Top Tips for IELTS

An introduction to cohesion

This is a brief introduction to cohesion. You will find more detailed advice on it on my IELTS writing skills page and you can also follow the links below to find more advice.

What is cohesion?

Cohesion is how sentences and parts of sentences link together using words. If your sentences are cohesive, your writing becomes easier to read and you become able to write better English by linking your sentences together.

Why you should learn about cohesion

Cohesion (with coherence) is worth 25% of your score in IELTS writing

Writing becomes easier when you use cohesion. It helps you find the next sentence to write.

When you should use cohesion

You want to use cohesion to link

different parts of sentences

different sentences

different paragraphs

The point to note that it is not just a question of starting sentences with “linking words”: that is just one part of cohesion.

Learn some basic skills of cohesion

There are a variety of ways to make your writing more cohesive, here are a few ideas to get you started. It’s not meant to be a complete list, rather the aim is to show you that cohesion works in different ways.

Linking words

  • words like and and butyou need to make sure you use these words correctly

Pronouns

  • pronouns (it, they, this and that etc) are generally linking words as they link back to nouns.One of the most common pronouns in academic writing is this.

Synonyms

  • these are words that have the same meaning. If you use Cities none sentence then you can make your writhing cohesive by using Urban areas in the next sentence

Changing word form

  • some words have more than one form. If you use Inform in one sentence then you can be cohesive by using Information in the next sentence

Repeating key words

  • sometimes we do repeat words! In fact it is often a good idea to repeat some words in your writing. This too can help your writing become cohesive
Remember that they are different ways you can make your writing cohesive. Don’t just rely on one technique

An example of how to do it

There are lots of ways of making your writing cohesive.  Look at this example – the colours show the connections between the different sentences. As you read through this, you should concentrate on how that cohesion is about how you use vocabulary and pronouns and how you start sentences: it is not just about linking words.

There are many people who claim that global warming is the most significant threat facing us today. They argue this because it is a danger not just to the current generation, but also to the generations to come. Indeed, it is this threat to our future that is of most concern. For instance, some research shows that one effect of global warming might be there will not be enough food to feed the world in the near future. If that did happen…

many people they (pronoun)
that global warming is … this (pronoun)
claim argue (synonym)
not just but also (a matching pair)
current generation generations to come (repetition)
a danger this threat (pronoun + synonym)
Indeed (linking phrase for further explanation)
generations to come future
global warming global warming (repetition of technical phrase)
there will be not enough food that (pronoun)

Test your skills

There are two texts below. Which one do you prefer? Be careful, the better (and more cohesive text) may not necessarily be the text with the most obvious linking words.

See the texts

Text A

Attracting customers to buy your products and services needs a great deal of research and planning to ensure the money you invest in gaining customers pays off.  This is normally achieved through market research and involves finding more about the people you hope to sell to.  Armed with this information you can then formulate an effective plan of action based on your evidence. Once you are aware of the needs of your potential customers you need to examine your product in detail, fix a suitable price which will help your product sell, ensure you choose the correct method of distribution and select an appropriate promotion to attract your audience. This is known as the marketing mix and can help your business to spend money wisely with the best results

Text B

Attracting customers to buy your products and services needs a great deal of research and planning to ensure the money you invest in gaining customers pays off. Firstly, there is market research and involves finding more about the people you hope to sell to.  Secondly, formulate an effective plan of action based on your evidence. Furthermore, it is important to examine your product in detail. Moreover, you should fix a suitable price which will help your product sell, ensure you choose the correct method of distribution and select an appropriate promotion to attract your audience. So this is known as the marketing mix and in summary it can help your business to spend money wisely with the best results.

See the answer

The first text is the original text and is highly cohesive – even though it does not contain many obvious linking words.

Some of the cohesion language is highlighted in green and blue. Note, in particular the use of this at the beginning of sentences to link to the sentence before. Cohesion can be really simple.

Attracting customers to buy your products and services needs a great deal of research and planning to ensure the money you invest in gaining customers pays off.  This is normally achieved through market research and involves finding more about the people you hope to sell to.  Armed with this information you can then formulate an effective plan of action based on your evidence. Once you are aware of the needs of your potential customers you need to examine your product in detail, fix a suitable price which will help your product sell, ensure you choose the correct method of distribution and select an appropriate promotion to attract your audience. This is known as the marketing mix and can help your business to spend money wisely with the best results

This text may at first sight look more cohesive, but in fact most of the cohesion words are wrongly used. Be careful of overusing that sort of language. 

