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Revising for Unity and Coherence

Revising for Unity and Coherence

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Author: Gavin McCall
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This lesson discusses how to revise for unity and coherence.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? Today we're going to learn about revising for unity and for coherence. Which includes a necessary look at transitions, and an example of what this kind of revision looks like.

As we'll remember, revision is the process of re-visioning, or looking again at an essay and rethinking its structure, ideas, and support.

During this lesson, we'll be thinking about the unity and coherence of an essay and how transitions can help improve them. One way to think about an essay, is as a team of ideas with the same goal to support the thesis.

And if we're thinking of an essay in this way then revision becomes a process focused on determining if there's unity in the ideas, and if the ideas are working together coherently and flow logically.

Some techniques writers use to improve coherence are linking paragraphs by repeating keywords throughout the text. As well as using synonyms for important words within paragraphs to get at the nuance of the ideas. And using pronouns to refer to nouns from earlier sentences, thereby, linking them more effectively and with greater flow.

During the revision process, writers can check their composition for unity and coherence by constructing a reverse outline to check that all main points continue to support the thesis and the topic sentence of the paragraph, and that they progress logically.

After all, you should be able to follow a well-made path no matter what direction you're headed in. One of the keys to developing a united, coherent team of ideas within an essay, is effective use of transitions.

These are words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas. Writers use then to point out the relationships between one idea and the next, as well as for signaling that they're about to restate in different words what's come before. Transitions like, therefore, and, in other words, and others are well suited for this purpose.

Solid transitions of all kinds are necessary to make sure the reader understands your ideas as you want them to be understood. Transitions also help contribute to the essay's unity and flow by making the connections between ideas theological and organic, as opposed to choppy and random.

We're revising with an eye for transitions. It's a good idea to go through each paragraph and ask questions of it. Does the paragraph start or end with transitional phrases that signal where we've been or we're going? If not, should it? How about within the paragraph? Is there unity to sentences?

Are they organized around a single main idea? Are there transitional phrases to smooth the flow between sentences to clarify connections and explain meaning? These questions, and the answers you find for them, will help revise each paragraph. And in so doing, the essay as a whole.

Now, let's take a look at a paragraph that could use some revision. Read along with me, and as you do keep an eye and an ear out for choppy sentences, unlinked ideas, and missed opportunities to explain the connection between any of the above. These are what we will be looking to change for the next draft.

In politics, one of the best ways to make sure no one ever hears you is to say something rational. Those who advocate a position that's not one of two extremes tend not to be heard.

It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, we are all part of the same political system. Middle-ground positions are made for sound bites and will translate better on TV and in newspapers.

In journalism, sense doesn't sell, but sensationalism does. Until we find another way to support broadcast, online and print news than through commercial advertising, journalism will always be a fight for attention first, and a deliverer of facts second.

This paragraph has, what I consider, to be some very interesting points, and a clear argument about them. That being said, it could use a little smoothing over. Virtually none of the sentences are working well together.

So even though most of the ideas do seem to get along, the connections between them aren't as clear as they could be. As you might have guessed, I've already taken the liberty of fixing some of these problems by adding transitions and getting rid of one sentence that I don't think needs to be there.

Here's the new version. Even though we just read one, read along with me and see if you can't tell just how much better this paragraph has got with just a few tweaks and changes.

In politics, one of the best ways to make sure no one ever hears you, is to say something rational. Those who advocate a position that's not one of two extremes tend not to be heard after all. And when those middle-ground positions are heard, they're generally placed between two louder, more extreme positions.

It's these, the positions made for sound bites that will translate better on TV and in newspapers. Because, as anyone who spent time in or around journalism knows, sense doesn't sell. But sensationalism does.

And until we find another way to support broadcast, online and print news than through commercial advertising, journalism will always be a fight for attention first, and a deliverer of facts second.

Now, as you can, hopefully, see the ideas and points in each sentence are linked a little more effectively. Here the transitional words and phrases I added. Not much, when you really think about it.

But can you see how much they do to improve not only the flow of the paragraph, but the clarity of its ideas. And all without adding any actual new material. The argument is the same. The points are the same.

The only other change I made was to cut out a sentence. The one that read, it doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, we're all part of the same political system. I cut it out because I figured it was irrelevant. Not untrue, but not necessary to say either.

So as you can see, revising for unity and coherence can make a big difference in a text. Even though at the same time it doesn't require doing very much at all, really.

So what did we learn today? We learned about how revising for unity and coherence, as well as the transitions that are key to the process, can be very helpful to writers of all experience levels. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Transition

    Words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas.