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Essay Help: Improving Cohesion

Cohesive words and phrases link sentences and show relationships between ideas. When you refer to a previous point, or when you hint at ideas to follow, readers are able to follow the progression of complex thoughts. Overlong, choppy sentences result from an absence of cohesive devices. Consider the following paragraph:

- The family unit is under increased pressure nowadays. Economic instability means the family unit has to withstand strong pressure to survive. Parents do not spend enough time with their children because parents work long hours. Even if parents wanted to spend more time with their children, they can’t because job requirements make it impossible. Both parents must leave home early in the morning. Parents have to spend a long time at work and finish late. Children grow up without discipline and good role models. Children spend more time with friends, but friends are not always a good influence. When they do this, challenges increase.

This paragraph is not cohesive; it is difficult to read, and it is not concise. Application of the following will make a noticeable improvement.

Use words that refer backwards

Use words that refer to ideas previously mentioned. These are:

  • pronouns (he, she, it, they, his, her, their, who, that, which etc.,)

  • demonstratives (this, that, these, those, etc.,)

  • articles (a, an, the)

When applied to sentences in the example paragraph, the result is:

- Parents do not spend enough time with their children because they work long hours.

- Children grow up without discipline and good role models. They spend more time with friends who are not always a good influence. This increases the pressure on the family unit.


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Use words that refer forwards

Some words and expressions act as a forward reference, guiding the reader to the next point in a logical order. Examples are: subsequently, the following, as follows, next etc.

- Even if they wanted to spend more time with their children, the following reasons make it impossible. Parents must leave home early in the morning. They have to spend a long time at work and finish late. Subsequently, children grow up...

Use synonyms and synonymous phrases

Synonyms allow top and famous essay writers to add variety to their work. We repeat words throughout an essay to facilitate understanding, but repeating the same word too much is a distraction. In the example paragraph, the word ‘strain’ can replace ‘pressure.’ So:

- The family unit is under increased pressure nowadays. Economic instability places tremendous strain on families and they fight to survive.

We also use synonymous phrases to show deeper analysis of the idea stated. A single, strategically placed word offers extra insight too. Consider:

- Children grow up without discipline and good role models. Without these developmental building blocks, children spend more time with friends...

Can you see the multiple cohesive tools used here? The pronoun these and the synonymous phrase building blocks refer to discipline and good role models. The adjective developmental characterizes the purpose and importance of these building blocks.

Use transitions

Transitional words and phrases are links between sentences that enable the reader to form a complete, accurate conclusion. Examples of transition are –

  • And: In addition, Moreover, Also, Besides

  • But: However, In contrast, Even though, Yet

  • So: Therefore, As a result, Thus

  • Because: Because of, Due to, As, Since

Our example paragraph becomes stronger with transitions –

- Economic instability places tremendous strain on families and they fight to survive. Moreover, parents do not spend enough time with their children because they work long hours.

- Even though most parents want to spend more time with their children, their job requirements make it impossible...

Transitions use specific punctuation rules. Check a usage guide to use them correctly.

Use parallel structures

A useful method to achive emphasize an idea is to repeat keywords in parallel form. For instance, we can highlight parents' obligations by saying:

- Parents have no choice. They have to leave home early, they have to spend long hours at the office, and they have to work late into the night.


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Conclusion

Here is our improved paragraph:

- The family unit is under increased pressure nowadays. Economic instability places tremendous strain on families, and they fight to survive. Moreover, parents do not spend enough time with their children because they work long hours. Even though most parents want to play an active role in their children’s lives, their punishing job requirements make it impossible. Parents have no choice. They have to leave home early, they have to spend long hours at the office, and they have to work late into the night. Subsequently, children grow up lacking discipline and strong role models. Without these developmental building blocks, they associate with friends who are not always a good influence. This compounds the stress on the family unit.

Cohesive devices are essential in academic essay writing. Complex ideas and multiple supporting points require connections. Without these links, it is impossible to make an academically sound argument.

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