Many writers come to the writing center asking, “Does my paper flow?”
How does a reader judge if a paper flows? Readers look for the topics of sentences and paragraphs. When they can easily identify these topics and see how--across an essay-- they are related to each other and add up to a whole, readers say the writing “flows.” There are two levels of flow in a paper:
*We strongly recommend you check your paper first for logical coherence to make sure your overall organization is in good shape.
Be Consistent with Key Terms
Repetition of key terms and phrases helps keep your readers on track. Establish key terms up front in your essay, especially in the thesis. Repeat these words at the beginning of paragraphs to remind readers of your message and where you are heading. These words act as a thread to hold the essay together. For example, note the bolded key terms in these two thesis statements. A reader will expect to see these terms again throughout the paper.
Avoid using synonyms for recurring key words – Which of these 2 paragraphs is easier to follow?
Paragraph 1 is easier because it does not replace key terms with synonyms. Don’t be fooled into thinking your writing will be monotonous if you repeat the same key terms often. Key terms are not just ordinary words. They are the glue that makes your writing cohere. Your reader is less likely to notice this repetition if they are busy concentrating on understanding your point.
Make Pronouns Work for You
Pronouns refer back to some person place or thing previously mentioned. Examples of pronouns include this, that, these, those, he, she, it, they, him, her. They help readers connect your ideas. Be careful that your pronouns refer clearly to specific nouns. Use the pronoun along with the repeated noun (e.g. this test, that trial, these reports) to avoid possible ambiguity.
Clear use of pronoun: The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is used to identify deviant personality traits. This test is also helpful to determine a person’s suitability for a job.
Unclear use of pronouns: The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is used to identify deviant personality traits. This is also helpful to determine a person’s suitability for a job.
Without the word, test, it is unclear which pronoun this is replacing: traits or inventory?
Carefully Choose Transitions
Transitional words provide cues to the reader about the relationship between sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs within an essay. Often when there is no easy or logical way to link one idea to the next, a transition word will be able to make that link. For example, when you are moving from one main idea to another in your paper, a transition word such as furthermore, in addition, or finally, can help the reader make the necessary connections.
See Transitional Chart for more examples of transition words!