The word chronology can be broken down into the Greek words krono, which means “time,” and logia, a branch of learning or discourse. The meaning of chronological description thus has to do with arranging discourse according to time. Chronological descriptions are among the most common ways to describe an event because they follow the natural order that people understand in their everyday experiences.
What Does Chronological Description Mean?
In composition or speech, chronological description is a method of describing an action or event from beginning to end. Chronological order is also called linear order or time order because it denotes a movement through time in one forward direction.
Description is a mode of speaking or writing—also known as a rhetorical mode—that recreates a person, place, event, or action for an audience.
Rhetorical modes are a way of organizing communication so that the audience is impacted most effectively. They are also known as patterns of organization because they often happen naturally during discourse to create a natural pattern of discussion and/or argument.
If rhetorical modes are about organizing communication for the benefit of the audience, then chronological descriptions are an excellent rhetorical tool because nearly everyone understands chronological order. This is because the entire human experience occurs in chronological order.
For example, the first thing that happened to you today is that you woke up from sleeping (hopefully). You likely groomed yourself—changed your clothes, brushed your teeth, showered, or some other routine—then, at some point, you decided to study. Next, you picked up a digital device to find helpful content, and you navigated to this page.
This is a (somewhat loose) chronological description of your day. Whether people are conscious of it or not, everyone experiences the same movement of time, so everyone has an innate understanding of chronological order.
Stages of Chronological Structure
Fig. 1 - The phases of the moon represent the stages of a chronological description.
Chronological descriptions can be organized by time—as you saw in the example about your hypothetical day—date, or as a series of steps in a process.
The chronological structure of an event by date is written much the same way as if it were written by time. This is a helpful way to describe historical events.
World War I began with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The very next month, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the War truly began, with the rest of the world joining in the conflict within a month after that. Trench warfare began in October 1914, after an indecisive victory between Germany and allied troops. After years of conflict in Europe, the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. In September of 1918, American and French troops conducted the largest offense in US history with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, where the victory was instrumental in bringing an end to the war. On November 11th, 1918, Germany signed the armistice after being given 72 hours to agree to the Allied Force's demands, and all hostilities were ordered to cease at 11 am Paris time.
This example moves through the events of World War I in chronological order according to dates of significance. It would be much more difficult to understand this summary of the events if it was laid out other than chronologically.
You can also use a chronological structure to explain the process of something. Think about a manual or instruction booklet you’ve read; if it was a good manual, it explained how to build the dresser (or whatever it was) by using transition words like first and next as it went through the process steps.
Chronological Transition Words
Transition words are those you use to transition from one piece of a chronological structure to the next. These words signal a transition from one step to the next. Look for these transition words that signal a transition through time:
Look for these transition words that signal a movement through a sequence of some sort:
First, second, third, etc.
A transition isn’t always summed up in a single word, but these are common transition words you’re likely to see—or use—in a chronological description.
Chronological Description in Writing with Examples
The way you organize your writing is as important to the meaning as the content itself. If you don’t order your writing in a way that makes sense to the audience, then they’re likely to become confused and lose interest.
Chronological descriptions are often used in expository writing.
There are four common types of expository writing; comparison/contrast, description, process analysis, and cause/ effect. These writing styles aim to expose information (hence the name, expository writing).
Chronological descriptions help the audience understand something by exposing a chain of events. Three of the most common types of expository writing that benefit from chronological descriptions are:
Describing the history of a topic
Narrating a story
Explaining how to do something
You can use chronological description to explain information in all of these situations.
Chronological Description: History
Telling the history of something is perhaps the most natural place to use chronological description. It begins with the inception or beginning of something, then moves through its different phases, and ends with either the present time or a particular event that caused it to conclude.
Oscar Wilde’s wild life began in 1854 as he was born in Dublin, Ireland, with the given name Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. He began studying classics at Trinity college in 1871, and then in 1878, he won the Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna. After his personal life swelled with marriage and the birth of two children, his career as an author took off with the publication of titles such as Lady Windermere’s Fan, The Picture of Dorian Gray, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Ernest (and many more) between the years of 1891 and 1895. After suing the Marquess of Queensberry for libel due to a crude remark, Wilde was prosecuted for “gross indecency” and found guilty. After two years in prison, Wilde was released.
