patterns

Sequential patterns are among the most basic of all organizational writing patterns. Essentially, the author takes some information and arranges it in a process. Each section of the writing represents the main step someone has to follow. It is broken up in this way to make it easier for the reader to follow along.

For example, the writer might create an essay describing to someone how to boil water. Then, the writer will break it up into multiple steps. Some of the steps might be as follows:

  • Step 1: Get a pot that is large enough to hold water.
  • Step 2: Fill the pot with water from the sink.
  • Step 3: Place the pot on the stove.
  • Step 4: Turn the stove on by igniting it or turning on the electric burner.
  • Step 5: Wait until the water begins to bubble. 

Keep in mind that the steps might be much longer than this if the topic is more involved. This is just a basic example of how a writer might use a sequential pattern to describe to someone else how to boil water, painting a mental picture.

2. Chronological Patterns

One of the most popular patterns you may spot in writing is chronological order. This is relatively straightforward. It is an organization of important events or ideas scattered across time. In general, chronological patterns move forward in history, but there might also be situations where they move backward. Typically, the writer will devote a chapter, a section, or a paragraph to a particular moment in time. Then, the writer will move forward, using transitions from event to event, going down the time order.

For example, the author might want to create a timeline of all the wars in which the United States has been involved. The author may start with the American Revolutionary War, which started in the 1700s. Then, the writer may move forward, covering wars in the 19th century next. This might include the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War, and the Spanish-American war. Finally, the writer may discuss wars of the 20th century, including World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. This is one of the most straightforward patterns to understand because the author moves forward in time with each event. 

3. Pros and Cons

A list of advantages-disadvantages is a typical organizational pattern that a writer will use, mainly when discussing multiple topics that fall under the same category. The idea is that it makes it easy for readers to follow along as multiple topics are being laid out under the same category. In addition, by looking at each option’s benefits and drawbacks, it is easier for readers to figure out what is right for them.

For example, the writer might be talking about different investment vehicles. Each investment vehicle has its benefits and drawbacks. As an example of how this essay might be laid out, the writer might use the following:

  • Stocks: The writer will discuss the pros and cons of investing in individual stocks, using a list of pros and cons.
  • Mutual Funds: The writer will use a list to discuss the pros and cons of investing in mutual funds.
  • Bonds: The writer will talk about the pros and cons of investing in bonds, with another list of pros and cons.

This organizational pattern makes it easy for the reader to identify the essential points from each category.

4. Spatial Patterns

Another typical pattern that a writer might use is called a spatial pattern. A spatial pattern is an essay or catalog of different events, people, or existing buildings and specific geographic patterns. Essentially, the writer will use this pattern to paint a mental image for the reader, making it easier for them to figure out how certain areas are laid out. 

For example, if a writer uses a spatial pattern to describe Europe, they might dedicate a section of the essay to different regions. This might include Eastern Europe, which is on the edge of Russia; Central Europe, which might include areas such as Austria and Italy; and Western Europe, which could include France and Spain. The writer might also include Scandinavia, which includes Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

For example, a writer could also use a spatial pattern to divide New York City, making it easier for the reader to understand how the city has been laid out. The writer might break up the essay with a different section focusing on each borough. It might include:

  • Manhattan: A description of all of the important points of interest in Manhattan.
  • Brooklyn: A description of all the important points of interest in Brooklyn.
  • The Bronx: A description of all the important points of interest in The Bronx.
  • Harlem: A description of all the important points of interest in Harlem.
  • Staten Island: A description of all the important points of interest in Staten Island.

Within each section, the writer might talk about smaller areas, such as the West Side, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, and Little Italy. 

5. Compare and Contrast Patterns

The next popular pattern that a writer might use is called a compare and contrast pattern. As the name suggests, the author will compare and contrast two different topics in multiple ways. For example, if the writer is crafting an essay on sports, then the writer might talk about how the New York Mets and the New York Yankees are different, even though both of them play Major League Baseball. Or, the writer might take a broader view and talk about how the major leagues are different than the minor leagues.

As one specific example, the writer might want to talk about how educational programs are different between community colleges and four-year colleges. Some of the sections of this essay might include:

  • Tuition Expenses: The writer will discuss how the cost of traditional college and community college vary.
  • Housing: The writer might also discuss how housing situations vary between traditional colleges and community colleges. 
  • Variety of Educational Programs: Next, the essay might explore how educational programs are different between traditional colleges and community colleges.
  • Job Prospects: Finally, the essay might also explore how job prospects are different for people who graduated from community college or a traditional undergraduate program.

