Top Tips for Everyday Writing - Structure
The 'skeleton' of structure
Structure is extremely important in every type of writing. From a simple essay to a complex debate argument, the structure of your writing is like its skeleton – the support system and the shape of your overall idea and its parts.
Just like a skeleton your writing structure should have a head; an introduction which contains all the major information. Your introduction should always introduce the reader to your topic and the reason why you are writing, as well as outlining clearly your main points and the way in which your piece of writing will progress. This applies across the board, to any kind of writing you choose to tackle.
Next come the backbone and the separate joints and limbs of your argument. The backbone is like the thread of your argument running throughout the structure of your writing. To strengthen it, make sure you frequently refer back to the question or subject of your essay or piece of writing to remind the reader that your text is a cohesive whole with a single main purpose and that all the different bits are related and tied in to that.
The limbs of your writing are the separate ideas or points that make up the whole. Like in a skeleton, each limb has its own function, they can be quite diverse and each is made up of its own specific parts, separate sentences and ideas that come together to form a single idea. Each ‘limb’ or new idea should always start in a new paragraph so that the different areas of your argument or the different parts of your skeleton are clearly differentiated. This gives the reader a very clear and helpful overview of where your different ideas start and end.
Just like in a skeleton, the limbs have separate functions and can be examined individually, but all join together to make the whole, or in this case, to create the overall effect you want your writing to have, so make sure you connect them together using signpost sentences.
A signpost sentence is a sentence that starts a new paragraph. It should refer back to whatever you discussed in the previous paragraph and explain how this paragraph leads on from it (that’s the connector). It should also clearly introduce the topic of this new paragraph and explain the idea or subject it will address.
Putting your structure together
Remember that it is important to assemble your skeleton or structure in the right order so it makes a coherent and convincing whole. Look at all the separate ideas you want to address in your piece of writing and work out which is the main, or leading idea. This should go first. Then you might have another idea that leads on logically immediately afterwards. If you have two ideas debating opposite points of view or two opposing ideas, make sure you put them next to each other so the reader can easily compare them.
If you have an idea that is a derivative of, or leads directly on from another point, make sure it comes straight after in your structure. Just like the way in which a leg works because the thigh is followed by the knee, which is followed by the calf, then the ankle then the foot and the toes, it is important to line up the skeleton of your structure in the right order to give it the greatest possible impact.
Finally remember that after taking your reader through the individual pieces and focus points of your structure you want to leave them with a picture of the whole. So always finish your structure with a conclusion that zooms back out to the bigger picture, reminds them what the main point of your piece of writing was, and briefly explains again how your main points or ideas all tie in to support that point. This will leave the reader with a satisfying and conclusive overall sense of your piece of writing and its meaning.