Logical Division of Ideas/Order of Importance

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Logical Division of Ideas/Order of Importance
Logical division is one of the most common ways to organize ideas in English. When you use logical division, you group related ideas together and discuss each group, one after the other. In everyday life, things are divided into groups. Grocery stores sepa­rate items into groups: produce (fresh fruits and vegetables) is in one section, milk products (milk, butter, cheese) are in another section, meats in another, and so on. Similarly, corporations divide themselves into departments: marketing, research, accounting, etc., and authors divide books into chapters.

There is usually more than one way to divide things. Suppose, for example, you are asked to divide the members of your class into groups. How many different ways could you divide them? Make a list:

By gender (male, females) By _____________________________________

By age By _____________________________________

If the groups are all more or less equally important in the mind of the writer, they can be discussed in any order. However, each group should be unified within itself. In other words, you shouldn't put meat in the vegetable section.

Read the model paragraph and then answer the questions that follow.


Life in Space

Living aboard a space station in orbit around the Earth for months at a time poses problems for astronauts' bodies as well as for their minds. One major problem is maintaining astronauts' physical health. Medical treatment may be days or even weeks away, as there may not be a doctor on board. Illnesses such as appendicitis or ulcers, routinely treated on Earth, could be fatal in space because of the delay in getting to a doctor. Furthermore, surgery may be impossible because blood would float around inside the operating room. Another health problem is the potential for bone deterioration. In a weightless environment, the body produces less calcium. Astronauts must exercise at least three hours a day to prevent bone loss. A second major problem is maintaining astronauts' mental health. Being confined for long periods of time in dark and hostile space undoubtedly produces anxiety. Loneliness and boredom are other psychological concerns. Finally, how can astronauts “let off steam” when interpersonal conflicts develop? It is clear that space-station duty will require astronauts who are not only physically but also mentally strong.

Writing Technique Questions

  1. How many main groups is the topic of this paragraph divided into? What are they?

  2. Does the topic sentence of the paragraph tell you the topics of these groups? Does the concluding sentence?

  3. What transition signals indicate the divisions? Where else are transition signals used?

  4. In your opinion, would it make any difference if mental health were discussed before physical health? Do you think that one is more important than the other, or are they approximately equal in importance?

Transition signals used in logical division include many that you already know.

first, second, third, etc. the first (+ noun)

next, last, finally the/a second (+ noun)

in addition, moreover one (+ noun)

furthermore another (+ noun)

also an additional (+ noun)

If some of your points are more important than others, you can indicate their relative importance by using these transition signals:

more importantly a more important (+ noun)

most significantly the most important (+ noun)

above all the second most significant (+ noun)

primarily the primary (+ noun)

A. Reread the model paragraph "Life in Space" and circle all of the transition signals used to show logical division.

B. Suggest changes in the transition signals to show that one group of problems (physical or psychological) is more important than the other.

The topic sentence of logical division and order of importance paragraphs often indicates the number of groups the topic is divided into.

Gold, a precious metal, is prized for two important characteristics. Inflation has three causes.

The topic sentence may even tell what the groups are.

Gold, a precious metal, is prized not only for its beauty but also for its utility.

Inflation has three causes: an increase in the supply of paper money, excessive government spending, and unrestrained consumer borrowing.

The topic sentence for order of importance differs only in that it may contain an order of importance transition signal.

Gold, a precious metal, is prized not only for its beauty but, more importantly, for its utility.
Put a tick in the space to the left of every topic sentence that suggests logical division as a method of organization. Put a double tick if the sentence suggests order of importance. Some are neither, so leave these


  1. My eighteenth birthday was a day I will never forget.

  2. On their eighteenth birthdays, Americans receive two important rights/responsibilities: they can vote, and they can sign legal contracts.

  3. In most occupations, women are still unequal to men in three areas: salary, power, and status.

  4. Living in a dormitory offers several advantages to a newly arrived international student.

  5. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants manufacture their own food.

  6. Television game shows are boring for the educated viewer because they are poorly disguised commercials but more importantly, because they require such a minimal level of knowledge.

  7. Earthquake prediction is still an inexact science although seismologists learn more each time they monitor a quake.

  8. A college degree in international business today requires first, a knowledge of business procedures and second, a knowledge of cultural differences in business methods.

  9. A computer is both faster and more accurate than a human.

  10. Teenagers demonstrate their independence in several ways.

Suggest changes to the topic sentence of the model paragraph "Life in Space" to show that one group of problems (physical or psychological) is more important than the other.

Here are two tips to help you write topic sentences for logical division and order of importance paragraphs:

1) Use a colon (:) in front of the names of the groups.

