Cohesion – making your writing flow

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‘Cohesion’ is the quality in writing which makes your writing feel ‘joined up’ and makes it flow, and hang together well.  Here’s an introduction to an article about Coca-Cola:

“The first episode in the Coca-Cola story is an important part of the rise of capitalism in the United States of America. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, America gradually began to transform itself from a nation of farmers to a city-based industrialised society. The industrial revolution was epitomised by new communications and the arrival and spread of the railways. This produced a new kind capitalism, a distinctive American variety where the ethos centred firmly on the image of individual immigrant struggle. The world of US business was on its way.”
Fava Verde, A and Manning, A University Foundation Study: Essay Writing Course Book, Garnet Education and University of Reading

This is a good introduction to a text because the sentences all join up to make ONE LONG PIECE OF TEXT! It is not just a lot of sentences one after the other which do not relate to each other.  I would like to draw your attention to three ways that the writer achieves cohesion in this paragraph.

1.  “The first episode in the Coca-Cola story is an important part of the rise of capitalism in the United States of America. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, America gradually began to transform itself from a nation of farmers to a city-based industrialised society.

This is a great start to a piece of writing because of the way the first sentence opens up the topic – Coca-Cola – and puts it into a context by saying why it is important. In this case, Coca-Cola’s importance lies in the role it played in the development of capitalism in the USA. However, we are mostly concerned about how an idea introduced in one sentence is carried on into the next sentence. So, in the next sentence the idea of the rise of capitalism is developed with the notion of the USA changing from an agricultural society to an industrial society (based on commerce).

The first way the writer achieves cohesion is by developing an idea from one sentence to the next.

2.  Towards the end of the nineteenth century, America gradually began to transform itself from a nation of farmers to a city-based industrialised society. The industrial revolution was epitomised by new communications and the arrival and spread of the railways.

In my second example of cohesion the writer carries on the same idea in the next sentence, but does it using different vocabulary or language and avoids repetition:

…America gradually began to transform itself from a nation of farmers to a city-based industrialised society. The industrial revolution was epitomised…

I hope you can see that ‘the industrial revolution’ is another phrase meaning ‘the change from a nation of farmers to an industrial society’. Sentence two rephrases the same idea in the sentence before and says more about the idea. The result is cohesion!

The second way the writer achieves cohesion is using different words to refer to the same ideas previously mentioned.

3.  The industrial revolution was epitomised by new communications and the arrival and spread of the railways. This produced a new kind capitalism….

In example number 3 of cohesion from this paragraph we can see the use of ‘This’ to refer to the idea in the previous paragraph. In the example sentences I am looking at here the idea is ‘new communications and railways’. This produced a new kind of capitalism…

The third way the writer achieves cohesion is by using the reference word THIS to refer back to an idea just mentioned.

Using appropriate LINKING WORDS is also important in cohesion.

Further recommended reading on cohesion in writing from the University of Melbourne is here.

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