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Have you ever written website copy, a blog post, or a report and felt like your sentences just didn’t hang well together? Maybe you had all of the right words and ideas on the page but your sentences seemed more like a laundry list of statements than a cohesive description, explanation, or narrative.

Well, you’re in luck – today we’re going to show you a simple strategy that you can use to make your writing cohesive and improve the flow of your paragraphs. This trick will also make your content and reports easier for others to read (which is one of the best things you can do when you write). And when your paragraphs feel tight, cohesive, and logical, your readers get the feeling that you really know what you’re talking about (which is what you want, isn’t it?).

What do cohesive paragraphs look like?

To start off, take a look at this paragraph and keep track of any thoughts you have while reading it:

Paragraph A

Scientists studying the nutritional value of food have raised new questions about the types of molecules found in blueberries, including antioxidants. Molecules that stop other molecules in the body from oxidizing are called antioxidants. People can reduce their risk of developing many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, by eating foods rich in antioxidants, which limit oxidation.

What did you think of this paragraph? Was it easy to read? Was it clear how the sentences are related to one another?

Now, keep these thoughts in your head and take a look at this paragraph. (We know – we’re asking for a lot from your memory right now, but bear with us.)

Paragraph B

Scientists studying the nutritional value of food have raised new questions about the types of molecules found in blueberries, including antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that stop other molecules in the body from oxidizing. Because they limit oxidation, foods rich in antioxidants can help people reduce their risk of developing many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

What did you think of this paragraph?

If you have even a basic understanding of science or nutrition, you may have found that Paragraph A wasn’t too hard to read. After all, we’re constantly bombarded with information about healthy eating and nutrition these days, so words like “antioxidants” aren’t the most foreign terms anymore.

But did your thoughts about Paragraph A change once you read Paragraph B? If they did, it may have been because Paragraph B was easier to read and seemed to flow better. Even if you picked up on this, though, you might not know why Paragraph B has better flow and seems to be the stronger paragraph all around.

What disrupts cohesion and flow in a paragraph?

So what is it that makes Paragraph B sound better? The beginning of each sentence picks up on the same topic that the previous sentence left off on.

What do we mean by this? Let’s take a look at Paragraph A again. In particular, let’s take a look at the words at the end of the first sentence and the beginning of the second sentence.

Paragraph A

Scientists studying the nutritional value of food have raised new questions about the types of molecules found in blueberries, including antioxidants. Molecules that stop other molecules in the body from oxidizing are called antioxidants. People can reduce their risk of developing many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, by eating foods rich in antioxidants, which limit oxidation.

As you can see, the word at the end of the first sentence is “antioxidants” whereas the word at the beginning of the next sentence is “molecules.” At least at first, these words don’t seem to refer to the same thing. When you get close to the end of the second sentence, you realize that in this case, “molecules” actually does refer to “antioxidants,” but this isn’t clear until you’re well into the second sentence.

If you’re the one who wrote this paragraph, you know that “antioxidants” and “molecules” refer to the same thing. But guess what – your readers can’t read your mind. At least we hope they can’t!

Because your readers can’t read your mind, there’s a good chance that they’ll start reading the second sentence and not understand how you switched from talking about “antioxidants” to talking about “molecules.” In fact, you might have had this exact experience while reading the paragraphs.

Now let’s look at the end of the second sentence and the beginning of the third one.

Paragraph A

Scientists studying the nutritional value of food have raised new questions about the types of molecules found in blueberries, including antioxidants. Molecules that stop other molecules in the body from oxidizing are called antioxidants. People can reduce their risk of developing many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, by eating foods rich in antioxidants, which limit oxidation.

Just like what we saw with the first and second sentences, the words are different. The second sentence ends with the word “antioxidants” whereas the third one begins with “people.” In this case, it’s clear that these words don’t refer to the same thing.

Because the third sentence picks up on a different topic than the second sentence left off on, it’s easy for readers to get confused. Why? Because it’s not clear why the writer seems to have switched topics between the sentences.

As you may have experienced when reading these paragraphs, when it feels like sentences in a paragraph are jumping from one thought to another, the paragraph just doesn’t seem to flow well. It can also make it more difficult to understand what the writer is trying to get at, which can make you question whether this person actually knows what he or she is talking about.

How to make paragraphs cohesive and flow better

Whereas the sentences in Paragraph A at least initially seem to jump from one topic to another, this isn’t an issue in Paragraph B. Let’s take a look at Paragraph B again to understand why. And as we did in Paragraph A, let’s pay attention to the beginning and end of the sentences.

Paragraph B

Scientists studying the nutritional value of food have raised new questions about the types of molecules found in blueberries, including antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that stop other molecules in the body from oxidizing. Because they limit oxidation, foods rich in antioxidants can help people reduce their risk of developing many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

As you can see, the first sentence ends with the same word that the second sentence starts with (i.e., “antioxidants”). This makes it really easy for readers to see how the two sentences are related.

And if you take a look at the end of the second sentence and the beginning of the third one, you’ll see a similar pattern. In this case, the word that comes at the end of the second sentence (i.e., “oxidizing”) isn’t the very first word of the third sentence, but “oxidation” is part of the initial set of words in this third sentence. Because the third sentence picks up on the same thought that the second sentence left off on, the second and third sentences feel like they hang together well.

So what can you learn from these examples? If you feel like a paragraph in your blog post or report just doesn’t flow well, try structuring your sentences so that each sentence picks up on the same topic that the previous sentence ended on.

For example, take a paragraph that looks like this:

If you’re thinking about using social media as a lead generation tool for your ecommerce business, you’ve got to check out Twitter. People post bite-size updates about what they’re doing, what they’ve read, and what’s on their mind on Twitter. You can figure out how to tailor your messaging to prospects based on this information about what’s important to your prospects right now.

And turn it into something that looks like this:

If you’re thinking about using social media as a lead generation tool for your ecommerce business, you’ve got to check out Twitter. On Twitter, people post bite-size updates about what they’re doing, what they’ve read, and what’s on their mind. This information about what’s important to your prospects right now can help you tailor your messaging to them.

In this set of examples, we were able to improve the flow of the paragraphs by restructuring the second and third sentences so that they picked up on the same topics that the previous sentences left off on. Notice how we didn’t need to change the content or wording of the paragraph to make it more cohesive or to make it flow better; most of the words in the two paragraphs are the same.

When you structure your sentences so that each sentence starts on the same topic that the last sentence left off on, it’s easy for readers to see that there’s a logical thought process behind your points. After all, when readers can understand how your sentences are related, it’s easy for them to see how your ideas are related and make logical sense. And when you come across as logical to your readers (and possible future customers!), it helps them see you as a credible expert on the topic you’re writing on.

Summary

If you feel that a paragraph in your web copy, blog post, or report is “all over the place,” keep calm and edit on. Take a look at the end of each sentence and the beginning of the next one, and try to get them to converge on the same topic.

Of course, this isn’t the only way to make a paragraph cohesive. Even if you don’t end up using this technique every time you right, you won’t necessarily end up with paragraphs that aren’t cohesive and have bad flow. However, if you’re struggling to write a tight paragraph (or if you want to be extra sure that your writing sounds polished), you really don’t have much to lose by giving this trick a try. After all, when you use it, you can end up with paragraphs that are cohesive, have good flow, and are easy to read. You can’t really argue with that, and we’re guessing your readers won’t either.
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Craving other tips on how to write clear content and reports? Download our free eguide “How to Write Clearly.”
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How to write cohesively and improve the flow of your writing
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