1. Organizing a Paragraph Using Time, Space, or Importance

To cohere means “to hold together.” A paragraph coheres when the arrangement of sentences is in a clear, logical order and when the sentences all relate to one another. You can achieve coherence by ordering ideas using order of time, order of space, or order of importance.
To organize ideas in order of importance means to put them in order from most important to least important or from least important to most important. The following paragraph contains ideas arranged in order of importance.
Before running a marathon, a runner must carefully prepare for the race. One important pre-race activity is picking up the race packet, which contains a bib with the runner’s number printed on it. Typically, runners without bibs aren’t allowed to participate, so it’s essential to obtain this beforehand. An even more important pre-race activity is eating a large meal the night before the marathon. Carbohydrates, such as pasta and bread, and proteins, like chicken, will provide much-needed energy during the 26.2 mile run. Finally, the most important way to prepare for a marathon is to get a great night of sleep the night before the race. The mental and physical challenges of running require a well-rested body and mind.
In the paragraph, the writer organizes the preparations for a marathon from least to most important. The writer begins with logistical details of preparation and ends with the final and most important preparation: a good night’s sleep. The writer uses transitional expressions such as “an even more important” and “finally, the most important” to help the reader move from one detail to the next. The following box lists common transitional expressions that show order of importance.

Directions: A topic sentence appears in the first row of the table below, but the sentences that follow it are not in proper paragraph order. Choose the best order by selecting the correct number for each sentence.
Important: The writer describes the photo of Georgia O’Keeffe from front to back.

Version A
Topic Sentence: In this photograph, Georgia O’Keeffe, her painting, and the desert setting appear in harmony with one another.
She holds a large canvas of a desert arch with a yellow sky beaming through its hollow middle; this yellow sets off O’Keeffe’s profile, making her look as if she is part of the painting that she created.
Looking first at the front of the photo, O’Keeffe’s dark dress contrasts her skin, which has been tanned to almost the same hue as the reddish mesa behind her.
Behind O’Keeffe and her painting, a pale red-colored mesa rises against the blue sky.
Taken together, this photo shows O’Keeffe, her painting, and the desert as distinct elements given life from the same patterns and colors.

How does this paragraph order its ideas?

Version B
Topic Sentence: Georgia O’Keeffe, the American painter, spent a lifetime learning and exploring art.
After charcoal, O’Keeffe, now a professional artist in New York, began painting close-ups of silky, bright flowers.
Early in her career as an art student in Chicago, O’Keeffe used rough charcoal on smooth white paper for her drawings.
At the end of her career in 1984, O’Keeffe was a widely recognized artist whose work remains internationally known and praised.
All in all, O’Keeffe’s works from all of her artistic stages show an artist who was willing to explore new mediums.

How does this paragraph order its ideas?

Version C
Topic Sentence: One of the greatest American artists of the twentieth century, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986), spent a lifetime learning and exploring art.
After her formal education as an artist, O’Keeffe had her first show in New York in 1916; in the following decade, O’Keeffe began painting larger close-ups of flowers, a style for which she is widely recognized.
Early on in her schooling, O’Keeffe’s teachers recognized her talent and encouraged her to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, where she mastered the traditional principles of art making.
During the following years (1930s–1950s), O’Keeffe continued to create her own style, focusing on the stark beauty of the New Mexico desert.
By the end of her career in the 1980s, O’Keeffe had proven herself an innovative master of a variety of artistic styles.

How does this paragraph order its ideas?

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