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Arrangement is one of the five Canons of Rhetoric. Delivery, Memory, Invention, and Style comprise the rest. Arrangement has changed throughout the years. Originally, arrangement was vital to any text or oral presentation. In the present, the term arrangement is rarely used.

What is Arrangement?

Arrangement, also called "disposition," is the art of ordering the material in a text in a way that most appropriately and smoothly delivers the intended information (Covino, Jolliffe 30). Every rhetor understands and expects a beginning, middle, and an end. However, there are many widely practiced methods of arrangement. One such method is ordered first to capture the audience's attention, second to provide necessary background information, third to state and prove the text's thesis or central idea, fourth to anticipate and address possible countertheses, and finally to conclude by appealing to the audience's emotions (Mahwah 35).

Many scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries described arrangement of material in both whole texts and paragraphs according to the mode of discourse they were supposed to display: narration, discription, exposition, cause-and-effect, definition, comparison-contrast, and argumentation (Mahwah 27). This made arrangement important and defined specific boundaries for all material both spoken or written.

What is the purpose of arrangement?

Socrates quotes arrangement as: "every discourse, like a living creature, should be so put together that it has its own body and lacks neither head nor feet, middle nor extremities, all composed in such a way that they suit both each other and the whole (Stone 97)." Cicero inDe Oratore (Cicero) is one of the first rhetoricians to teach that an oration has seven parts:
  1. the entrance, or the introduction of the subject and the securing of the subject at hand
  2. the narration, situations necessary to understand the topic
  3. the proposition, the speaker's central idea or thesis
  4. the division, or a brief list of the points the speaker will demonstrate
  5. the confirmation, or the body of proof for the points
  6. the confutation, or the rebuttal
  7. the conclusion
Arrangement is one of the most important canons of rhetoric. Style, delivery, memory, and invention all contribute to a work. The parts make up the whole, however, if these parts are poorly arranged, the work may be unclear and may lose its desired effect when transferred to the audience. The actual term "arrangement" as we see it today may not mean as much to us as it did to those of the past, the idea and meaning is still very important and widely understood. Whatever we call it, arrangement will continue to be a major part of any oral or written composition for generations to come.


Works Cited

This page was last updated on Friday, December 1 at 1:00 PM by Thomas Alan Byrd at the Georgia Institute of Technology.