Understanding paragraph coherence – topic sentences – think reading
Paragraph coherence – expanding the topic – think speaking
“You should use your own ideas, knowledge and experience and support your arguments with examples and relevant evidence.”
A model – Learn how to P-E-E
make the point (P)explain it (E)give an example (E)
How it works
Read through these three paragraphs taken from different IELTS essays and note how they all have a similar structure:
There are those who argue that the internet has had an extremely positive influence on communication. They say this because in the past it was sometimes impossible to call people in other countries on the telephone, but now it is relatively simple to use a program such as Skype to talk to them for free or to send an email. A good example here are the students who go to study abroad and are able to send messages home with no difficulty, when in past they would have had to buy stamps and go to the post office which was much harder and more expensive.
A strong argument can of course be made from the opposite position. Part of this argument is that countries and nations need to preserve old buildings in order to preserve their heritage. In addition, however, to this cultural argument, there are positive economic benefits in preserving old buildings. An illustration here is Egypt once again, a country which depends on tourism for much of its national income simply because visitors pay to come from other countries to visit its ancient sites.
There are several reasons why it can be argued that television has a negative effect on cultural development. Perhaps the principal argument is the lowbrow nature of many programmes, particularly sitcoms and soap operas. People who watch these programmes do not learn anything, they are simply entertained. The other major argument is that because people watch so much television, they no longer take part in more traditional forms of cultural entertainment. An example here is how traditional dancing and music is becoming much less popular because people are staying at home to watch the television.
This is a pattern you can follow in most essays to give coherence to your writing by expanding on one point. I will add that this just one guideline, it isn’t a rule. There will be times, for instance, when you use much shorter examples as shown in this lesson where the examples are part of a more general explanation.
How to practise this
If any of this is new to you, I have a suggestion. For now, don’t practise writing essays: go back to the paragraph. This may seem limiting, but again it is practical. Once you can write a good paragraph, the exam essay becomes easy, for it is really little more than 5 paragraphs and if you can write one paragraph, you can write 5.
More connected lessons
Learn different techniques – be flexible
The sentence by sentence approach I explain here can be a great starting point to improve the coherence of your writing. But it may just be a starting point – especially if you’re aiming higher. It helps to be able to be as flexible as possible in how you write and learn different ways to write paragraphs coherently. Try some of these lessons to see how:
In this lesson I discuss how you can add shorter examples to your writing and not put them in their own sentences
In this lesson I discuss a different form of paragraph – the listing paragraph
Learn different ways to introduce examples
It helps to vary your vocabulary. Here are some different ways to do that: