Ordering Main Points in Writing and Speaking

Writing and speaking both involved organization. A paper and a presentation need to have a clear sense of direction for the benefit of the audience. In this post, we will look at different strategic ways to organize the main points of a paper/presentation. Specifically, we will look at the following ways to organize the main points of a speech.

  • Topical order
  • Chronological order
  • Causal order
  • Problem-solution order
  • Spatial order

Topical Order

Topical order involves taking the topic of your speech and dividing it into several subtopics. The subtopics are related to the topic as they come from it. For example, if you are giving a speech on the topic of basketball you may have the following subtopics.

  • The history
  • The rules
  • The greatest players

In this example, the order of the points does not matter. This is the defining characteristic of topical order. The order the topics come are not important

Chronological Order

Chronological order involves a time sequence. In this approach, the order matters a great deal. A paper/speech that is focused on history or events would often use a chronological order. You use chronological order if putting things in place by time will help to make your paper/speech clearer to your readers.

Causal Order

Causal order indicates a cause-effect relationship in a paper/speech. For example, if your speech/paper is on the price of tuition you might make the claim that rising tuition is making it difficult for students to go to school. This main idea has two main points that are in causal order.

  • Cause-Tuition is rising
  • Effect-Students cannot afford to study

It is also possible to state this in the order of effect-cause as seen below.

  • Effect-Students cannot afford to study
  • Because-Tuition is rising

Causal order is useful for indicating to an audience why something is happening.

Problem-Solution Order

Problem-solution order is similar to cause-effect. The difference is that in a problem-solution approach you indicate what is wrong and then explain how to fix it. With cause-effect you only explain what happened with providing answers. For example, if the problem is that tuition is rising, you may suggest that the solution is to increase access to government loans. The problem-solution is as follows.

  • Problem-Students cannot study because of rising tuition
  • Solution-Increase access to government loans

Spatial Order

Spatial order is about location and direction. This involves such terms as up/down, left/right, top/bottom, north, south, etc. This is a highly descriptive order that allows the audience to have a first-hand experience of what the writer/speaker is sharing. For example, if you are speaking/writing about a city, you might divide the main points by geographic regions such as North, South, East, and West.


Organization is a critical key to success in communication. Whether writing or speaking it is important to develop a strategy for ordering the points you intend to share.

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