This historical description of Oscar Wilde's life takes significant events one-by-one, going through time from beginning to end. Notice there is no emphasis on the order of importance—or what was the most significant thing that happened to him.
Chronological Description: Narrative
Narration is essentially story-telling, and how could anyone tell a story without the use of chronological description? It would be much, much more difficult.
Narration depends on chronological order because it often seeks to mirror real-life experiences—which, as previously discussed, follow a chronological pattern.
When the boy came back, the old man was asleep in the chair, and the sun was down. The boy took the old army blanket off the bed and spread it over the back of the chair and the old man’s shoulders. They were strange shoulders, still powerful although very old, and the neck was still strong too and the creases did not show so much when the old man was asleep and his head fallen forward.
This example is a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (1951).
Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is an interesting example of chronological order. It is a novella divided by days in the man's life rather than traditional chapters. This quote is found in the section for Day One.
The chronology is subtly expressed in the first line of this quote. Because the story follows only a few days of the man’s life, Hemingway expresses the movement of time by describing where the sun is in the sky.
Chronology will not always be expressed in obvious terms such as first, next, and last. Notice Hemingway doesn’t say, “Next, the boy took the old army blanket off the bed, then spread it over the back of the chair.” Keep an eye out for subtle references to chronological descriptions, especially in creative narratives.
Fig. 2 - A natural process shows how chronological description moves from first to last.
Chronological Description: Process
Chronological descriptions are naturally used to describe processes because a process by nature has a clear beginning, middle, and end. It is important to walk through a process in chronological order to see your audience through to the finished product.
You might notice a chronological structure in essay prompts or assignments on an exam.
Carefully read the following six sources, then synthesize material from at least three. Next, produce a well-written essay in which you incorporate your own ideas based on your analysis of the three sources.
This is a clear breakdown of the expectation for the assignment. Because it was explained with chronological description, the student knows exactly how to proceed with the assignment and in which order.
Chronological Order in a Paragraph
It is possible to craft an entire essay around a chronological description or simply use it as a tool to address a larger topic. Whatever the aim, you can use chronological structures to your advantage, one paragraph at a time.
If you are writing a descriptive essay structured in chronological order, you should assemble your essay with each body paragraph taking one piece of the chronology at a time. This structures your essay in a way that clearly lays out the movement of time or steps.
Remember, in a multi-paragraph essay, the body paragraphs are the place for you to provide support for your thesis or the main idea for your essay. Each body paragraph should have a topic sentence in which you address the main point of that particular paragraph. For a description essay that uses chronological order, the topic sentences for your body paragraphs should be the element or stage of the chronology that you will address in that paragraph.
Your paragraphs could take the subject by date or time or by the structure of the thing you’re examining (line-by-line of a poem, for example). Remember to use helpful transition words to signal your movement through time or the process.
A basic outline for body paragraphs using chronological description looks like this:
Body paragraph 1 (one step or piece of the event)
Discussion of larger context
Body paragraph 2 (next step or piece of the event)
Discussion of larger context
Body paragraph 3 (next step or piece of the event)
Discussion of larger context
Don’t simply state the order of events in a descriptive essay that uses chronological order; you should try to illustrate connections between what is happening and whatever your main idea is for the essay. You can do this by discussing what is happening in the larger context with each new step in the chronology.
Chronological Description - Key Takeaways
- In composition or speech, chronological description is a method of describing an action or event from beginning to end
- Chronological order can be explained by time, date, or steps in a process
- Transition words can be used to transition from one piece of a chronological structure to the next.
- Chronological descriptions are often used in expository writing
- You can organize an essay around a chronological structure by using the body paragraphs to break down the steps or events
adjective. If things are described or shown in chronological order, they are described or shown in the order in which they happened. I have arranged these stories in chronological order.What is chronological and examples? ›
Chronological order is the order in which the events occurred, from first to last. This is the easiest pattern to write and to follow. Example: It seemed like an ordinary day when she got up that morning, but Lynda was about to embark on the worst. day of her life.What is an example of chronological in a sentence? ›
His art is arranged in chronological order.What are the three 3 types of chronological order? ›
Chronological, Sequential, and Consecutive Order.What is chronological report example? ›
We can find examples of chronological reports in newspapers, as they sometimes describe events as they unfold, putting each event in the order that it happened. Sports reports are a great example of this; they often describe a game or match from start to finish in time order.What does chronological look like? ›
Chronological order is listing, describing, or discussing when events happened as they relate to time. Basically, it is like looking at a timeline to view what occurred first and what happened after that.What are some chronological words? ›
- first, second, third.