In one shocking week of 1997, the world lost two remarkable women who, although they lived very different lives, shared a common compassion for the sick and injured: Princess Diana of Britain and Mother Teresa of India.
2) Use paired (correlative) conjunctions when there are only two groups. Paired conjunctions are both…and / not only… but also / either …or/ neither ... nor...
Remember that paired (correlative) conjunctions follow the rule of parallelism. If you put a noun after the word both, you must put a noun after the word and. If you use a prepositional phrase after not only, you must use one after but also.
Here are some examples of logical division topic sentences with these special conjunctions.

Gold, a precious metal, is prized not only for its beauty but also for its utility. (prepositional phrases)

To stay healthy, you should both eat nutritious food and exercise daily. (verbs)

In my opinion, neither wealth nor beauty guarantees happiness. (nouns)

Most people buying a personal computer for the first time will consider either a PC or a Macintosh. (nouns)

Comparison / contrast involves analyzing the similarities and differences between two or more items. Almost every decision you make involves weighing similarities and differences. Every time you decide which jacket to buy or which apartment to rent, you compare and contrast features and prices. In the business world, employers compare job applicants, proposals from different advertising agencies, and employee health insurance policies from competing companies. Job applicants compare job offers in terms of salary, responsibilities, and benefit packages. In college classes, professors frequently test students' understanding of material by asking them to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two economic policies, two historical periods, or two characters in a play or film.

As with the other kinds of paragraphs, the keys to writing a comparison / contrast paragraph are to put the ideas in some kind of order and to use appropriate transition signals.

The content of a comparison/contrast paragraph can vary. Some paragraphs emphasize similarities, while others emphasize differences. You can also discuss both similarities and differences in one paragraph if you don't have many points to discuss. Study the model paragraphs that follow and determine whether they discuss similarities, differences, or both.

PCs versus Macs

Paragraph 1

If you are planning to buy a personal computer, you should know some of the basic similarities and differences between PCs and Macs. First of all, both PCs and Macs are composed of the same elements: a CPU, the electronic circuitry to run the computer; memory for storing information; input devices such as a keyboard or mouse for putting information into the computer; and output devices such as a monitor, printer, and audio speakers for conveying information. They also have the same uses: PCs are used to communicate on computer networks, to write (with the help of word processing and desktop publishing software), to track finances, and to play games. Macs are likewise used to communicate, write, calculate, and entertain.

Paragraph 2

There are some differences, however. Whereas you will find more PCs in business offices, you will find more Macs in classrooms. Although Macs are the computers of choice of people who do a lot of art and graphic design in their work, PCs seem to be the choice of people who do a lot of “number crunching”. Finally, there is a difference in the availability of software, vendors, and service for the two computers. In general, there is a lot of PC-compatible software, but relatively little Mac software. Furthermore, for a Mac, you must purchase your machine and get service from a Macintosh-authorized dealer, whereas many different computer stores sell and service PCs.

Writing Technique Questions
Which paragraph shows comparison? Which paragraph shows contrast?

On how many points are the two computers compared? On how many points are they contrasted?

What transition signals are used to show similarities? To show differences? (Refer to the following charts.)

similarly and like

likewise both …and just like

also not only …but also alike

too as …as as

just as (be) similar

similar to

the same (as)

compare to/with


however but unlike

on the other hand yet differ from

on the contrary although (be) dissimilar

in contrast though compare to

in (by) comparison even though compare with




You can achieve coherence in writing by stating your ideas in logical order. There are several kinds of logical order: chronological order, logical division of ideas / order of importance, and comparison / contrast.

Each kind of logical order has special words and expressions, or transition signals, that will support your logic.
Below is a list of possible essay questions. Get together with a group of one or two other students and brainstorm: Which logical order might you use to answer each question - chronological order, logical division of ideas / order of importance, or comparison / contrast?
1. What do you hope to gain from your college education?

2. Evaluate a significant experience or achievement that has meaning for you.

3. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

4. Write about your idea of a perfect day.

5. How do you think the world will be different fifty years from now? What changes do you expect to witness?

6. Compare and contrast the relationship between the two pairs of lovers in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothine'.

7. Describe the steps necessary for a proposed bill to become a law in Italy.

8. Explain the cash and accrual methods of accounting. 12. Describe the procedure for taking a year-end inventory in a

small retail business.

9. Discuss the goals of American foreign policy before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Choose one of the suggested topics that follow and write a paragraph that is ten to fifteen sentences in length. Use logical division of ideas, order of importance, or comparison and / or contrast to organize your ideas.

Remember the steps in the writing process:

STEP 1 Prewriting Brainstorm a topic for ideas, using the listening, freewriting, or clustering techniques you have learned.

STEP 2 Planning Develop an outline that includes a topic sentence and a concluding sentence (if necessary). Underline them.

STEP 3 Writing Write a rough draft. Be sure to use transition signals.

STEP 4 Editing Have a classmate check your draft

STEP 5 Rewriting Write a second draft, and proofread it for grammar and mechanics.

STEP 6 Write a final copy

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