A complete oracle bone or shell inscription usually includes the following sequence of information:
- Preface: Includes the time of divination and the name of the person executing the divination.
- Charge: The question asked at the divination.
- Prognostication: The prediction of the Shang king on the basis of the divined omen.
- Verification: What actually came true.
Of these, the prognostication and verification were often omitted, leaving only the preface and charge.