Is there any standard (or at least common) hierarchical arrangement for major divisions of a fiction book? For instance, I occasionally see some large novels divided into "parts", and sometimes I see them divided into "books". Can you have one inside the other? Is there a standard order?

And what about a volume?

  • The most common order I've seen is 'Volume>Book>Part>Section>Chapter>Point' but it depends on what you're writing - fiction, nonfiction, technical, and the like.
    – Mussri
    Jan 18 '13 at 23:03
  • @Mussri: Waitwaitwait. Section is below Chapter. Section is a * * * break.
    – SF.
    Jan 19 '13 at 13:05
  • I would say a section comes below a chapter as well, but I think a *** break is usually called a "scene" not a section. I would think a section is more for text books and academic papers, and wouldn't normally appear in fiction. Jan 19 '13 at 13:20
  • Examples escape me but I'm quite sure a section talks about a general idea that is then broken into chapters for the specifics. I was talking about encyclopedia-sized books here, where the "Biology" section would have a chapter on botany, one on marine life, and another as an introduction to bio-life topography. Still, if you know from somewhere authoritative (or you have any examples), what contradicts this, please share your findings here and disregard my comment. It was only an 'observation', after all.
    – Mussri
    Jan 19 '13 at 13:32
  • 1
    Understood, and that's a good example, thanks. I am asking specifically about fiction works, though, I think sections (whether above or below chapters) are more likely to be used in non-fiction work. Jan 19 '13 at 15:44

I don't think there is an official set of names, and worse, there are pieces that have conflicting meanings. A "Book" is used as the whole story, as a volume or as a part. A "Part" is either A book in the series or A subsection within book.

Let me try to put it in order but take into account this is by no means ultimate or a law.

  • Series/Franchise/World/Saga. There is this world/universe/multiverse where stories take place. It's self-contained and doesn't bind to any other books. It's not even limited to one author. Usually name is supplemented with the "Series/Saga/World of..."
  • Storyline/Series [see, series within series?]. Following adventures of one group of characters in a single world. It's often quite non-straightforward; see an example...; usually named "character's Storyline"
  • Part [of Series]/Book. A self-contained story either released alone or as a part of series. The primary unit, has its own title.
  • Volume - a physical subdivision of a Book, a piece contained within one binder (or one physical file.) It frequently coincides with the Part of the Book. Usually has a number, rarely a title.
  • Part [of a book]. It's a major subdivision often coinciding with volume, but not always. For example, Lord of the Rings is three volumes but six parts plus appendices. It's a major turn of events, resetting the mood and pace and often with its own climax. It may or may not have a title.
  • Chapter - I think we had discussions of what comprises a chapter here. I think it's easiest to understand but hardest to put in words.
  • Scene/Section - a piece delimited by * * * or the likes, usually with a continuity of time or location.
  • Paragraph

Note there is no agreement to naming especially within the Chapter/Volume/Part area: I've seen any of them named "Book" ("Sir Thaddeus" is physically one book, one volume but it's A Nobleman's Tale from the Years of 1811 and 1812 in Twelve Books of Verse, which are actually chapters. Six parts of Lord of the Rings are called "Books".) And it's very frequent to make Volumes and Parts coincide (and then often Parts are called Volumes) but the Part-Volume relation may be entirely uneven, a part split between volumes or vice versa.


I am not sure about books versus parts but a volume is a bound segment of a work. You can remember that by the way printed encyclopedias are usually broken up into volumes. But I do not think that actually relates to structures like parts and books because a volume could split a part or a book or even a chapter it all just depends on how its printed and bound.

I think the most important thing is to just be consistent obviously within a work or really within an entire series if it is one. And do not do anything that is obviously wrong like putting a chapter above a book because this could be confusing to readers.

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