Why Use a Structure?
For example, being asked to write a 10,000-word report is an intimidating prospect. However, you can use a framework to decide that you will need 500 words in an introduction, 2,000 to explain the methods you used, 2,500 to set out your results, and so on. Writing a 500-word introduction is a much less daunting task than writing a 10,000-word report.
Developing a Structure
For example, if you are writing a business document, or something at work, your employer may already have a template for that document. If you are a student, there may be a required structure for each kind of written assignment.
However, don’t panic, because there are many examples of structures for different forms of writing available on the web and within study guides. You really do not need to reinvent the wheel.
Start by searching for a suitable example using your keywords (for example, ‘factual news article’, or ‘business report’). You can then compare outline structures, and decide which one you think will work.
A Process for Structure Development
Academic writing generally takes this form. You start with background and previous research, then describe your methods, results, and conclusions, setting this into the context of previous research. Finally, you put forward proposals for future research.
Business writing often takes this form, because executives tend to want to read the conclusions or recommendations first. If they don’t understand or support these, then they want more information about how the ideas were developed. They usually know the background, so that is often included in an appendix, rather than the main text.
Some Tips for Deciding Your Structure:
It is a good idea to start by thinking about your conclusion or recommendations, and decide whether you want those upfront, or at the end. This depends chiefly on your readers’ need.
Consider whether you need to include any background, and if so, how much. To decide this, again consider your reader. You can then decide if you want to include the background early on (because your audience needs this information), or if it can be included as an appendix for anyone who wants to read it later.
This will probably give you enough clues to decide on a chronological or non-chronological structures. Beyond that, you will need to be flexible to decide what is most appropriate for your purposes.
When you are developing a suitable structure, remember that it is not set in stone. You do not have to use it rigidly. Even within an organisational outline, there will be some flexibility.
You will probably have realised by now that perhaps the most important consideration is your audience. There is more about this process of understanding your readers’ needs in our page on Know Your Audience.
Once you have decided whether you are using a chronological or non-chronological structure, set out some possible headings and sub-headings for your document. These should allow you to set out all the necessary information, in a logical order.
Using Your Structure
You will often be able to use the titles of the main sections in your structure as headings and subheadings within the text. These help the reader to navigate through the piece.
One of the most useful aspects of a structure is that you do not need to write your document in the final order. Instead, you can move about the document, writing different sections to follow your train of thought.
In academic writing, it is common to start with the methods, because this is often the easiest section. The introduction or background may be written early, but will often need much more work once you have developed your conclusions.
Whatever structure you choose to use, you should constantly check that you are adhering to it. If you find that your structure does not work, then revisit it to see whether another structure might be more appropriate.
You should also check the flow of your text as you write. Paragraphs and sections should flow logically from one to the next. Conclude one subject area before introducing another. Hopping from one topic to another with no clear structure confuses the reader and demonstrates a lack of clarity.
Examples of Structures for Written Work
Two examples of common structures for writing different types of communication are provided below. Remember that these are simply examples, and many variations on these frameworks exist.
A Written Report
A Press Release
Journalists receive numerous press releases every day. The key aim is therefore to capture their interest quickly and show them that you have a good story for them, which will repay their attention.
Paragraph 1 Lead Sentence: Summarise the story – who, what, where, when and why. All key information needs to be in this paragraph. It needs to keep the reader’s interest and follow on from the headline.
Paragraph 2: Include more details to flesh out the story that you outlined in the first paragraph
Paragraph 3: Quotes from someone relevant to the story. Each quote should make one point. If you wish to include more than one point here, use quotes from different people.
Paragraph 4: Any additional relevant information
Note for Editors (background information; whether you can offer interviews or additional pictures; any additional relevant information)
A final thought
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Types of text structures
While writing style is about the writer, the text structure is about what the writer is writing. Text structure means how information is presented. If the information that I want to convey to you is “apples are red and sweet”, I can convey that directly by saying so.
But if I want to take a different approach, I’d say “while oranges give you a stingy sourness and then the sweetness kicks in, apples are much more consistent in sweetness”. Same information can be provided in multiple ways and the text structure and the writing styles are very closely related.
As you can see, these are the different methods with which you can present information. The structure of the literature can be based on these three methods or a composite of the three.
In contrast/compare, you present information in a comparative manner, sort of like a “this vs that” scenario. If I wrote this artice in a comparative way, listing the contrasting difference between the four, the structure would have been of this group.
In a cause and effect scenario, the presentation of information given on the basis of the need of it. Why is something written in a narrative tone? Why in some cases, the expository tone is preferred over descriptive? All the answers to these questions are presented in cause and effect structure. Do remember that this structure does not ask questions, rather it raises the questions in the readers’ minds.
The last one here on the list is the question and answer model which is just to present information is a question and answer basis. What is the best method to write a news article that needs to be compact and to the point? Expository. The reason for that is… This is how the information is presented.
So this was all about different writing styles and text structures and their characteristics. We hope that the article was helpful in solving your query. Read more articles related to writing to understand the art better: