Readers should be able to perceive that paragraphs are not just sets of individual sentences, but units in which ideas progress logically and flow from sentence to sentence. Writing that does this, that guides and assists readers in their interpretation, is said to be cohesive.

One way in which you can make your texts cohesive is to begin your sentences with information that is known – either because it is straightforward and familiar, or because it has just been mentioned – and end them with information that is new or surprising. Beginning sentences with familiar information provides a context that allows readers to focus on the important information at the end, which has not been mentioned previously in the text and which requires the readers’ attention (this is known as end-focus). In the example below, note that the new information presented at the end of the first sentence is immediately taken up and used as the contextual information at the beginning of the second.

Small_OK Dr James Watson will give a seminar on the Human Genome Project. The project began in 1990 and is considered to be of such importance that funding has just been approved for the next 15 years.

Another way to make your paragraphs cohesive is to give them a clear focus by structuring them around a consistent topic string. That is to say, several of the sentences in the paragraph can have the same subject. Do not be afraid of repetition. It helps to reinforce the focus on particular ideas and concepts, and gives a passage greater unity.

Small_OK The module of the Jean Monnet programme on European integration will be taught in February. Registration is now open to university members and professionals working in the field. The module will be taught in seminar room 3 and is organised by lecturers from the Department of Public Law. It analyses recent legislation and the transformation of European law over the last 15 years.

In the example above, three of the four sentences have the same subject, although in the first sentence the subject is used in its full form (the module of the Jean Monnet programme on European integration), in the second it is used in a reduced form (the module) and in the third it is used in its pronominal form (it).

One final way to make your writing cohesive is transitional metadiscourse, which guides readers through a passage and clarifies the relationships between ideas. Examples are moreover, on the other hand,however, first, second, finally and therefore.

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