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Textual Structure - Writing
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Textual structure can help you decipher meaning. Deciphering meaning depends on various very different things, from your state of mind to knowing about textual structure! Let me illustrate -- one who knows about Textual Structure knows that it is common to find topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. This means that we can find initial sentences giving us the topic which will be developed in the paragraph. Knowing this helps us to focus in our skimming (when we read quickly to get a general idea of the topic). A different case is the pyramidal structure in news items: if you are reading a news item, you know the most relevant information is at the beginning and the least relevant at the end. Generally speaking, structure means at least a title - an intro - a body - an ending. This is also meaningful because it helps us focus when we need to find specific information. Briefly, when you learn to notice textual structure, you learn to decipher general meaning and also how the info is grouped or organized. This means that if you know what kind of text you are looking at, you know where the information you need is.
Beating Heart! (Emphatically) Recommended Reading...

bullet Introduction to Textual Analysis 1 & 2 (2 includes printer-friendly version)
bullet Introduction to Textual Analysis 3 (+ printer-friendly version)

You'll learn more from these examples if you've read the Recommended Reading above.

Two Examples of Different Kinds of Textual Structure
News Items Argumentative Texts

BBC News Items
The most important information is at the beginning, and relevance decreases gradually as you read on (Pyramidal structure). This is precisely to be able to do what is not recommended in other kinds of texts -- chop off the ending if you need less words. (See NB on your right)

We've got a project here: A Wall Newspaper and The World of Newspapers.

Printer-friendly version Word doc (4 pages) + An Exercise Word doc (2 pages).

Ghosts, fact or fiction?
In your skimming (first reading of a text), you should be very quick (175 words in 2-4 minutes) and mostly notice what is more relevant, and not stop in every single sentence.
Title: essential info on topic and tone (that's why it's so important you read the titles)
Topic sentences: essential info on topic and subtopics.
Intro: check if it is a beginning or an overview.
Ending: check if it is an ending or a conclusion.
Skimming: spot topic sentences and words which help you to sort out structure: examples + e.g., for instance, for example; rephrasing items (i.e., in other words, this means); explaining causes: because, as, since.
Intro (What kind? A beginning? An overview?)
Body: what kind of distribution of ideas is there?: "One position - The opposite position" or "One position - Another - Another..."
NB: The text could be an excerpt, which means it could be "maimed"! So check that. Usually they get their endings chopped off when they are long (which is a terrible idea, but that's life!) - You should never do that to your compositions/essays.

Related Links...
Speaking - Textual Structure