The last of the eight rhetorical patterns commonly used to organize a document or presentation are the process/sequence and spatial structures. Like the previous six we’ve covered, they belong to the logos category of persuasive appeals, that group of tactics that helps you achieve your strategy through the way in which you arrange messages and their support. These patterns, while often augmented by pathos and ethos, grow from the logical connections you make among the elements of your message. The pattern or structure you choose for your presentation or document then replicates those connections for your audience, helping it understand the reasoning that forms your messages.
This method of organization arranges information by providing events or actions in a sequence. It differs from the chronological pattern, however, in that a chronology is linked to a particular progression of time, but a process or sequence is not time-bound.
Think of a formula or recipe; each presents a step-by-step sequence that leads to a particular outcome. The process can be undertaken today or next week or, perhaps, in the case of many scientific or mathematical processes, has been followed for dozens if not hundreds of years and will be for many more.
Just as the sequence pattern can help explain a process in nature, such as the role of evaporation in the hydrologic cycle, or one in society, such as how federal income taxes are levied, it can be used to describe or make clear many kinds of projects and programs in the workplace.
Central to its use is the clustering of smaller steps into large groups or stages. After ordering the stages, you can then order the steps within them.
The speaker or writer who uses spatial order to organize does indeed use space, placement, and/or direction to separate and discuss messages and support. A message concerning a proposed design for a physical space, for example, might address what one sees upon entering that space—the entrance itself; structures to the left, to the right, towards the back; the placement of various fixtures.
Spatial order may also extend to geography, both human and physical—as well as to the relationship between the two. Introducing a sales campaign, a director could present the campaign’s key elements by linking those elements to significant geographic and/or demographic features of targeted regions. By doing so, she can build the basis for the audience’s understanding of variations in sales approaches.
This pattern often plays a role in description, for it provides a strong framework for the sensory images through which we primarily perceive the world. But it, like all methods of organization, can be used in tandem with any of the others.
Yet these methods are more than a mold into which to pour information or an imprint to press upon it. They are ways of thinking and, as such, can help form or shape our thoughts. They can help us develop those thoughts and help us consider or reconsider a message from several angles.
As you draft a presentation or document, you may find true for you what American scientist and author Isaac Asimov discovered: “Writing…is simply thinking through my fingers."