This organizational pattern makes it easy for people to spot the differences between both programs. 

6. Cause-Effect Patterns

Writing Organizational Patterns: Cause-effect patterns
This is particularly helpful if the writer is taking a look at a historical event or if the writer is trying to push for a specific action that can be used to solve the problem

The writer might also elect to go with a cause-and-effect pattern. This is particularly helpful if the writer is taking a look at a historical event or if the writer is trying to push for a specific action that can be used to solve the problem. 

Essentially, the writer can decide to divide the essay into two major sections. The first talks about the causes of that issue, and the second talks about the effects of that event. As an example:

Causes of the Civil War

  • Cause 1
  • Cause 2 
  • Cause 3

Effects of the Civil War

  • Effect 1
  • Effect 2
  • Effect 3

If the writer is trying to construct a persuasive essay on the causes and effects of the Civil War, this is a very easy way to lay it out.

The other way to lay out this type of essay is to devote one section to each cause and then list the effects under that cause. An example of an essay talking about global warming might be laid out as follows:

Cause of Global Warming 1

  • Effect 1
  • Effect 2
  • Effect 3

Cause of Global Warming 2

  • Effect 1
  • Effect 2
  • Effect 3

Cause of Global Warming 3

  • Effect 1
  • Effect 2
  • Effect 3

The writer is able to see the effect relationship of the essay as it moves forward. 

7. A Topical Pattern

A topical pattern is one of the most commonly used patterns in all writing. Essentially, this is a great organizational pattern to use if you are having difficulty finding another pattern that will work well. One topic is often broken up into multiple subtopics, making it easier for the reader to follow along.

For example, you might look at an essay about American sports. There are a lot of leagues and teams to discuss, so you might want to lay it out by topic. One suggested organizational pattern could be as follows:

The NFL

  • Teams in the AFC
  • Teams in the NFC

The NBA

  • Teams in the Eastern Conference
  • Teams in the Western Conference

The MLB

  • Teams in the American League
  • Teams in the National League

There are multiple divisions in each conference as well. Therefore, you could break it down further if you would like. For example, if you are talking about teams in the NFC in the NFL, you could discuss the NFC North, the NFC South, the NFC East, and the NFC West in each individual section. 

8. A Problem and Solution Pattern

You may also want to divide your essay into problem-solution patterns. This essay is relatively straightforward. It has two main sections. The first section will discuss a problem. Then, it will talk about all of the reasons why it is such a big problem. Then, in the second section, you will talk about different solutions to that problem, trying to convince the reader to take a specific action.

For example, you might want to write an essay on why diet and exercise are great solutions for overweight people might break up your essay into multiple sections, including:

Problem: Obesity

  • Obesity causes self-esteem issues.
  • Obesity causes long-term joint pain
  • Obesity increases your risk of developing heart attacks and strokes.

Solution: Diet and Exercise

  • Everyone can eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, so it is not that expensive.
  • It is a sustainable solution that does not require taking prescription medications.
  • It has a much lower risk of leading to complications and side effects. 

Having a formal structure in place can make it easier for your reader to follow along as the effect of various conditions is explained. 

9. A Classification Pattern

You might also be interested in classifying different items into different categories based on specific defining characteristics. If you have a broader topic that you need to cover, you may want to include specific topics in certain areas based on shared characteristics. 

One example of this type of pattern in action is hurricanes. Suppose you have been tasked to divide some of the most important hurricanes in the history of the United States into different categories. In that case, you may decide to do so by classifying them based on the Saffir-Simpson scale. This is the scale that divides hurricanes based on wind speed. The essay would be categorized as follows:

  • Category 1 Hurricanes: List of the most important category 1 hurricanes.
  • Category 2 Hurricanes: List of the most important category 2 hurricanes.
  • Category 3 Hurricanes: List of the most important category 3 hurricanes.
  • Category 4 Hurricanes: List of the most important category 4 hurricanes.
  • Category 5 Hurricanes: List of the most important category 5 hurricanes.

You may have more hurricanes in the lower categories because hurricanes that are major hurricanes tend to do more damage. 

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!

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