As with speech, your writing needs to flow smoothly and logically. One paragraph needs to lead to another, so the reader can follow your chain of thought.
This might sound obvious and yet I’ll often read something that feels so disjointed it’s almost as if the paragraphs were randomly cut and pasted together.
Sometimes this happens when people try to write something based on content that was given to them – and after several hours of looking at different facts and ideas, it’s easy to lose focus of how the overall article ought to flow. Other times it’s due to people editing copy to death, where they keep shifting and moving paragraphs so much they forget all about connecting them together.
Using link words (also called transitions and signposts) allows you to connect ideas from different sentences and paragraphs so that they clearly relate to one another. These link words can either be used within a sentence or at the beginning of them.
Use a time transition
A simple way to connect paragraphs is to introduce a time element, which you can do with words such as:
- soon after
Make a new point, add description or a counterargument
A new paragraph will often add a new point or add more detail to what you’ve just written. As such, you can start paragraphs by using words such as:
- as such
- for example
- as a result
- in fact.
Make a contrasting point or counterargument
A lot of us were taught that you can’t start a sentence with but – but you can. In fact, some of the best writers in the English language do so, since it’s a great way to connect paragraphs. (You can also start sentences with and, or, for and so.)
Other words you can use to introduce a contrasting paragraph include:
- in contrast.
Be careful with pronouns
The more information you have in your writing, the more likely there’ll be a misunderstanding. For example, if you’re writing about several people and then use a pronoun such as he or she, it’ll often be unclear who you’re referring to. Remember: there’s no shame in repeating someone’s name if it’ll avoid confusion.
If you don’t want to mention someone’s name in the first paragraph – for example, if no one would know who they are – then make sure it becomes clear later in the article who you’re talking about. For example:
Apples contain far more pesticides than previously thought, a leading scientist claimed yesterday.
The scientist, Bertrand Ferhoffle from the University of Balaclava, said you should always buy organic apples if possible.
In this case, the repetition of the word scientist in the second paragraph helps makes it clear who Bertrand Ferhoffle is.
Read your copy out loud
My final tip is this: read your copy out loud. If what you write doesn’t sound natural or flow well, then you need to fix it.
Learn more by enrolling in the Writing Essentials online course
Study at your own pace, whenever and wherever you want.
Taught by a former newspaper editor and journalist, this course is suited for anyone who wants to improve their writing – whether it’s for marketing, journalism, blogging or PR. It’s also ideal for those who want to improve their general writing skills.
It teaches all the basics, including:
- how to write in the active voice
- how to use positive language
- using the right tone of voice and style
- cutting copy
- making your intros stronger
- writing in plain English
- how to write in the inverted pyramid style
- top 10 news criteria (what makes a story interesting)
- frontloading content
- grammar and punctuation
- proofreading tips
- writing great headlines.
Fun and practical, this course is filled with plenty of exercises to allow you to put theory into practice.
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