FIRST, A REMINDER: Southern Writers magazine is featuring the first of a two-part article about my book Combat! Spiritual Lessons from Military History on their blog site TODAY! I’d love for you to visit https://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com, read the article, say hello, and ask any questions you might have about the book or how it came about. The magazine will post the second part of the article on March 6.
Now, back to our efforts to squelch the static in our writing. In the last post, we dealt with the desirability of writing in active voice. Today we focus on good organization.
Poorly organized writing is an indication of a poorly organized mind. It communicates confusion, lack of order and prioritizing, and hurried, sloppy writing. Well-organized writing, on the other hand, shows that the author has thought carefully about his or her subject, prioritized and ordered the various points logically, and knows exactly where he or she is going with the message.
I used with my Basic Composition students the analogy of a train, from the locomotive through all the various types of rolling stock to the little red caboose. (Well, today there is no caboose. Railroads long ago replaced the caboose with FRED, a flashing rear-end device, but I think you get the point.)
Every car that follows your locomotive makes up the consist. They represent the various points you want to make. This might involve only a single car (paragraph) or multiple cars (several paragraphs, all united to a central point), depending on how many points you want to make. But each of those points must have its own topic sentence that guides
Strung together, one after another behind the motive power, these cars (paragraphs) make up the train, the consist. But they cannot be strung together willy-nilly. The order in which they are arranged must have logic. In a freight train, each car or block of cars is arranged in the train according to when it is to be disconnected at its proper destination. Similarly, the various points of your article, essay, story, or book must indicate a logical order or sequence. Sometimes that will be chronological. At other times, it might be sequential, as in the directions for assembling a piece of furniture or making a cake. You don’t want to put the cart before the horse! And you can signal the reader of that ordering scheme by using key words (e.g., then, next; first, second, third; finally; on the other hand; consequently; etc.).
But your train needs one other thing or it still won’t go anywhere. Each of the cars (paragraphs) must be linked to the preceding and following cars. On a train, this equipment is called a coupler; in writing, it’s called a transition. It might be a single word, such as second or third if you’re
If you keep this train analogy in mind as you write, you’ll avoid confusion and misunderstanding among your readers, and you’ll send a clear, strong, well-organized message. You’ll deliver the goods!