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Paragraph linking - cohesion and coherence

As mentioned under the section level heading, one of the jobs of the writer is to show the reader how the different ideas in the writing fit together. This means making the connections between sections, between paragraphs and between sentences clear for the reader.

Each paragraph, follows some other part of the writing. Even the first paragraph comes after the title. In order to help readers follow our writing, we have to remember what they have already read and what line of argument we want them to read. It is like taking someone who cannot see along a particular path. You have to hold their hand and give them directions to guide them up and down, left and right, in order to reach the final destination: your conclusion.

Even when sentences are clearly related by the same topic, there can be a problem of flow. This usually occurs because the connections between sentences are not explicit or because the reader has to make a jump in their understanding without any help from the words on the page. There are several ways of improving the cohesion (connectedness) and coherence (clarity of logic and flow) of our writing.

Cohesion can be improved by using linking words (also called conjunctions or connectives), such as: because, so, firstly, secondly, in addition, furthermore and however. But it can also be improved by simple techniques such as the repetition of key words, groups of words, or even whole sentence structures (called parallelism). Another way of improving cohesion is by replacing key words with pronouns (it, they, these, this, that, he, she) in neighbouring sentences.

Task: Paragraph cohesion

Question about paragraph cohesion

For lists of linking expressions (eg. to show cause and effect, to compare) look at this site on linking words.

Coherence requires you to re-read your writing from the point of view of your intended reader. This is easiest to do by leaving at least a day between your writing and re-reading. Remember that your reader does not know where you are going with your argument. Your job is to to guide the reader carefully, so that they do not have to make jumps between ideas.

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