Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

Cohesion

Cohesion is revising to make sure that your words, ideas, and paragraphs fit together. Without cohesive sentences, readers feel like they are reading a long list of unrelated ideas.  They often have trouble remembering what you said. 

They also have trouble understanding how these ideas connect to one another, which may mean that they don’t understand the main point in your essay.  When your writing is not cohesive, it’s very difficult to be an effective communicator.

Cohesive Papers:

  1. Group similar ideas together
  2. Constantly refer back to the thesis or main idea
  3. Use a well-defined structure that is easy for the reader to follow

Incorporating these connecting words and phrases into your essays will help the reader understand how your sentences and ideas relate to one another:

  • also
  • anyway
  • consequently
  • finally
  • furthermore
  • however
  • incidentally
  • indeed
  • therefore
  • thus
  • instead
  • likewise
  • meanwhile
  • nevertheless
  • next
  • nonetheless
  • otherwise
  • still
  • then
  • after all
  • as a result 
  • at any rate
  • at the same time
  • by the way 
  • even so 
  • for example 
  • in addition
  • in fact 
  • in other words   
  • on the contrary 
  • on the other hand

Using this phrases and coordinating conjunctions (and, so, yet, but, or, for) will ensure that your reader can follow your meaning, and trust your voice as a writer.

5 Ways To Improve The Cohesiveness Of Your Writing:

  1. Check the first sentence in each paragraph.  Ask yourself:  does this sentence explain the connection between the ideas in the previous paragraph and the ideas that I’m about to discuss?
    Example:  Let’s say that I’m writing a paper about the personalities of different household pets.  If my first paragraph is about cats and my second paragraph is about dogs, I can make my writing more cohesive by beginning the 2nd paragraph with the following statement:  “While cats tend to be moody and self-centered, dogs are usually cheerful and aim to please their owners.”

  2. Check the first few words in each sentence.  Ask yourself:  Have I made it clear exactly how this idea relates to the previous one?  Will readers be able to move smoothly from one idea to the next?
    Example:  Instead of using two disjointed, short sentences like “She ran outside.  Her shoe fell off,”  I might make the sentences more cohesive by emphasizing a connection.  I’d change it to:  She ran outside so quickly that her shoe fell off.

  3. Use topic sentences.  Read each paragraph and ask yourself 2 questions:  What is the main point in this paragraph?  How does this point support my thesis statement or main purpose in this essay?  Make sure that your topic sentences answer BOTH questions.
    Example:  If the purpose of my essay is to argue that the death penalty should not be used in the U.S., I’ll want to make sure that each of my paragraphs helps defend my opinion.  Rather than beginning a paragraph about innocent people being mistakenly executed using this system with the vague words “Innocent people in the U.S. are dying every day” I’d make my writing more cohesive and remind the reader of my main purpose by saying “The death penalty system allows our country to take away innocent lives, therefore it should not be used as a form of punishment.”

  4. Underline the subject in longer sentences.  Check to make sure that you’ve placed the subject as close to the beginning of the sentence as possible, rather than hiding it in the middle or towards the end.
    Example:  If my paper is about the effects of global warming, I’ll want to avoid sentences like this:  “There are several harmful effects on our environment like global warming and people not cleaning up their garbage.”  That sentence is confusing because it drags on too long and does not emphasize any particular main point; it also mentions garbage, which doesn’t really relate to what I’m talking about at all.  It would be better to change the sentence to:  “Global warming is the most dangerous environmental problem that we must face.”

  5. Don’t be afraid to re-state your thesis or main idea several times throughout your essay.  Just make sure that you do so in slightly different words!
    Example:  If my thesis statement reads, “The best way to learn to drive is to practice in a vacant parking lot,” then throughout my essay I might use statements like:  “Practicing in a large, open space is also helpful because…” or “Learning to drive on the road will cause a lot more anxiety than practicing in a less cluttered space because…”