Improve cohesion & coherence: Logical structure

When reading a text, we expect each sentence to be developed, illustrated or modified by the next one. Yet, in some paragraphs every sentence may sound like a new start and it may not be immediately clear how it relates to the previous one or to the next. In other words, logical connections (e.g. exemplification, contrast, reformulation) are not sufficiently explicit. For instance, definitions or classifications are often confusing because it is not clear whether a particular sentence merely elaborates the previous one or instead introduces a new element. How can this be remedied and logical connections made clear? Well, first and foremost, if you carefully structure your sentences and paragraphs, you are already halfway there:

  • Old or known information goes at the beginning of the sentence or paragraph;
  • New and more important idea(s) goes to the end of the sentence or paragraph, because it/they will be expanded on in the next sentence/paragraph.
  • Preliminary contexts and evaluative adverbs frame the sentence and are placed at the very beginnings of sentences (e.g., in many ways, generally speaking, it is important to note that, perhaps).
  • The time and place of an action or event are also placed at the outset (e.g., in the 20th century, during the experiment, at the time of the Reformation, in Rome, in American social structure).
  • For L2 writers, to simplify the construction of a cohesive chain, the next sentence should repeat at least one word from the preceding sentence or provide its lexical semantic substitute (e.g., a near synonym or pronoun). The third sentence then similarly repeats or substitutes one word from the second sentence to create an identifiable cohesive chain.