Attracting customers to buy your products and services needs a great deal of research and planning to ensure the money you invest in gaining customers pays off. Firstly, there is market research and involves finding more about the people you hope to sell to.  Secondly, formulate an effective plan of action based on your evidence. Furthermore, it is important to examine your product in detail. Moreover, you should fix a suitable price which will help your product sell, ensure you choose the correct method of distribution and select an appropriate promotion to attract your audience. So this is known as the marketing mix and in summary it can help your business to spend money wisely with the best results.

Incorrect linking

  • Is “Firstly” really the first point made? To use it correctly, you need to identify that there is a list of points to come: “There are a variety of issues here; firstly,..”
  • The same comment applies to the use of “secondly”
  • “So” is used when a conclusion can be made. This is the final point, but it is not a conclusion.
  • “In summary” can only be used when a summary is made.

 

Did you get it right? Very few of my own students do. The reason for this is that they believe the only way to be cohesive is to use words such as “furthermore”: it is not. Indeed, if you use “linking” words wrongly, then your writing may become less cohesive – that’s worse!!

Score better by using a variety cohesive techniques

Very often IELTS people use some linking words too much. This is something examiners positively look for. To improve you need to use different cohesive devices:

band 5: makes inaccurate or inadequate or overuse of cohesive devices

band 7: uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some over/under use

band 9: uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention

Cohesion and coherence are separate skills

Cohesion is not exactly the same as coherence although they normally work together. What is the difference? Well, cohesion is how you link your writing by using words and coherence is how you link your writing using ideas.

If you want to use more coherence then you should start to think about how your organise your essay and paragraphs. One simple idea is to start paragraphs with a clear topic sentence and then develop the ideas in that sentence with reasons and examples. You can find out more about this following the links on this lesson.

Find more connected lessons to help with cohesion

Cohesion and avoiding repetition: in this lesson I show you different ways you can write cohesively and only use repetition for effect.

Band score 8 – range of vocabulary: in this lesson I show how more advanced candidates can vary vocabulary. Part of this involves cohesive techniques such as using synonyms

Other places to learn more about cohesion

Try this excellent post from Gordon Scruton that explains how coherence and cohesion work

What is coherence and cohesion – Understanding English

If you’re looking for a handy pdf of common linking devices then I suggest you try this one:

Common cohesive devices – Take IELTS

   

Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there

   

Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

22 Responses to An introduction to cohesion

  1. John November 25, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    First, i have to say what a terrific and outstanding job you have done with the website. It really has the works 🙂

    I wanted to ask you in relation to academic writing task 1, whether it would be correct to start with an opening line as follows:

    The table depicts that…..

    Would it be possible to use the word depict rather than shows since i like to vary my vocabulary ?

    Thanks

    John

    • Dominic Cole November 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

      Hi
      Interesting. You’re right in thinking that variation of vocab is a “good thing”. I would add though that this is typically less important in part 1 where clarity is all. Indeed, there are times it is better to repeat a word as that helps coherence. If you use a new word just for the sake of it, you can sometimes confuse the reader.

      That’s not the case here though. My initial instinct was that “depict” is a fairly unusual word and wouldn’t be quite right here. However, a quick check of the Macmillan dictionary tells me that it is in fact really quite a common word. And yet I still don’t think it really works in this case. For me, “depict” has the core meaning of “show as a picture” and I’m not sure that that is what charts and graphs do. Have a look at Just the Word (another of my favourite sites) and see the normal word combinations – they are paintings, photographs and pictures. If you then check the same site, you’ll find that charts and diagrams do “show”.

      So my boring advice is to stick with “show”. Simple as it is, i do believe that it is the best word here. One more thing. If you do want to try “depict”, you can’t really follow it with a “that” clause. It’s certainly not impossible to use “depict” – just a little dangerous. The one occasion I suggest trying it is when you get a process diagram.

      Hope that helps.

    • Filitsa November 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      I just wanted to thank you for the invaluable help I have received through your work. It has given me such a plethora of useful material for my esl students.

  2. educational grants January 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  3. IELTS7 February 21, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    that’s so great

  4. English Nub September 22, 2011 at 5:00 am #

    Really appreciate what you’ve done over here Dominic. Very useful information on cohesion. Cheers~! 😀

  5. Yasini September 24, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Hi Dominic!

    First of all, thank you for all the efforts and help. Your website is amassingly intresting and educational in the mean time; I realy enjoy your work. Secndly, I have one humble request! My job is in Afghanistan and as you know we sometimes have the opportunity to use internet due to little development in comunication sector of Afghanistan. Therefore I request you to tell me how can I download the entirewebsite to my PC so I will be able to use it anywhere I want and with ease.

