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- Have you ever described a person as speaking incoherently? What did you mean when you used that term? You probably meant you couldn't understand the person or what the person was saying made no sense. That's basically what incoherent writing is. It doesn't make sense. The reader can't understand the writer's message. You want your writing to be recognized as coherent writing. Think of coherent writing as writing that holds together, a message that flows well. All parts fit together and all the ideas connect.
Have you ever stopped reading something because you were uncertain how the ideas connected? Did you ever have to re-read an email because you thought you'd missed something? If you are the writer, you know how the ideas connect. But remember that the reader isn't seeing the connection through your eyes. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, and when you finished speaking, that person made a comment that seemed to have nothing to do with what you were saying? Consider this conversation: You, excitedly: "Let me tell you about the car i just bought! "It's a 1996 blue Camaro with a V-8, T-top, "black leather interior, 16-inch wheels, "and a 6-speed stick shift!" You listener, after appearing to listen, replies with, "I really need to drop off some old newspapers "at the animal shelter on my way home this evening." Maybe with anger or disappointment, you realize that your listener wasn't interested in what you were saying and certainly didn't share your excitement.
Now, let's get inside the mind of the listener. Your listener heard the words "new car," and even though he is hearing what you're saying, you've triggered the thought, "My aunt bought a new car, "and then she bought a new puppy that tore up "the inside of her car. "Let's see. "That reminds me that I need to drop off "those old newspapers at the animal shelter "on my way home this evening." Do you see the transition in the listener's mind? The response made perfect sense -- to him. The speaker didn't have the advantage of seeing those connectors in the listener's mind.
Those connectors are the transitions and help you show your reader how the ideas connect. Your audience has to have the ideas connected, or the message will not make sense. These two ideas don't connect: All employees are now eligible for a monthly productivity award. Work will begin next month on expanding the south parking lot. Does the following announcement make more sense? Is it clearer? Beginning immediately, all employees are eligible for a monthly productivity award. In addition, as many of you have requested, work will begin next month on expanding the south parking lot.
These two ideas do hold together, with transition. The message is now coherent and doesn't jump from one idea to another. So what techniques are available to help you make your writing coherent? Use transitional words and transitional phrases to help achieve the smooth flow of your ideas. For example, "however," "but," and "on the other hand" show your reader that you're changing direction. I like the new furniture's design, but the color is gaudy.
"Similarly," "and," "likewise" show a thought continuing. Our company is paying for the conference fees and reimbursing us for meal expenses. "Therefore," "consequently," and "even though" show a cause/effect relationship. I volunteered to help set up the display; therefore, I had to arrive early. Whether your message is three or four sentences, three or four paragraphs, or numerous pages, the entire message should hold together and make sense to the reader.
Have someone read your writing objectively, or put it aside for a while and then re-read it yourself before sending it, to help you identify incoherent babbling And show you where you need to add transitional words as you revise.
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