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Cohesion and Coherence

A text in many different colours: colour-coded to show, reference and substitution and conjunction words and phrases.


Every writer wishes to make their points clearly to their readers, with pieces of writing that are are easy to read and have logical links between the various points made. This coherence, this clarity of expression, is created by grammar and vocabulary (lexis) through cohesion. This is the "glue" that joins your ideas together to form a cohesive whole.

In this Learning Object we are going to focus on how this is done, in order to assist you when you come to write your next assignments and in your reading. In reading, if you understand how the author makes connections within the text, you gain a better understanding of his or her message. As regards your writing, after analysing the texts in this Learning Object, you should analyse your own writing in the same way. This will help you to realise which techniques you could use more to benefit your reader.

Before starting the activities, you can obtain an overview of how best to use this Learning Object, using a Screencast (with audio), by following this link Overview


· To raise awareness of how cohesion contributes to coherence in text
· To raise awareness of how cohesion is created through: reference, conjunction, ellipsis, substitution and lexis, including cohesive nouns.
· To raise your awareness of cohesion at paragraph level and how punctuation plays a crucial role in this

Activity 1: How cohesion is created in text

According to the writers Halliday and Hasan (1976), there are six main ways that cohesion is created in a text. These they called: Reference, Substitution, Ellipsis, Lexical Chains, Cohesive Nouns and Conjunction. Follow this link Cohesion to a document that shows you examples of each of them. Then follow this link The 6 Ways of Creating Cohesion to a flashcard demonstration of the meaning of each of these words. Now, to do a matching exercise to check you can remember what these words mean, follow this link Definitions Matching


Now follow this link A short narrative text to a short piece of creative writing about a student. The first time you read it, try to think of a title for the piece. Then read the text again and colour-code the words and phrases that create cohesion in the 6 different ways, in 6 different colours.

Activity 2: Cohesion in a discursive text

In this exercise you are going to see how the 6 ways of creating cohesion are used in a short text arguing in favour of working in groups as a way to learn better in class. Before you read the text, you might like to predict what the arguments might be in favour of and against classes being organised to work together in this way.


To do a series of exercises to raise awareness of different forms of cohesion used in academic writing, follow this link Cloze Exercises

Activity 3: Colour coding the cohesion in the discursive text

Now, we are going to use the same text to see how your awareness of cohesion is improving.


Now follow this link Working in Groups to the discursive text about working in groups and colour-code the words and phrases that create cohesion in the 6 different ways, in 6 different colours.

Activity 4: Cohesive nouns, reference and substitution



For more exercises to practise cohesive nouns, reference and substitution follow this link Reference and Substitution Cloze

Activity 5: Colour code the cohesion in one of your texts

It is hoped that through focusing on how you achieve cohesion in your writing and comparing this against the model texts used in the previous exercises, you will be able to see ways in which you can achieve greater cohesion and thereby assist your reader.


Use a paragraph from one of your essays or write one now, then colour code it in the same way as in Activities 1 and 3 above.

Which forms of creating cohesion do you currently use? Reference? Substitution? Conjunction? Lexical chains? Synonyms? Cohesive nouns? Are you going to try to use any one of these techniques more in future? If so? Which ones?

Write your answers in the box below

Activity 6: Cohesion and coherence at paragraph level

Cohesion has a strong connection to coherence (logic and meaning). In fact, cohesion is the grammatical and lexical realisation of coherence at a profound level within the text. It is what makes a text more than just a jumbled mixture of sentences.


Use your understanding of cohesion, punctuation and your understanding of the underlying meaning of these paragraphs to put them into the most logical order.

Follow this link to the Paragraph Cohesion Activity

Would you like to review the main points?


Batstone, R. (1994). Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Cook, G. (1996). Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Halliday, M. A. K. and R. Hasan (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman UK Group Limited.

Lubelska, D. (1991). “An approach to teaching cohesion to improve in reading” in Reading in a Foreign Language, 7 (2)


© William Tweddle, Queen Mary, University of London, 2010, visual created by the author using a Smartboard and Jing