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Cohesion, literally “sticking together,” is essential to good, clear expository writing. It helps a reader follow your argument and see the relationships you want them to understand. Cohesion makes writing flow by creating and reinforcing connections on the sentence level and the paragraph level. Cohesion in writing is achieved in a variety of ways, mainly by using words, phrases, and ideas that act as connectors or point back to earlier words/phrases/ideas. The most basic cohesive devices are reference words, transitions, and repetition.


REFERENCE WORDS: point to a specific thing or to a location in space or time.

  • definite and indefinite articles: the, a, an 
  • personal pronouns: we, us, you, he, she, it, him, her, his, they, them
  • demonstrative pronouns: this, that, these, those, none, neither
  • place and time markers: now, later, here, there, yesterday


TRANSITIONS: connect sentences, showing relationships between ideas or clarifying the progression of an argument. Transitional devices include comparison, contrast, emphasis, example/illustration, summary, and time sequence.

  • adverbs: however, moreover, additionally, therefore, furthermore
  • phrases: as a result, on the other hand, from my point of view
  • clauses: since I was a child, when disaster strikes, if all this is true
  • logical markers: first, second, next, finally
  • modifying phrases: having given this some thought, taking everything into consideration


REPETITION: emphasizes and maintains prominence of key words, phrases, or ideas. Effective use of repetition incorporates:

  • variations of the word: work, worker, working
  • nouns/pronouns: position/it, students/they
  • synonyms: inform, explain, clarify


In the passage below, the cohesive devices have been underlined and defined. Notice how much repetition and reference there is in even a relatively short piece of writing.

Early Political Parties


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