Top Tips for IELTS

4 ways to make your paragraphs coherent

How can you make your IELTS essay more coherent and cohesive? This is a question that matters, particularly if you are after a band score of more than 6.0. Coherence and cohesion are two writing skills that may seem “theoretical”, but in fact can have a dramatic and very practical effect on your writing. This post shows with how you can improve your writing by following 4 simple tips.

Tips

Here are some straightforward tips – nothing too complex here at all.
  1. Think about how you start each sentence
  2. Try using connecting phrases and not simple words
  3. Consider how you can use vocabulary
  4. Think in paragraphs

A learner example

Here is a sample paragraph from a student essay on

People who don’t know how to work with Computers would be disadvantaged. Do you agree or not?

Secondly, computers play a vital role in education. All academic books are generated electronically. Students are learning their subjects only through computers. Computers are also useful for them to present their projects to their peers and professors. Students’ progress can be tracked through computers.

Commentary

In some ways it is not too bad at all. I have corrected one or two grammatical errors, but there weren’t that many in the first place. Again, there is a reasonable range of vocabulary and some good collocations: “academic books” “present projects” “peers and professors” “track progress”. But, there is a but. The writing doesn’t flow at all: it doesn’t really read like a paragraph, more like a group of unconnected sentences.

An improved version

Now take a look at my “improved” version: using as much of the original as possible:

 

It is also possible to claim that information technology is playing an increasingly vital role in education. One way this happens is that more and more academic books are generated electronically and in consequence many students are using computers to study. An additional point is that computer technology is frequently used by students to make presentations both to their peers and professors. Indeed, it is probably true to say that most courses at university require some level of computer literacy.
What have I done to improve it? Actually there is surprisingly little. Taking my tips in turn let’s analyse the differences.

Openings of sentences: phrases not words

 

The first thing I did was to concentrate on the openings of the sentences. These matter because they provide the link between one sentence and the next. You should see that the red language is what I call “structural language” and with appropriate variations can be used from essay to essay.

The other point to note is that I am using phrases and not single words to provide the links. The example here is “Secondly” in the original is replaced by “It is also possible to claim that”.
It is also possible to claim that information technology is playing an increasingly vital role in education. One way this happens is that more and more academic books are generated electronically and in consequence many students are using computers to study. An additional point is that computer technology is frequently used by students to make presentations both to their peers and professors. Indeed, it is probably true to say that most courses at university require some level of computer literacy.

Vocabulary

The next point on my list is to consider vocabulary. In the original see how often the word “computers” is repeated:

 

Secondly, computers play a vital role in education. All academic books are generated electronically. Students are learning their subjects only through computers. Computers are also useful for them to present their projects to their peers and professors. Students progress can be tracked through computers.

 

This repetition does not work: it makes each sentence seem as if it has no connection to the one that came before: there are 4 sentences each about computers. In my variation I have tried to vary the language by using synonyms. The subject remains the same, but now the language develops.

 

It is also possible to claim that information technology is playing an increasingly vital role in education. One way this happens is that more and more academic books are generated electronically and in consequence many students are using computers to study. An additional point is that computer technology is frequently used by students to make presentations both to their peers and professors. Indeed, it is probably true to say that most courses at university require some level of computer literacy.

Paragraphs are wholes: not lists

The final step is to think of the paragraph as a whole – in the same way as you look at an essay as a whole: something with a beginning, middle and end. In the original the final sentence was not connected to the previous sentences, it was just one more point in a list. In my version, however, it forms a conclusion, by summarising the previous points. One way to do this is to refer back to your first sentence:

 

It is also possible to claim that information technology is playing an increasingly vital role in education. One way this happens is that more and more academic books are generated electronically and in consequence many students are using computers to study. An additional point is that computer technology is frequently used by students to make presentations both to their peers and professors. Indeed, it is probably true to say that most courses at university require some level of computer literacy

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6 Responses to 4 ways to make your paragraphs coherent

  1. Tiff November 20, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    Hi there,

    Your articles have been very helpful for me since I found this website. Thanks for the thorough analysis in the IELTS test .
    In the paragraph coherence 1, a model “PEE” has been mentioned which explains the point-explain-example structure. When I look at this paragraph coherence 2, I found the structure of your sample paragraph is similar as point-subpoint-subpoint-conclusion. I am just wondering whether that is another effective model for writing a good paragraph?

    Thanks for your time!

    Cheers,
    T

    • Dominic Cole November 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

      Yes, it is very similar. Arguably it is exactly the same structure but just explained in a different way. I find, however, that it helps to use “examples” and “explanation” , as it easier to think of examples and explanations rather than “subpoints”. I find that the idea of subpoints can sometimes not generate any ideas.

      I would also add that there are of course different structures available and it would be a mistake to learn just one structure if you really want ot improve your writing. Indeed my post paragraph coherence 3 http://www.dcielts.com/blog/ielts-writing-paragraph-coherence-3/ gives another possibility of listing points. That technique is more appropriate where you are unable to develop one idea with examples and expalnations.

  2. Tiff November 21, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    Thanks for your prompt reply!
    And yes, the paragraph coherence 3 is also of great use for me to develop a paragraph without the proper explain and example.
    I really appreciate your effort!

    Cheers,
    T

  3. anitha January 22, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    i would like to thank you have such a good explanation and it is easy to understand.

  4. TRANG November 22, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    THANKS A LOT.
    YOUR LESSONS ARE VERY USEFUL.

  5. Christina December 11, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Hi Dominic, your suggestions are very helpful!I appreciate your efforts very much

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