Centre for Academic and Professional Communication (SEKOM) - Readability
Making the text readable
Making the text readable
An important part of writing a text is to make your text logical and easy to follow. This is often referred to as coherence, or writing coherently.
We can talk about coherence on two levels: global and local. Global coherence means that the text functions as one logical unit, while local coherence refers to how we structure sentences and paragraphs in a logical way.
In order to achieve global coherence, it is important to:
- have a clear, logical relationship between the research question, the results and the conclusion
- make sure all parts of the text are relevant and presented in a logical order
- use consistent language and formatting
In order to achieve local coherence, it is important to:
- make sure each paragraph is focused on one topic, and that this topic is made clear in the topic sentence
- structure the paragraphs in a logical order
- bind sentences and paragraphs together with various cohesion mechanisms
Structure and subheadings
A coherent text is a text with a logical structure. This means presenting information in a logical order, so the reader can easily follow your reasoning.
In order to make the text easy to navigate, it is a good idea to use subheadings throughout the text. By using subheadings, the reader can easily find what they are looking for. If the text is long, with subheadings on multiple levels, you should also number your subheadings.
The topic sentence of a paragraph will in almost all cases be the very first sentence of the paragraph. This sentence should summarize what the rest of the paragraph is about. Most people use topic sentences intuitively when they write, and seldom plan or think about how to use them. Still, it can be a good idea to think about this when reviewing your text, and make sure the first sentence of each paragraph actually sums up what the paragraph is about.
Language and formatting
When trying to make a text coherent, it is a good idea to be aware of how you use language and how you format. Firstly, it is important to be consistent when it comes to style. For formatting, this may include being consistent in your choice of font and font size, as well as being consistent when it comes to subheadings formatting. Language-wise you should be consistent in your voice and tone; avoid going back and forth between being very formal and very informal. Secondly, it is important to be use consistent terminology. Terms should be clearly defined, and you should avoid switching between different words or terms that describe the same thing.
Make your text logical
You can make your text logical by using transition words. These words signal the relationship between two text units. Take a look at this example, where the transition words are in italics:
- Julie is scared of dogs, therefore she only owns cats.
- Julie is scared of dogs, however she owns a dalmatian.
In the first sentence, the transition word therefore signals a causality between the two statements. In the second example, the transition word however signals an opposition between the two statements.
In addition to using transition words, we also use references to achieve coherence. By referring to something, you can avoid boring the reader with information they already know or repeating yourself.