How to Show Chronological Order

Posted on: December 14, 2009

Chronological order shows when something happens. This structural style is typically used to sequence instructions, steps and processes. It is also used to show the development or evolution of something over time.

Some practical applications of chronological ordering include the following examples:

  • Steps in a task
  • Stages of a manufacturing process
  • Production schedule for a user manual
  • Development of a product
  • Changes in pollution levels on Earth
  • History of a company

You can use chronological order to organize the entire document you are writing, or just a chapter or section within that document, or even just one procedure. How you structure your document and its parts depends entirely on your objectives, which you established in the planning phase.

Once you’ve structured your document and have started to write, you may need to show how things change over time. Perhaps you need to write instructions on how to assemble a device. Or maybe you want your readers to plant flowers and shrubs at certain times throughout the spring. So, how to “show” in addition to “tell”?

Here are some useful graphics to show chronological order:

Numbered List. Sequences the steps in a task or a process. Shows your audience where to start, where to finish, and exactly how to navigate between the first step and the last. Often used to help someone learn how to do something.

Flowchart. Orders the stages of a process or a project over time. Typically offers a higher-level view (not as detailed as a numbered list) and is often accompanied by detailed instructions or descriptions.

Calendar. Maps activities, events, production schedules and product development, for example, to one of the most common tools for tracking their occurrence and progress over time. The calendar is the iconic “time” tool.

Line Chart. Shows trends in weather, finance, the economy, health issues, and so on. In addition, line charts are used to show correlation as well as changes related to trends.

As you read your document, select sentences or paragraphs that could benefit from an accompanying graphic. The key to selecting the correct graphic is to identify exactly what the text is stating. Then translate the words into a visual image that captures the information or idea being expressed.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  The Write Ideas


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