The Directory is divided into 30 sections lettered from A to DD. In all, there are 793 individual organizations listed within the sections.
In Section A organizations are listed in order of importance but with the departments of the Central Committee appearing in alphabetical order, and abolished organizations at the end of the section. In Section B organizations are listed as for Section A. Organizations in Sections C, D and F are listed in alphabetical order with the exception of the Premiers and Vice-Premiers of the State Council, who appear at the beginning of Section C. In Section E organizations are listed in alphabetical order within three internal groupings. Abolished organizations in Sections G, H and L are also listed in alphabetical order. The military departments in Section I are listed with the three most important units first, then follow the military arms in alphabetical order, followed by the military academies and mass organizations. In the other sections, organizations are listed either in alphabetical order in the case of most, or sometimes in order of importance.
Officials within organizations are listed in two ways. In categories where there is only one incumbent at any one time (for example, chairmen, ministers and commanders), officials are listed chronologically. In other categories where it is possible to have more than one incumbent official (for example, vice-chairmen, vice-ministers and deputy commanders), they are listed in alphabetical order.
It should be noted that family names follow the English alphabetical order system.
Of the symbols used, 'x' is the most common, and it simply denotes that the official appears in another organization, even if he or she no longer holds more than one post. The user can thus see at a glance if an official holds a number of concurrent posts or a number of positions over a period. The symbol for female, (f), is placed before the name to enable easier identification of female officials. Altogether, six percent of the officials in the Directory are female. Brackets are used to indicate an official's transfer within an organization, or to another department. This symbol is not used when an official is transferred in the event of the abolition of the organization. Footnotes indicate the transfer of an official to a post outside the scope of the Directory, as well as giving relevant background information.
For the convenience of readers, the index includes birth and death dates (where applicable) and the native provinces of officials where these are known. Index references to officials are by section and organization, not by page number. This means that the user can easily see the scope of a selected official's appointments over up to a twenty-five year period.