Cohesion (sometimes called cohesiveness) is the unity of a text. If your writing has unity, its individual parts combine in such a way that produces a sense of completion and togetherness; the parts of the text feel like they come together to make one. The individual components of your writing should fit together well in a grammatical and conceptual sense.
Grammatical cohesion requires parallel structure and perfect subject-verb agreement. Writing that lacks grammatical cohesion can be difficult to read because of the many technical errors that it contains.
Conceptual cohesion requires the logical progression of ideas. The goal is for each of your sentences to link clearly to the sentence before as well as the sentence after. The relationships or connections between sentences (and therefore also between paragraphs) should be explicit (i.e. direct) and clear. Writing that lacks conceptual cohesion comes across as choppy and abrupt. Every sentence should logically relate to the one that comes before it as well as the one that comes after it. The same goes for the first sentence in a paragraph -- it should clearly and logically relate to the last sentence in the paragraph that came before it. You can improve the cohesion of your writing through the use of repetition, synonyms and antonyms, pronouns, transitions.
You should always proofread a paper and make sure that your writing has grammatical cohesion before you submit your final draft. It is also useful to evaluate the conceptual cohesion of your writing, which can be assessed on two distinct but related levels:
1. the overall cohesiveness of a paper
2. the cohesiveness of individual paragraphs
A paper that is cohesive overall (1) will almost always be cohesive on the paragraph level (2), while it is possible (but rather unusual) for a paper that is cohesive on the paragraph level (2) to lack cohesiveness overall (1).
Compare the two samples below.
Ben Franklin is one of the most famous Americans of all time. He invented many things. He created a list of thirteen virtues in his Autobiography (124). Franklin thinks that it might not be possible to be perfect, but we should still try, despite our flaws.
Ben Franklin is well-known for his many inventions and contributions to government, but he is also famous for his attempt to live a moral life. Franklin attempted to improve his moral perfection by focusing on thirteen virtues (124). While Franklin strove for perfection, he ultimately admits in his Autobiography that he has many flaws, but he does not allow these flaws to prevent his effort to improve.
Which is more cohesive? Why?
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Image Credit: Puzzle by Davo Sime from the Noun Project