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From the ESL Student Handbook by Young Min, PhD

Coherence means the connection of ideas at the idea level, and cohesion means the connection of ideas at
the sentence level. Basically, coherence refers to the rhetorical aspects of your writing, which include
developing and supporting your argument (e.g. thesis statement development), synthesizing and integrating
readings, organizing and clarifying ideas. The cohesion of writing focuses on the grammatical aspects of

One of the practical tools that can help improve the coherence of your writing is to use a concept map. The
concept map is also known as reverse outline since you make an outline of your paper after you have
finished the main ideas of your paper. Write down the main idea of each paragraphwhich is called a topic
sentenceon a blank piece of paper. Check to see if the topic sentences are connected to the thesis
statement of your paper or if you have strayed from your main argument. As you repeat this process, it will
help you become more aware of how to develop your argument coherently and how to organize your ideas
effectively. Here is a concept map template you can use.

Cohesion is also a very important aspect of academic writing, because it immediately affects the tone of
your writing. Although some instructors may say that you will not lose points because of grammatical errors in
your paper, you may lose points if the tone of your writing is sloppy or too casual (a diary-type of writing or
choppy sentences will make the tone of your writing too casual for academic writing). But cohesive writing
does not mean just grammatically correct sentences; cohesive writing refers to the connection of your ideas
both at the sentence level and at the paragraph level.

Here are some examples that illustrate the importance of connecting your ideas more effectively in writing.

The hotel is famous. It is one of the most well-known hotels in the country. The latest international dancing
competition was held at the hotel. The hotel spent a lot of money to advertise the event. Because the hotel
wanted to gain international reputation. But not many people attended the event. (The connection of ideas
is not very good.)

The hotel, which is one of the most well-known hotels in this region, wanted to promote its image around the
world by hosting the latest international dancing competition. Although the event was widely advertised, not
many people participated in the competition. (The connection of ideas is better than in the first

The latest international dancing competition was held at the hotel, which is one of the most well-known hotels
in this region. The hotel spent a lot of money on advertising the event since it wanted to enhance its
international reputation; however, it failed to attract many people. (The connection of ideas is better
than in the first example.)
Band score 8.0 range of grammar
This lesson looks at the idea of range of grammar. If you are aiming for a high band
score, it is not simply enough not to make mistakes, you also need to show that you
can use a number of different grammatical constructions. First of all, I talk you
through some principles and then I give you some practical suggestions on what
sort of grammar can help and, just as importantly, how to use it.

Test yourself first

Before you read on. You might want to ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I going to impress more with longer sentences?

2. Do I have a strategy for when I use simpler grammar and more complex grammar?
3. When and why do I use complex grammar like relative and conditional clauses?
Understanding range of grammar
1. An essay should combine simple with complex
This is the starting point. A well-written essay should be relatively easy to read.
This means that you need to combine the simple with the complex. Where you have
straightforward to say, you should not try and show off your grammar by making it
seem complex indeed, thats a very common mistake.

Typically, you should aim for:

simple structures when you are making main points often in the opening and/or closing sentences of
your paragraphs
more complex structures when you are explaining/developing those main points in the body of your
a movement from the more simple to the more complex
When you have something simple to say, say it simply. Only use complex structures
for more complex thoughts.

Close Me
This paragraph expresses some complex thoughts, but it starts off simply to make
the main point.
The major argument against hosting international sporting events
is financial.Typically, it can cost several million pounds to build the arenas and
modernise the infrastructure so that it can cater for the athletes and the
spectators. This money, it is argued, would be better spent on welfare and
education programmes that provide direct support for the population.Indeed, some
governments have incurred so much debt through hosting the Olympic
Games that they have had to reduce spending on other social programmes.

The first sentence of this paragraph is simple. All I want to do is make clear that the
main reason is financial. I use simple clear English so that reader gets the main
point. The grammar is It is financial.
The next sentences are more complex and use complex structures to express more
complex thoughts

so that because I am talking about results

would be better spent because I am talking conditionally
that provide direct support for the population because I am defying my terms

2. An essay should combine longer and shorter

In many ways this is the same point. It is absolutely not the case of long sentences
good, short sentences bad. There will be times when a short sentence is more
effective than a long sentence. In general, though, you should avoid the extremes of
very long and very short. Also, you need to ask yourself how complex your
sentences are. Shorter sentences can work:

1. if they are used in combination with longer sentences, or

2. if they are relatively complex
Longer sentences can work:

1. if they are used with shorter sentences, or

2. if they are simpler in structure (using and and but)
Be careful of too many long, complex sentences and too many short simple sentences

Close Me
None of the sentences in this paragraph are particularly long for short.

