Sunday, May 07, 2006

Style Summary 5

Style Summary: Cohesion and Coherence

Cohesion and coherence are deceptively simple subjects. On the one hand, the average reader can easily identify a choppy or incoherent paragraph, but when asked to define what part, exactly, is choppy or incoherent, they may have difficulties. Wilson's explanation of this is that the reader doesn't always know what makes a given selection choppy, but just that it feels choppy.

Wilson identifies, though, that it is the arrangement of a sentence that marks it as choppy or disorganized. Sentences are judges as cohesive depending on the relationship between the ending of one sentence and the beginning of the next. When a sentence flawlessly links to another, those sentences may be judged as cohesive. Aw, heck, even if it's not perfect, making a visual connection from one sentence to the next--as in ending one with an object that becomes the subject of the next sentence--works. Coherence, on the other hand, can be judged by analyzing how all the sentences in a passage culmulatively begin. How can this be, though? If cohesiveness is judged by the end of the previous sentence being the same as the next sentence but coherence is judged by all of their beginnings being the same, won't one end up with a paragraph that repeats the same sentence over and over?

Well, yes and no, apprently. There should be a common theme to all of the sentences, that provides coherence, and the structure of these sentences provides cohesion. We can use the passive form to better form transitions, as well as begin sentences with information reader are already familiar with. The latter is a technique similar to "reintroducing characters" in a story.

Incoherence is still a prime enemy of a well-written piece, and several factors contribute to incoherence. A primary one occurs when the subjects of sentences are entirely unrelated, creating a choppy effect. Given the previous discussion of themes, it is hardly surprising that another major factor of incoherence is when the sentences share no common themes. Also, a problem that was raised is one that has been plaguing me through my journal entires thusfar--a lack of a single point. How to solve this? For clarity, start a sentence with the subject and make it the topic of the sentence.

(And avoid "however," "therefore," "also," "hence," as they're used to fake coherence.)

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