- before, after.
When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first, second, then, after that, later, and finally.What is chronological order in simple words? ›
/ˌkrɒn.əˈlɑː.dʒɪ.kəl/ following the order in which a series of events happened: Give me the dates in chronological order. Relating to time.What are two examples of chronological? ›
- 1937: The book was written and published. ( Beginning)
- 1960: The author died; the book was out of print. ( Middle)
- 1978: The book was reprinted. ( End)
Text Structure Examples
Chronological: When I first woke up, I got dressed and went on a long run. Then, I got ready for the day and went to work. After I got to work, I realized that I had forgotten my lunch and purse.
First, it requires a topic sentence that reveals the paragraph's main point, or, in other words, reveals the process that the paragraph is going to describe. Then, the body of the paragraph should describe, in sequential order, the steps that must be taken or points that were made throughout the process.What are the 5 steps in chronological order? ›
This method requires you to use words such as first, second, then, after that, later, and finally.What is the purpose of a chronological sequence? ›
In a chronological sequence the author uses the order of events, or chronology, to inform readers about events or content. The events may be organised by time or date, by arranging events as a series of steps or by following a list-like structure. Chronological sequencing is commonly used in nonfiction texts.How do you start a chronological report? ›
As mentioned above, a chronological report is a style of report writing that's structured in time order. That means it starts with the earliest events and ends with the latest ones. This is a style of writing that's found most often in newspaper reports, although not exclusively so.How do you know if a text is chronological? ›
Words that signal chronological structures include: first, then, next, finally, and specific dates and times. Cause/Effect: Informational texts often describe cause and effect relationships. The text describes events and identifies or implies causal factors.What is chronological pattern in writing? ›
A chronological pattern of organization arranges information according to a progression of time, either forward or backward. When a topic is best understood in terms of different segments of time, a chronological format works well. For example, topics of an historical nature are best organized using this pattern.Which of the following is an example of chronological data? ›
The classification of data with respect to different time periods is known as Chronological or Temporal Classification. For example, the number of students in a school in different years can be presented on the basis of a time period.What is an example of description text structure? ›
This type of text structure features a detailed description of something to give the reader a mental picture. Example: A book may tell all about whales or describe what the geography is like in a particular region.What are the 5 types of text structures and examples? ›
- cause & effect.
- time order/ sequence.
Examples of text structures include: sequence/process, description, time order/chronology, proposition/support, compare/contrast, problem/solution, cause/effect, inductive/deductive, and investigation.Does chronological mean date order? ›
Meaning of chronological in English. following the order in which a series of events happened: Give me the dates in chronological order.Is chronological order from newest to oldest? ›
The same goes for dates when you're putting things in chronological order – they're arranged from the latest and most recent one to the oldest one. Think of it like going down (or descending) a set of stairs - when you do so you start from a high place and end up at a lower one.What does chronological order mean on a job application? ›
A chronological resume lists your work history in order of date, with the most recent position at the top. It might include a resume objective or career summary before the list of work experiences.Does chronological mean time? ›
Definition of chronological
arranged in the order of time: a chronological list of events. pertaining to or in accordance with chronology: a chronological process.
Archaeological investigators generally recognize two forms of chronology -- absolute and relative.How do you write a chronological paragraph? ›
In "chronological order," the information is organized in time. Here the writer states what happened first, second, third, and last. Chronological organization is typical of, although not limited to, narrative writing.What are the chronological words? ›
The time order words 'first', 'after that', 'then', and 'finally' help to bring the events together and tell you which ones happened first, second, third and last. Time order words help to clarify our speech and writing, to make sure that listeners and readers understand the order of events.What is a chronological date? ›
Chronological dating, or simply dating, is the process of attributing to an object or event a date in the past, allowing such object or event to be located in a previously established chronology.