    Thanks

    Yasini

    • Dominic Cole September 25, 2011 at 3:20 am #

      Sorry, while I understand your circumstances, I am afraid I am not really prepared to allow the site to be downloaded completely. Each of the ‘lessons” can be downloaded/printed off by using the buttons at the bottom of the page which says “How to share/save..” At some stage, it is possible that I will produce some form of e-book that can be downloaded, but that is still some way off and the current materials are largely written in a format designed to be used online.

  6. Allen February 15, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    Hi, Dominic!
    Great thanks for your site, but the contents in the Scribd could be displayed.

  7. steve November 25, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    Hi Domanic
    this is very help ull, i m just started the learning through U r site, , any text books will available in market, pl z tell me that

  8. Manish March 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi Dominic,
    I am so impressed by your tips that learning to write essays for IELTS exams became so simple.
    If you dont mind may i request you evaluate the score for this essay written by me.

    Some people argue that early marriage is part of traditional lifestyles in some countries and should be respected, others say it is damaging to young girls and their future.
    Describe the arguments supporting both these positions and give your opinion.

    Early marriage is a very relative term and its meaning may from differ from culture and race. Some argue from a cultural viewpoint that early marriage is ingrained in the traditional lifestyle of some countries and should be followed while on the counter side it is believed by some that it harms the psyche and hampers the career prospects of young girls.A conclusion will be drawn after analyzing both sides of this situation.

    It is argued by one bracket of people that early marriage is a custom of the traditional lifestyles of the people in the developing part of the world and should be appreciated. For instance, India, a country deeply influenced by religion, race and tradition experience the highest number of early age marriages. According to the Indian culture and tradition it is strongly believed that children should get married early and take the responsibilities of home. As a result, the son is expected to marry early so that he can fulfill financial liabilities of family while his wife can take care of household chores. Thus it is justified that why some believe that early marriages are part of tradition in some countries and should be respected.

    On the other hand,some perceive that early early age marriages could have detrimental effects on career opportunities and phase transition in woman’s life.For example,in India there exists a large percentage of women who are academically unfit for work or are not allowed to work by her husbands family. This in turn inexperiences them to move ahead in career and downgrades their self-confidence and intellect.Thus, it is clear that why some argue that the future of young girls are affected by the tradition of early marriage.

    In summary,after analyzing early marriages from a traditional and cultural view point and also studying its effect on the woman,In my opinion,I believe in personal well being and intellect which is developed from career progression and hence the idea that early marriage are a part of tradition cannot be supported.Living in the 21st century and dynamic global economy it is predicted that early marriages will decline and women around the world will experience more freedom and advance on career track

    Thanks in advance
    manish

  9. Sid June 10, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Hi. Your lesson about cohesion-introduction quite impressive and i hope you continue to helps us. I mean peoples who want to improve their essay. Thank you..

  10. glossyroad5305.beeplog.com December 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this excellent blog!

    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google
    account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this site with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

  11. Amr January 19, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    What is the difference between therefore and thereby?

  12. Shahid May 4, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    I have studied every section of this website. It is really an excellent piece of work. I really appreciate it.

  13. Balaji Ramachandran October 7, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    Really a great job done by you.Excellent Blogs with good example’s.

    “HATS OFF TO YOU”

    Balaji Ramachandran

  14. Constance October 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    If some one desires to be updated with most recent technologies after that he
    must be pay a visit this web site and be up to
    date everyday.

  15. Kc October 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Nice points.

  16. missa March 18, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    wow…..You explained this in great detail I have to say, Dominic. I wish I checked your website earlier. I always get stuck in academic writing for 6.5 and did not know how to improve to 7 above. Some of my points are not relevant to each other in a paragraph and lack of cohesion, although I do not overuse the linking devices. How would you advice on showing the progression throughout a paragraph? Are “cohesion ” and ” progression” the similar thing?Thank you. Looking forward to getting a reply.

  17. Harsh Patel July 15, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

    Hi Dominic Cole!
    As you said earlier that using ‘depict’ is a bit dangerous to begin with and one can not use ‘that’ after it, like he can do the same in verb ‘show’. So, my question here is, are there any other options available according to you which we can replace with ‘show’?

    I got words like depict, reveal, illustrate, represent, render, portray, indicate and few others. What do you think about these words? Are they as threatening as ‘depict’? Please, I need your advice here. Hope you don’t mind me asking this. 🙂

    I am too dumb that I didn’t check your site before and now I have my L/R/W tomorrow! You are amazing in this field, simply amazing. Thanks!

    Harsh Patel

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mới viết tiếng Anh « Le Ha An Di blog - August 17, 2011

    […] more: An introduction to cohesion | Dominic Cole’s IELTS Blog […]

  2. Mới viết tiếng Anh - Ghi Chép của Di - August 5, 2012

    […] more: An introduction to cohesion | Dominic Cole’s IELTS Blog […]

Leave a Reply