Cohesion in text and speech

Cohesion is the way your text is linked together. Cohesion shouldn’t be confused with coherence. Coherence, simply put, is whether or not your text makes sense. Cohesion is how well parts of your text — words, sentences, paragraphs — fit together.

Types of cohesive devices

  • Pronouns; Reflexive pronouns. A simple cohesive device. Examples: he; she; it; they. Reflexive pronouns refer to a pronoun that was previously mentioned in the text. Example: He introduced himself. Nouns and pronouns must agree in gender, number and person.
  • Conjunctions. The most basic way to connect parts of text together. Examples: and; but; or; yet; so
  • Adverbial conjunctions. These are more complex cohesive devices. Also known as transitional tags, they can be divided into several groups. Examples: even; thus; although; instead and many more

Pronouns

Pronouns are easy to use, just stick to the simple rule – it should be very clear what your pronoun refers to. Avoid using too many pronouns in one sentence — it can easily confuse your reader. If you have to refer to several subject within one sentence, substitute the pronoun for something else.  For example:

Original sentence: She said she doesn’t know him
Corrected sentence: Jane said she doesn’t know him /She denied knowing him. In the second example not only did we use just two pronouns instead of three, we also made the sentence more concise.

Original sentence: They refused to cooperate with him. 
Corrected sentence: The politicians refused to cooperate with him / They refused to cooperate with the President. You can substitute either pronoun to make your sentence more reader-friendly.

Note that pronoun their/them/they can be used with singular when you want to refrain from mentioning the person’s gender.
Example: Please remind your client that they should come on time. (We are talking about one person here).

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are the easiest to use. The only tricky questions is whether you can start a sentence with “and” or “but”. The answer is yes, you can. However, keep in mind that if you put it in the beginning of the sentence it creates a strong connection between this sentence and the previous one. Make sure this is the intended effect. You might also want to try and leave the conjunction out — if the meaning of your sentence doesn’t change, you probably don’t need the conjunction. And even if you choose to use it, don’t do it too often or it’ll lose its magic.

Adverbial Conjunctions

These devices are more complex. Look at the table below

Purpose of conjunctionConjunctions (conjunctions in bracket are optional)
Adding somethingAlso, besides, finally, furthermore, in addition, moreover, still, therewith, too, on top of that
ComparingAlso, as well, alike, similarly
ContrastingAlthough, (and) yet, (and) at the same time, despite that, even though, however, in contrast, instead, inspite of, nevertheless, on the other hand, though
EmphasizingCertainly, definitely, indeed, in fact
Giving exampleFor/as an example, for instance, to illustrate, in other words, it is true that, namely, specifically, case in point
Showing equalityas … as, both … and, either … or, neither … nor,
not only … but also
Summarizing, concludingAs it was/has been said, in conclusion, finally, in short, in other words, to put it simply, on the whole, summarizing
Note: if you are unsure how to use any of this in text – just google it.

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