Another way in which free public transport could improve our quality of life relates
to congestion. Currently, the trend is for increasing numbers of people to choose
to drive to work. This means that in many cases the rush hour is several hours long
and it is sometimes almost impossible to travel across a city.It is probable that this
level of congestion would be reduced by making public transport free.
The first sentence is shorter because it is the opening sentence of the para and it
also includes the complex in which construction.
The second sentence is shortish again because it is merely stating a fact no need
to make it more complex
The third sentence is a longer sentence, but it is simply linked using and
The final sentence is again relatively short/simple sentence but it does contain a
conditional would and a by structure.

Examples of grammar that can work

This is not intended to be a list of advanced grammar points that will guarantee you
a band score 8.0. Rather, the idea here is to show you grammar connects to
meaning. You should never just use a structure because it is good grammar.
Instead, you need to ask yourself what is the best way I can express this point.
The best writers use these structures when they need to, not because they think
they have to
1. the passive
I start with the passive because it is so often misused. It is not the case that the
passive is an academic structure that should be used in essays. We use it all the
time in all sorts of contexts. Here, though, is one way you might find it helpful in
writing: to avoid repeating words especially nouns/pronouns. You may want to
avoid using some words too much especially words from the question. Here the
passive can help you. In a question about government action, rather than writing:
The government should introduce measures to

you can try

Measures should be introduced

so that you dont repeat the word government.

2. Relatives
This is another piece of grammar you need to feel comfortable with and can help
you. You should be careful, however, not to overuse relatives as they can make your
writing both confusing and confused. One tip I would give you here is to try and
restrict yourself to one relative per sentence and to try and avoid them in already
complex sentences. Look at this example:
There is a real danger that allowing people to travel for free would deprive transport
authorities funds which they need and lead to a lower standard of service.

The relative can be avoided by changing it into an adjective phrase:

There is a real danger that allowing people to travel for free would deprive transport
authorities of much needed funds and lead to a lower standard of service.

When you do use relatives though is to define terms and add detail. Here is an
example in action:

More than that, if the authorities plan carefully, they can use the occasion of the
sporting event to help finance public works which benefit the whole population in
the long term.

I want to say what sort of public works I am referring to so I define them in the
relative which benefit the whole population in the long term.
3. Conditionals
Here is another piece of grammar that can help you out. Provided that is, you see
how and when to use it. One of the best ways to use these conditionals to explain
and give examples. This means they are likely to come in the body of your
paragraphs and not the introduction/opening sentence. Try this example:
There is also, however, a strong argument not to implement this proposal. This
argument is based on economic competitiveness. If a company was forced to
employ more workers to produce the same amount of goods, then its wage bill
would rise and its products might become more expensive and less competitive
compared to companies with longer working weeks. In this case, it is possible that
the company either might become insolvent or it would have to make some
employees redundant. As a result, the intended benefit to the personnel would
not happen.
This time around I have given you the whole para so that you can see the context. I
use a conditional because I am explaining a point. You should also see that we use
might and would in the following sentences even though there is no if.

Do you want to show off? Then you might consider using conditionals that do not
use if. So you could use:

Were a company to be forced

4. Parallel structures
There are a number of different parallel structures we have in English. They come in
useful when we are combining, comparing or contrasting points again something
that you are likely to do in your essays. This is a useful piece of grammar to focus
on, as when used well they make your writing more cohesive. For example
Not only would unemployment be reduced, but the working conditions of employees
on very long shifts would also be significantly improved.
You may think not only..but also is too easy to impress. Dont. Simple things done
well impress too and this sentence is complex enough as it is.
5. Verb tenses (of course), impersonal structures and modals
The point to remember here is that it is not difficulty of grammar that is important,
rather it is variety of grammar. This means that some bits of grammar that you think
are rather simple (e.g. tenses) are still important. The point I want to make here is
that the one tense you are going use most is the present simple. Checking my
essays, I find that easily the most common tense I use is the present simple. Thats
how it should be it is easily the most common tense in English.
You do want some variety though, and here is how I get it. I use a lot of impersonal

There are several reasons why

and I also use a large number of modal verbs:

It can also be argued that

The point here is that I use them to make impersonal points or sound academic.
They too have their meanings and uses.

6. And and but

Never be afraid of keeping it simple. I do. My essays work. You will also find that I
almost never use moreover and furthermore. More to the point, neither do band
8.0 candidates typically. When all you want to do is add a point say and and if you
want to make a contrast, you are most likely to use but or however,.

Test your own writing

The best advice is of course always to find yourself a teacher, but if you are working
by yourself, here is something you can do. Find an essay you have written and go
through it:

1. Do you use different grammatical structures? (You should have at least some of the ones I have
2. Can you see why you have used any of the more complex structures?
3. How long is your average sentence? (around 15 words is about right I would suggest)
4. Do your paragraphs combine longer and shorter sentences and simpler and more complex sentences?
5. Do you use and and but?