How can coherence be achieved in writing

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Before writing:

While writing:

  • Ensure that the content is coherent.
  • If you are a beginner: avoid complicated sentences. Create simple main clauses, each with a thought. You can still summarize simple formulations in the revision in more complex units.
  • When you are advanced: write simple for difficult subjects and complex for simple subjects. To do this, use the text-grammatical means of compression.
  • Avoid "thinking ahead" of your text in your mother tongue and then translating it. This is linguistically more difficult than writing it straight away in the foreign language. When "thinking ahead" you define a content regardless of your foreign language skills, when writing in a foreign language you can flexibly adapt it to your expressive possibilities and avoid difficulties from the outset.
  • Try to achieve a steady writing speed that allows you to write sufficiently thoroughly without tearing the common thread of the content design. This balance between thoroughness and progression is different for everyone and varies with the writing task. Find out your rhythm.


Source texts

When writing texts, the author always draws on his knowledge, with which he plans the content and structure. However, own knowledge is rarely the only source of writing. Usually the writer also uses earlier texts - his own or someone else's - that he has read and processed and continues in his new text. He thus establishes an intertext relationship when writing. Direct intertexts are, for example, summaries or letter replies, less direct intertexts contain content transfers or quotations. The fundamental intertextuality of mother tongue communication in everyday life and in school also takes advantage of foreign language lessons by offering oral discourses or written reading texts in writing lessons, to which the learners should respond in writing. These texts can have the following functions in writing tasks:

  • Provide information to relieve memory.
  • To deliver a text model according to which the target text is to be written.
  • To serve as a starting point for intertexts that reduce, expand, rewrite or respond to the content.
  • To offer a framework or a fragment of text that the learner can fill in or add to in a creative way.
  • To serve as the subject of a text interpretation.

Source texts not only provide the basis for the content of the target text that the learner writes, but also provide important information on text structure, text grammar and lexicons. When properly analyzed, they make formulating easier in addition to planning and enable language and writing strategies to be learned.

Content and structure

Planning the content of a text begins with the unordered collection of thoughts (which can come from one's own memory or from existing texts). It ends with a sequential structure of the content.

The following three stages have proven useful when planning the content of a text:

  1. Brainstorming: Disordered and unfiltered transcription of all ideas and thoughts that occur to the writer on the topic. In principle, the notation should be in the foreign language, in the case of lexical gaps also in the mother tongue. Brainstorming is particularly effective in the study group, but it can also be done by a single writer.
  2. Mind Map: Two-dimensional networked notation of the brainstorming results in an "idea map", which reflects the structural relationships between the ideas found. The center of the map is usually the global theme of the text to be written, from which lines to sub-themes emanate, which in turn can be connected to one another.
  3. Structure: Conversion of the networked information noted in the Mind Map into a sequence of points that structure the text in terms of content. On the basis of writing goals and text type properties, decisions have to be made about the perspective, weighting, sequencing and linking of the content. Outlines are mostly arranged according to points and sub-points.

Depending on the type of text, other forms of content provision can also be selected: keyword collections, pro and contra lists, imaginary dialogues, schematizations of the subject area to be dealt with in writing, etc. Excerpts and notes from thematically relevant intertexts can enrich or largely replace the generation of ideas as well as the structure to prepare.


Content coherence results from the systematic sequence and connection of thoughts in a text (part). Coherence is linguistically marked by the text-grammatical means of cohesion.

In or between individual sentences, coherence can be created through the meaningful sequence of

  • Known things that have already been mentioned and new things about which something is said. The "known" is called linguistically the "theme", the "new" the "rhema". A wrongly introduced topic or rhema can interfere with understanding. example

Within larger sections of text, coherence is established through various "text-logical" sequence relationships such as:

  • General -> special, whole -> parts, core statement -> secondary statement, rule -> example, cause -> effect, earlier -> later, problem -> solution, evaluation -> result.

These sequences can not only be used from the basic to the specific, as above, but also vice versa: from the particular to the general, from the parts to the whole, etc. Certain effects can be achieved with the reversal (tension, clarity). The choice of such principles of order is often culturally determined and must then be learned separately with the foreign language (see in English das paragraph writingthat obeys certain rules).

Example of topic-rhema relationships

Compare the sequence of sentences (T means topic = familiar, R means Rhema = new)

a) "Franziska (T) is studying Language teaching research (R). The field of expertise (T) is available at the Universities of Bochum and Hamburg (R). "

with the sentence sequence

b) "Franziska (T) is studying Language teaching research (R). At the universities of Bochum and Hamburg (T?) There is the field of expertise (R?). "

What is critical here is the meaning of "the subject" in the second sentence. In sentence a) it is clear: "The subject" is language teaching research. Sentence sequence b) is not clear in terms of content: Is "the subject" here language teaching research or perhaps another subject about which something is said in the following? The uncertainty arises from contradicting grammar: on the one hand the definite article "that", which usually introduces a topic, on the other hand the final position in the sentence "... there is the subject", which is usually reserved for the rhema. A little hint: In the spoken language, the contradiction can be resolved by making the verb into a rhema through stress: "At the universities of Bochum and Hamburg there is (R) the subject" (... as long as the cultural bureaucracy gives it money). With that one has, however, a completely different sentence meaning.

Text grammar

There are grammatical features in every language that serve to subdivide and structure texts. This can be done in two ways. The grammatical features

  • serve to explicitly mark coherence.

These grammar structures include the article, personal and demonstrative pronouns, conjunctions, choice of tense, mode and aspect as well as adverbs and particles that mark deictic, temporal, local or "logical" relationships. example

  • Or they serve to condense the information content of utterances.

In many languages, these grammar structures include verbal and noun constructions that replace subordinate clauses: gerunds, participle and infinitive constructions, as well as appositions, attributes and nominalizations. example

Characteristics of coherence are used in oral discourses as well as in written texts, compression principles are characteristic of the written language. Writing more demanding foreign-language texts, especially in formal text types, requires the best possible mastery of these text-grammatical structures. They can be practiced in specially designed writing tasks.


Examples of coherence

Creation of coherence through pronouns:
"Hans and Eva recently got married. He still studying, you already earns money and can him support. yourLife has thus taken a new turn. "

There are clear text references in this text (he -> Hans; you -> Eva; him -> Hans) and an ambiguous: With "you Life "can mean both the life of Eve and the life of both.

Creation of coherence through various linguistic means:
Yesterday I have I (1)my (1) friend Stefan (2) in Munich (3) met. He (2) lives there (3) in a Shared apartment (4) in Schwabing (5). The Quarter (5) has become so expensive that you cannot pay for apartments to live alone. The other (1) Members of Flat share (4) are also (2) Students. Stefan (2) studies in Munich (3)Mechanical engineering (6). The (6) is a Compartment (7), the (7)he (2) finds it very exciting. If he (2)me (1) told about it, understand I (1) not a word.

In this example, all linguistic forms that have the same referent (person, place, subject) are indexed with the same number. You can see from this that coherence can be ensured through various linguistic means: above all through (personal, demonstrative, relative, possessive) pronouns, but also through adverbs and lexical repetition or varying repetition.

Example of compression

After this he arrived home, he went ... -> Arrived home, he went ... -> To his return he went ... -> The just returned... went ...

Although he is hardworking, he has little success. -> Although he is hardworking, he has little success. -> Hardworking as he is, ... -> With all the hard work ... -> Although hardworking, he is not very successful.

Compression series of this kind are only possible in written language in many languages, while the spoken language expresses logical or temporal references by following main clauses with connecting conjunctions or adverbs.