Coherence: Teaching Implications

  • As a general rule, pupils' writing is more likely to be coherent than it is to be cohesive. This is probably because coherence is essentially concerned with communicating meaning and pupils' recognise this as a function of their work.

  • Weak writers sometimes reveal evidence of poor coherence, particularly because they assume too much of their readers. Typically a weak writer may leave impossible gaps in their texts which the reader cannot reasonably fill; or they may give barebone accounts of an event with little supporting detail; or they may assume reader knowledge which the reader does not have. With these writers, it may be more fruitful to teach about and discuss how the reader-writer relationship is established and help them to think more explicitly about the needs of their readers.

  • All writers are more likely to lose control of coherence if they are being highly ambitious or attempting a complex piece of writing. Even Shakespeare slips occasionally! (for example, in 'Twelfth Night' there is ambiguity about the battle involving the ship's captain.)

  • In writing narrative a common cause of weak coherence is loss of control of the narrative plot, especially when the plot is complex and makes use of multiple characters. Science fiction or fantasy narratives are particularly prone to this.

  • In writing argument or literary critical essays a common cause of weak coherence is a failure or inconsistency in the logic of an argument, perhaps through contradiction of a point made earlier, or through poor use of supporting evidence.

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