Coherence

Organizing an effective paragraph

You may have the best ideas, but if your sentences are not organized for easy reading, then no one will appreciate your writing.

Generally speaking, writers use four methods to organize their paragraphs, or to give their ideas coherence.

  1. Logical Flow using time, space, or sequencing
  2. Transitionsusing conjunctive adverbs
  3. Repetitionusing key words 
  4. Sentence Structure – using simple, compound, and complex sentences

Logical Flow

Organizing by Time

If the writer uses time, then they use words or phrases that establish time.
The following paragraph is organized by time.

Mount Whitney is a favorite trail to climb for many hikers every summer. The highest peak rises some 14,756 feet above sea level. Many hikers leave Base Camp early in the morning and hike all day until they reach a place called Trail Camp. Trail Camp is about 10,000 feet and it is a good stopping place to acclimatize to the higher elevations before moving on. One of the highlights of the trip is a view from the summit of the sunrise coming up over Death Valley. Because many hikers do not what to miss this spectacular view, they rise early before the sunrise and hike in the dark to the top. If they are fortunate to arrive just before the dawn, they will experience one of nature’s finest moments.

Organizing by Space

If the writer uses space, then the writer uses words that establish location.

Wapiti Zoo is a real experience that is not easily forgotten. As soon as visitors enter the gates, signs begin to give directions to the various exhibits of the park. Following the signs for “Australian Outback” visitors find a rich exhibit of Kangaroos and Koalas. On the other side of the road is a rather large enclosure of Australian plant life and birds, and just ahead is an impressive exhibit of an Australian swamp complete with crocodiles. Many people every year experience the zoo’s rich animal and plant life.

Organizing by Sequencing

If the writer uses sequence, then the writer uses words that establish an order, such as, the first thing, next, and finally.

Registering for college courses can be difficult if the process is not understood well. The first thing new students should do is make an appointment with an academic advisor. An advisor can help students make better decisions on which classes to take and what order to take them in. Next, students should find maps and material on the registration process and make sure they understand them well before registration day. Finally, when students are registering for classes, they should make sure they arrive on time as registration can take time to complete.

 Transitions

Transitions, or Conjunctive Adverbs, provide smooth and clear transitions between clauses; they help the reader understand how ideas are connected. Conjunctive Adverbs tell the reader when new information is being added, or when something is being compared or contrasted, or when a conclusion is being made, or when other point is being made.

however
first / second
finally
In addition
also
furthermore
instead
otherwise
likewise
moreover
nonetheless
on the other hand
therefore
then
next
before
after that
still
although
even though
besides
consequently
conversely
hence
indeed
meanwhile
similarly
subsequently
thus

Repetition

Key words repeated at appropriate places keep the readers focused on main points.  Let’s look our paragraph about registering again.  Notice how register, or a form of the word is used repeatedly in the paragraph.

Registering for college courses can be difficult if the process is not understood well. The first thing new students should do is make an appointment with an academic advisor. An advisor can help students make better decisions on which classes to take and what order to take them in. Next, students should find maps and material on the registration process and make sure they understand them well before registration day. Finally, when students are registering for classes, they should make sure they arrive on time as registration can take time to complete.

Sentence Structures

See handout on Sentence Patterns