Patient: Give it to me straight, Doc. What’s going on?
Doctor: You’re suffering from disordered ideas, general choppiness, and overall lack of focus.
Patient: Yes, and my readers . . . they’re irritable.
Doctor: As I suspected. That confirms my diagnosis: You lack coherence.
Patient: *gasps* Is it treatable?
Doctor: Not to worry. I’m prescribing logical patterns, transitions, and repetition.
Patient: And will that clear it up?
Doctor: That will clear it up.
The goofy scenario above dramatizes a common writing issue—a lack of coherence. Coherence occurs when ideas in writing connect to form a unified whole. Your writing is coherent when the ideas are organized and flow smoothly and logically from one to the next.
How can I improve my coherence?
Just as your bones rely on joints and connective tissue to move properly, writing requires certain connective features to create a smooth flow of ideas. You can connect your ideas—and improve your coherence—through patterns of organization, transitions, and repetition.
Patterns of Organization and Transitions
Logically organize your details to help readers grasp your ideas. Choose a pattern that fits your topic and purpose, and use transition words and phrases to signal the pattern.
Time: Move chronologically from start to finish.
after / next / then
Importance: Move from most important to least or from least to most.
|the biggest reason
a final reason
|first of all
Compare/Contrast: Examine the similarities and the differences between two subjects.
in the same way
Cause/Effect: Outline the causes and effects of a situation.
|as a result
Problem/Solution: Examine a problem, tracing its causes and effects; then promote a solution.
as a result of
You can also connect ideas using intentional repetition. Repeating key words from one sentence in another helps the reader keep track of the ideas.
A new study by the U.S. Forest Service indicates that forests help scrub carbon from the air. The study, published in the journal Science, shows that forests yearly remove about 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In this way, forests serve as carbon sinks, draining this greenhouse gas.