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Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (Little, Brown, 2006)


The logical connections that readers or listeners perceive in a written or oral text. Adjective: coherent.

For a discussion of the relationship between coherence and cohesion, see Examples and Observations, below.

See also:


From the Latin, "to cling"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Flow, those visible links which bind the sentences of a paragraph, can be established in two basic ways. . . . The first is to establish a master plan at the beginning of the paragraph and to introduce each new idea by a word or phrase that marks its place in the plan. The second concentrates on linking sentences successively as the paragraph develops, making sure that each statement connects with the one or ones preceding it."
    (Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing. Oxford Univ. Press, 1988)

  • "Texts can be coherent at what is called the 'local level' and the 'global level.' Local-level coherence is that which occurs within small portions of texts, usually within texts no longer than a paragraph. A text is said to have global coherence, on the other hand, if the text hangs together as a whole."
    (Duane H. Roen, "Coherence." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication From Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. by Theresa Enos. Taylor & Francis, 1996)

  • "Coherence is fundamentally not an objective property of the produced text. Rather, that text is a by-product of the mental processes of discourse production and discourse comprehension, which are the real loci of coherence."
    (T. Givón, English Grammar: A Function-Based Introduction, Vol. 2. John Benjamins, 1993)

  • "The Coherence Principle accounts for the fact that we do not communicate by verbal means only. The traditional concept of coherence, which is solely based relationships between verbal textual elements, is too narrow to account for coherence in interaction. Ultimately, coherence in interaction is not established in the text but created in the minds of the interlocutors in their attempt to make sense of the different verbal, perceptual, and cognitive means at their disposal . . .."
    (Edda Weigand, Language as Dialogue: From Rules to Principles. John Benjamins, 2009)

  • Coherence and Cohesion
    "The cohesion of a text is the explicit marking of its coherence by means of cohesive links. The following is . . . an example of a coherent text:
    (5) (a) Twelve year term of imprisonment. (b) LONDON, APRIL 10. (c) The London court has convicted a Brighton resident to twelve years imprisonment for accessory to murder. (d) The victim was fatally wounded in a shooting incident in a Winchester restaurant last year.
    Even though this mini-text seems quite coherent, there are no words that explain what the situations described in (c) and (d) have to do with each other. Also, none of the concepts mentioned in the fourth sentence repeat any material from the third sentence. In other words, there are no cohesive links (or there seems to be no cohesion) between (c) and (d). Yet, no one would find it difficult to understand. The explanation is that we add the missing links from cultural knowledge, i.e. our knowledge of the world. . . . The example shows, therefore, that it is possible to have coherence without explicit cohesion."
    (René Dirven and Marjolijn Verspoor, Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics, 2nd ed. John Benjamins, 2004)

  • Cohesion and Coherence in E.B. White's "Book Learning"
    "Scientific agriculture, however sound in principle, often seems strangely unrelated to, and unaware of, the vital, grueling job of making a living by farming. Farmers sense this quality in it as they study their bulletins, just as a poor man senses in a rich man an incomprehension of his own problems. The farmer of today knows, for example, that manure loses some of its value when exposed to the weather; but he also knows how soon the sun goes down on all of us, and if there is a window handy at the cow's stern he pitches the dressing out into the yard and kisses the nitrogen goodbye. There is usually not time in one man's lifetime to do different. The farmer knows that early-cut hay is better feed than hay which has been left standing through the hot dry days of late July. He hasn't worked out the vitamin losses, but he knows just by looking at the grass that some of the good has gone out of it. But he knows also that to make hay he needs settled weather--better weather than you usually get in June."
    (E.B. White, "Book Learning." One Man's Meat, 1942)
Pronunciation: koh-HEER-ins
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