How to Write the 5 Paragraph Essay: 2nd Stage — Arrangement

In Arrangement, you organize your ideas into a plan that you can use as a roadmap for your Drafting.  This stage is an important bridge between Prewriting and Drafting, and the two forms you can use to organize your Prewriting are Spider Cluster and an Outline.

1. Spider Cluster: it’s an organizational chart!

A Spider Cluster is a hierarchical organizational chart of ideas, similar in logic to an organizational chart in the employment world.  For instance, here’s an organizational chart from a corporation that I used to work at (click on it to zoom):

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The VP calls all the shots, the Directors are under the VP but equal in rank to each other, and the Reps/ Clerks are under their own Directors but are also equal in rank to each other.

Similarly, in a Spider Cluster, the VP is the thesis, the Directors are the sub-topics, and the Reps/ Clerks are the supporting details for each sub-topic.  Here’s an example, using the “ice cream” topic again, but with the specific thesis, “Ice cream has great flavors.”

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If you notice, I drew a big circle on which the Spider Cluster rests, like a weird three-legged bug floating above the ground.  That “Conclusion” circle only serves as a reminder that the last body paragraph “Pistachio” is NOT the last paragraph in the essay that comes out of this Spider Cluster.

What’s great about a Spider Cluster is that you can use it as an empty but organized form that you can fill out, just like a job application form.  You are slapping your ideas down on a sheet of paper  (Prewriting) AND organizing those ideas (Arrangement), all on one tool, which cuts down on time in the pre-drafting stages of the Writing Process.

  1. Outline: a hierarchical, organized list

An outline does exactly what a Spider Cluster does, but in list form; here’s an example:

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Thesis: Ice cream has great flavors.

  1. I. Vanilla
    1. Sweet
    2. Creamy
    3. Good with everything
  2. II. Chocolate
    1. Varieties – milk or dark
    2. Dark – rich and bitter
    3. Good with coffee
  3. III. Pistachio
    1. Green
    2. Nutty
    3. Good by itself

Conclusion

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A Brainstorm that’s been organized becomes an Outline.  Also, a lot of students get taught the outline in their English classes.  But the downside to an Outline is that some beginner writers forget that sub-topics I, II, and III are equal to each other in rank and are equally under the command of the thesis.  If you can remember, however, the hierarchical nature of ideas in the Outline, then feel free to use the Outline.  The upside to an Outline is that it is the closest thing to a literal map of what a draft looks like.

Recap: The Three Prewriting Strategies:

Freewriting

Topic blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

Brainstorm

Topic
Blah
Blah
Blah
Blah
Blah
Blah
Blah
Blah

Cluster

The Two Arrangement Strategies:

Outline

Thesis
I. Sub-topic 1

  1. A. blah
  2. B. blah
  3. C. blah

II. Sub-topic 2

  1. A. blah
  2. B. blah
  3. C. blah

III. Sub-topic 3

    1. blah
    2. blah
    3. blah

Conclusion

Spider Cluster

It really doesn’t matter what Prewriting strategy you choose and what Arrangement strategy you use.  But the most important thing is DO NOT SKIP these pre-drafting stages of the Writing Process.  Unless you are a writing genius and can do the Outline or Spider Cluster IN YOUR HEAD (and believe me, I myself am NOT a writing genius), skipping these two early stages will result in you staring at a blank sheet of paper or a blank screen for way too long, going through unnecessary writer’s block, and writing something that is incoherent, repetitious, off-topic, and/or often too short.

Slap down those ideas, organize them, and move on to the third stage of the Writing Process: Drafting.

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