Cohesion (1)


Take a look at these sentences which I took from some of the many pre-course tasks we receive from participants before one of our workshops. Any idea what the subject of this week’s blog is?

  1. One of the disadvantages of my department is that for every document or at every meeting, Dutch is the language of communication. My English language skills are decreasing drastically.
  2. Following I went to Burton College where I studied law.
  3. Next to German and English, I speak French.
  4. Before starting at Slaughter & May, I worked at BP. Therefore I worked for the Ministry of Transport.
  5. Also, the relevant trade unions must be consulted.

Did you spot the problem? This week I would like to address a topic very close to my heart: the matter of cohesion in writing. “Cohesion?” I hear you say “What’s that?” Allow me to elaborate.

Cohesion is the art of linking your sentences and paragraphs. Cohesion stems from the word ‘coherence’ (look that one up in your dictionary) and is achieved through the use of ‘linking’ or ‘signaling’ words that help make your text intelligible and help the reader follow the writer’s train of thought.

Linking words can greatly enhance your professional emails and texts and should not be considered a luxury, but a must. Moreover, English offers an extensive choice of such words. Look at this:

  • Making a contrast:  However, nevertheless, on the one hand… on the other hand …, conversely
  • Adding information: Moreover, furthermore, also, in addition (to)
  • Talking generally: Generally, in general, on the whole
  • Giving a result: As a result, consequently, therefore
  • Summarising: To sum up, in short, overall

… the list is endless.

As with most areas of writing, Dutch writers are prone to certain persistent mistakes in this area, some of which are exemplified in my initial five sentences. Let’s take a quick look at these.

Sentence 1 lacks any cohesion which is something I commonly see and results in what I like to refer to as a ‘staccato’ style of writing. The sentence would ‘flow’ much better by adding a linking word to express result such as ‘consequently

The mistakes in sentences 2, 3 and 4 are a result of the old enemy ‘direct translation’.

  • Instead of ‘following’ in sentence 2. the writer means ‘subsequently’.
  • Instead of ‘next to’ in sentence 3. the writer means ‘in addition to’.
  • Instead of ‘therefore’ in sentence 4. the writer means ‘before that’ or ‘previously

Sentence 5 is an example of a mistake not reserved to non-native speakers, but also native speakers are guilty of this mistake. Firstly, one should never begin a sentence with ‘also’. Secondly, ‘also’ is an adverb and therefore takes the following positions in a sentence:

  • I also speak Spanish. (Before a single verb unless the verb is ‘to be’)
  • I have also learnt Spanish. (In between the verbs in multi-verb constructions)
  • I am also a Spanish speaker. (After the verb ‘to be’)

So, there you have it. This being a topic close to my heart, I could write a whole lot more. But enough for now. More on this subject another time.

Happy writing!


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