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Writing Well

Neat and Tidy: Classify-Divide

Question: What do the following sentences have in common?

Answer: They are all laws. Or, they are all very strange laws. If you realized this, you have the basic strategy for classify-divide essays.

Writer's Block

A classification system is useless if the categories overlap.

When you divide, you separate items from one another. When you classify, you group things in categories of similar objects. For example, a bookseller would classify The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style because both deal with English and writing. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Shakespeare would go on a different shelf, however, because its distinguishing features are different. It describes one particular writer and his works, rather than instructing readers on the basics of writing.

Write Angles

Each classification system will vary, depending on the person creating it. When you're writing a classify-divide essay, any system is valid, as long as it is logical, sensible, and instructive. Division is also called “analysis.”

Here's the basic rule for a valid classify-divide essay: The classification system must serve a larger purpose other than just making piles of things. Otherwise, it's just an empty exercise. You might as well clean your garage, walk the dog, or call your mother. (So, what are you waiting for?)

The following essay divides and classifies dolphins according to their characteristics. As you read the essay, see if you agree with the method of classification. What does it suggest about the author's purpose?

A Whale of a Tale

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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