In my native language, we use the word corresponding to the English word "disposition" to refer specifically to the organisation of a text (notably an academic paper). I've seen countless examples of "disposition" used in the same way in English – but upon closer inspection it always turns out that these examples are, in fact, translations from my own language into English. I can't seem to find any non-translated examples of "disposition" used in this way.

So, now I'm wondering whether it's actually correct to use "disposition" in this way, or if some other word, such as, for instance, "organisation" would be better to use.

Some examples:

The paper has a clear ?disposition

You need to work on the ?disposition of the paper; as it is it is messy and hard to follow

The ?disposition of the paper should be as follows: 1. Introduction, 2. Aim and scope, 3. Method...

Thank you!

  • 3
    Use format, layout or structure here, not disposition (organisation is a little better, but still not a very good choice for this exact context). Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:09
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you! I suspected as much – that we can't use "disposition" for this... Good to have it confirmed! I guess "format" and "layout" refer mainly to how the text looks on paper, whereas "structure" would be more to do with the organisation of content, am I right?
    – Helen
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:33
  • 1
    Yes - "format" and "layout" are somewhat literal terms here (referring to the physical "disposition / placement" of text on paper), whereas "structure" is a much broader metaphorical term that easily stretches into more abstract things like organisation of content, coherence of argument, elegance / efficiency of communication, etc. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 0:25
  • @FumbleFingers Righ – got it! :) Thanks again!
    – Helen
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


Disposition does have the meaning of "orderly arrangement of parts" in English (The Oxford Languages definition provided by a Google search gives definition 2 as:

The way in which something is placed or arranged, especially in relation to other things. "The plan need not be accurate so long as it shows the disposition of the rooms"

) ... but it's so infrequently used, especially with writing, that you might have to explain yourself. FumbleFinger's suggestions are great, and have some slight variations of connotation: "Format" could have to do especially with the physical attributes of the paper (margins, font), "structure" could speak more to the arrangement of the actual ideas (which order, how many paragraphs you devote to each), and "layout" could imply either meaning. Personally, I see nothing wrong with "organization" in "You need to work on the organization of the paper," though it doesn't make much sense in "The ___ of the paper should be as follows."

  • 1
    It's so rarely used that it could be considered an archaic definition
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 5:26

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