How do you get more cohesion in your writing?

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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How do you get more cohesion in your writing? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.

Transcript: 

How do you get more cohesion in your writing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Pooja Vataliya, an aspiring academic based in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Here’s what they’ve asked by email….

I am an English-language student currently working on my speaking and writing skills. How can I get more coherence and cohesion in my writing? I’ve tried many things but I just end up beating around the bush instead of coming straight to the point. Can you please shed some light on this issue?” 

Thanks for your question, Pooja. I’m not sure what you mean by “coherence and cohesion” but based on your comment about ‘beating around the bush,’ I’m going to guess you mean determining the point you want to make.

Of course, making a point should be the objective of most academic writing and I have five suggestions for you.

First, allow plenty of time for thinking before you write a word! Many academics don’t allow nearly enough time for thinking. This is really ironic because, in fact, thinking is the main work of being an academic. You don’t just write words onto the page – you need to think about your IDEAS first.

Second, get yourself away from your desk to do this thinking. I know it’s a lot more convenient to take notes at your computer but your brain will work better when you’re AWAY from your desk, particularly if you’re doing light exercise, like walking. This exercise gives our brains permission to ramble, and the rambling is what will help produce new ideas. But perhaps you’re worried you might forget these ideas? Then take your cellphone with you before you go for a walk. You can always dictate notes to yourself.

Third, after walking, use mindmapping to help figure out what you want to say. Mindmapping is a way of brainstorming with yourself. I’ve done a number of detailed blog posts and videos on the subject and I include a link to all of these in the show-notes below. By the way, mindmapping is a lot more effective — and fun! — than outlining.

Fourth, expect a bad first draft. All writers — even professionals — produce bad first drafts and this is why everyone needs to edit themselves. In fact, editing is the most important step of the writing process. Make sure you finish your first draft early enough so you have LOTS of time for editing. Generally speaking, I find editing takes twice as long as the writing.

Fifth, recognize that you’re facing a particular challenge if you’re writing in a language that’s not native to you. Understand that you’re going to make mistakes of spelling, grammar and usage and you should not let these mistakes bother you, while you are writing. The object of writing a first draft is to get your ideas on paper.  The object of editing is to make your text better, clearer, more persuasive. Don’t ever edit while you write; this will simply make the writing process longer and more uncomfortable. Always save the editing for later. Be sure to read my post on how to break the habit of editing while you write, link below.

Learning to have coherence and cohesion is a big accomplishment. Make the job a bit easier on yourself by pursuing each step of writing separately. When you research, only research. When you write, only write. When you edit, only edit. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from American writer Ernest Hemingway: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Pooja, I suspect that allowing enough time for vigorous editing will give you the cohesion and coherence you’re seeking.

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If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.

Links

Posts and videos on mindmapping

7 ways to stop editing while you write

Your Happy First Draft

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