Given-to-New Order

Given-to-New Order refers to the common practice of organizing the presentation of information based on the readers’ knowledge about the topic.

Because readers may be irritated when there are problems with Flow, Coherence, Unity, writers typically move from what readers know about a topic to less familiar material. The thinking here is that people new learn information by comparing it to past information.


Francis Christensen exemplifies the given-to-new contract in Notes Toward a New Rhetoric (NY: Harper & Row, 1967) using an excerpt from Jacob Bronowski’s The Common Sense of Science:

  1. The process of learning is essential to our lives.
    • All higher animals seek it deliberately.
      • They are inquisitive and they experiment.
        • An experiment is a sort of harmless trial run of some action which we shall have to make in the real world; and this, whether it is made in the laboratory by scientists or by fox-cubs outside their earth.
          • The scientist experiments and the cub plays; both are learning to correct their errors of judgment in a setting in which errors are not fatal.
            • Perhaps this is what gives them both their air of happiness and freedom in these activities.