How to achieve coherence

Coherence and cohesion

Coherence and cohesion are important features of academic writing. They are common features tested in exams of academic English, including the IELTS test and the TOEFL test. Both of them are essential for aiding readability and idea communication.  Coherence is about the unity of the ideas and cohesion the unity of structural elements.  In other words, coherence refers to how the ideas of the text flow logically and make a text semantically meaningful as a whole. Cohesion is what makes the elements (e.g. the words, phrases, clauses, and sentences) of a text stick together to form a whole.


Let’s focus on the concept of coherence first.


What is coherence?

Many students have turned in papers only to have their teachers hand the papers back with comments that the writing doesn’t “flow.” However, what exactly is "flow"? Familiar though it may seem, many students actually do not know about its precise definition.

By “flow”, most readers mean what grammarians and linguists call coherence—the property of a text to hold together at the levels of sentences and paragraphs— to be logically ordered and connected. With coherence, the text is clear, consistent, and understandable. Just because an argument you’re making is clear in your own head, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically clear to people who are reading the written version of your argument.

Conscious effort is needed to bridge the gap. You need to put your ideas in a logical sequence, so that paragraphs of the document work together to provide a strong basis for accepting the main message. When a document flows logically, questions are raised in the readers’ minds and then answered. That helps your readers understand and remember what you want them to know.

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