What is coherence?
Coherence is unity in a written text that derives from the links among its ideas and the logical organization and development of its theme. Coherence can be thought of as how meanings and sequences of ideas relate to each other. The reason coherence is important is so that your readers can easily understand your main points.
Coherence is the glue that holds your writing together — that is, it hangs together from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph. For example: from general to specific, from a statement to an example, from a problem to a solution, from a question to an answer.
Cohesive devices include transition words and phrases, such as “therefore”, “furthermore”, or “for instance”.
How do you make your writing coherent?
You may not initially know the answer to that question. Basically though, what you’re trying to achieve is to make your writing clear and understandable, using appropriate words in context, and sentences that make sense.
Beyond that, you need to make sure that your ideas and entire piece as a whole hangs together. Following are some ideas that you can use to check for coherence — and make changes to achieve it.
Use a graphic organizer
Graphic organizers (check the Internet) are most often used to organize ideas at the start of the writing process. However, they can also be used during and after your work has been written. The idea is to create a visual representation of the ideas in your work, in order to check for connectedness and continuity. What a great idea to be able to see the pathways through your text!
Build a framework
You can add coherence to your work, as a whole, by using a framework. What you do is create major sections that emphasizes your ideas or theme (e.g., introduction and/or opening, body, closing and/or conclusion). Your opening might, for example, state a problem that you’ll have solved by the closing. You can use the Internet for more framework ideas.
Check for transitions
Look on the Internet for lists of transition words and phrases you can use to move from one piece of text to the next. Transitions are useful when connecting words, sentences and ideas. You can even create your own list of potential transition devices that you can use in your writing.
Use parallel structure
Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase or clause level. The usual way parallel structures are joined is with a coordinating conjunction such as “and” or “or”. At the word and sentence levels, be sure that items in a series are grammatically parallel. You should also use this concept when structuring your paragraphs, by making sure that your readers won’t get bored with repetition, but will be able to anticipate how the text is laid out as they read. Using parallel structure improves writing style and readability, and often makes sentences easier to understand.
One simple way to be consistent is to write about things in the order that they’ll be dealt with. For example, if your major points are mentioned in your introduction, they be sure to deal with in the same order in the text. Another way to be consistent is to make sure that every part of the work is developed appropriately. You might suffer writer fatigue or writers block at some point, and it will be obvious it to your readers that one part of the work was developed much more fully or with more enthusiasm than another part. This is a clear case of lack of coherence.
Read your work out loud
When you read your work out loud, whether to yourself or someone else, you’ll often “hear” lack of coherence that you may not have been able to “see” on the page as you were writing.
Keep in mind that someone has to read what you write. It’s not enough to get your ideas down on paper. Editors have seen lots of ideas on paper that, taken together, are incoherent. What you want and need to do is present your readers with some idea of why you wrote this piece; then prove to them, by the end, that it was worthwhile for them to have read your work from cover to cover.
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