Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

Organization

We can look at chaos in two different ways. On the one hand, it can be generative, the source of conceptual blockbusting, and a wonderful tool to use in the gathering-material stage of writing a paper. (Witness, too, the benefits of Guilford's CHAOS program!)

On the other hand, we can also say that chaos as a life experience is often so frightening and repugnant to humans that they associate it with their most terrible experiences. In the Old Testament, Job speaks of death not only as a "land of darkness," but as a "land without any order."(Would Guilford's CHAOS program be the success that it is if it wasn't carefully planned and organized?)

When polled, professors regularly report poor organization as one of the most frustrating--and damaging--problems in student writing.

It's worth noting at the outset that there are competing philosophies of form, and that different cultures view "good organization" differently. What constitutes exemplary arrangement of a paragraph, for example, can differ dramatically depending where one comes from. Robert Kaplan, for example, suggests in an influential article called "Cultural Thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural Education" that whereas the English paragraph tends, for example, to follow a direct line of development, the Oriental paragraph tends to develop thought in a more circular pattern. Romance languages and Russian tend to prize digressions, while Semitic paragraphs often value parallel lines in development.

In thinking about the overall arrangement of multi-paragraph essay essay, we should be able to conclude quickly that different writing situations call for different organizational strategies. For proof of this, all we need to do is look at the contrasting thesis/proof and exploration modes of paper-writing in the Organization section of this manual.