Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

GEN BUS 360: Workplace Writing and Communication (Spring 2022)

Information Flow

The readability of your writing depends on clear information flow.

Documents, paragraphs, and sentences have effective information flow when they follow an “old” before “new” pattern.  Begin with terms or concepts familiar to readers, and then introduce new ideas. 

What constitutes old information?  Old information means ideas that are

  1. shared background information between author and reader;
  2. introduced earlier in the text;
  3. understood by readers from the context; and
  4. easily inferred from previous statements.

The U-Mass-Amherst Writing Center (2019) explained information flow while also modeling ineffective and effective information flow in the following passages:

Confusing and Awkward Information Flow that Begins with a Vague Unfamiliar Concept

Effective Information Flow that Begins with a Familiar Concept

Consistent ideas toward the beginnings of sentences, especially in their subjects, help readers understand what a passage is generally about.  A sense of coherence arises when a sequence of topics comprises a narrow set of related ideas.  But the context of each sentence is lost by seemingly random shifts of topics.  Unfocused, even disorganized paragraphs result when that happens.

Readers understand what a passage is generally about when they see consistent ideas toward the beginnings of sentences, especially in their subjects.  They feel a passage is coherent when they read a sequence of topics that focuses on a narrow set of related ideas.  But when topics seem to shift randomly, readers lose the context of each sentence.  When that happens, they feel they are reading paragraphs that are unfocused and even disorganized. (University of Massachusetts – Amherst Writing Center 2019)

Content Credit

Content on this page was created by the Business Communication team at the Wisconsin School of Business.