Global Coherence. From Clarity to Coherence. Brief Introduction/Recap ~ Style Matters ~. Earlier in the course we looked at three things that contribute to what Joseph Williams calls “local” coherence, the coherence that unifies an individual passage :.
Earlier in the course we looked at three things that contribute to what Joseph Williams calls “local” coherence, the coherence that unifies an individual passage:
2. Sentences in a passage focus on just a few topics.
3. The passage, whether a paragraph or a section, opens with short segment that
The idea is to write not
just clearly but
A brief exploration follows--of the four elements that Williams highlights as essential for achieving global coherence
Readers judge a work to be globally coherent when they:
1. See the main point
2. Understand the relevance of its parts to the point
3. Recognize the principle behind the order of those parts &
4. Read it all purposively and attentively
For Williams, it is the writer’s challenge to help readers do this
Just as each section and paragraph should have a main point or claim of its own, so too must the whole piece of writing. If the relevance is not clear, readers may judge the writing to be incoherent.
Williams advocates stating the main point early on, at the
end of the introduction.
Relevant parts can include:
If readers cannot put what they read into
one of these categories, they will likely judge
the writing incoherent.
Williams holds that readers want to see not just the relevance of the parts of the writing to the author’s point, but the principle used in arranging their order. He posits there are three kinds of order:
Let’s take a look at each
kind of order a little
Two or more sections are coordinate with one another when they are like pillars supporting a roof. For example, when one writes, There are three reasons why… and each section discusses a reason supporting the claim, their sequence makes sense to readers--by importance, complexity, or other determining criteria.
Williams advocates using words such as first, second, …also, another, more important, in addition, and so on, to coordinate the support offered.
Parts of the whole can be ordered from earlier-to-later (or vice-versa), either as a narrative or as cause-and-effect.
Words to use for signaling time are first, then, finally, and for cause-and-effect: as a result, because of that, and so on.
Parts are ordered by example and generalization (or vice-versa), premise and conclusion (or vice-versa), or by assertion and contradiction.
Words for signaling logic are for example, in
contrast, therefore, consequently, and so on.
Williams advocates using signaling words generously, and headings if appropriate--and organizing each section and paragraph by one of the foregoing principals of order.
This brings us to Williams’ fourth and
most important element:
Readers depend on all the first three elements to find the coherence, but they must be motivated to look for it--in order to read purposefully. This means reading about a problem and a solution that they care about. Williams proposesthat writers see their task as writing something that will solve a problem that is important to readers.
He notes that readers are less likely to care about what they read if the writer offers only a topic, and then offers two sample introductions to illustrate this point.
The second, in contrast, tells readers why they should care about the problem andsketches a solution.
Would someone in the audience
like to read the next slide?
When college students go out to drink, many “binge,” drinking until they are intoxicated or even pass out. This behavior has been growing at colleges and universities everywhere. It once was done mostly by men, but now even women are bingeing. It has drawn the attention of concerned parents, college administrators, and even researchers, and has been widely reported in newspapers around the country.
Drinking has been part of American college life for more than three centuries. It has been accepted, even expected, as part of growing up. But a style of college drinking known as “binge” drinking, drinking to get intoxicated quickly, is spreading. Bingeing is far from harmless. In the last six months, it has been cited in three deaths from alcohol poisoning, two from falls, and one in a car crash. It crosses the line from fun to recklessness that kills and injures not just drinkers but those around them. We cannot end it, but we can control its worst cost by educating students in managing its risks.
He then examines two kinds of problems that motivate readers to read purposefully:
…each kind motivates readers in different ways
Let’s take a look at both
Pragmatic problems, for Williams, are things like AIDS, terrorism, and racial profiling, which peopletend to avoid because they make them unhappy. When unavoidable, they feel they have to do something about them. Thus, Williams writes, people pay attention when they read about problems they care about --when solutions are offered. However, naming a problem is only half of the problem. This, Williams calls thecondition.
“To identify costs,” Williams writes, “imagine readers who keep asking, So what? to the cost of the condition, until you know that they would ask, What do we do?
At that point, you have purposeful readers who will work hard to make sense of what you have written.”
Though similar to pragmatic problems in that they also have conditions and costs, conceptual problems are otherwise different and are typically posed and solved in academic settings.
Williams writes that the condition of a conceptual problem is always something we do not know or understand.
Another important element to include in the introduction is which Williams calls common ground. Williams first offers two uncontroversial claims: That bingeing is spreading and the long term effects of alcoholism are understood. However, he then qualifies this with a “but” clause that introduces the problem, as with the case of bingeing. . . This is a technique used by experienced writers , Williams writes, who use it to move active readers to read on to find out why what thy thought was so is not. This is a hallmark of experienced writers, writes Williams: Open with a seeming truth, and then contradict or qualify it.
Readers can get through unclear writing, but
incoherence defeats them. Readers will judge a piece of
writing coherent when they see that:
Readers should be able to see the problem that the writing addresses and be motivated enough to care about it and its solution to read on purposefully and attentively.
Writers motivate purposeful reading with the following plan for introductions:
Common Ground + Problem + Solution
Readers create coherence by using the cues they find in what they read so that they can organize the knowledge they get out of it.
What follows is a way to diagnose how well one’s writing does that.
4. Can readers see the point of each
5. Can readers see throughout the writing
the key ideas they saw In the introduction and will see in the conclusion?
6.Can readers see how everything is relevant to a point?
7. Can readers see how subject/topics in sentences in a section are a related string of familiar characters?
Go through each of the above items and circle the areas indicated. Revise and clarify where necessary so that each segment serves a clear purpose within the whole.