Coherence refers to the techniques writers use to make their sentences hang together in some logical way. Sometimes this is simply called flow. When words in sentences and sentences in sequence flow together, readers recognize their interconnections: one sentence offers a generalization and the following sentence elucidates it; one sentence sets forth a principle and the subsequent sentence lists examples of that principle in action; one sentence asserts one idea and the following sentence acknowledges a contrasting idea, and so forth. Discourse comes from the Latin term discurre, which means to run forward, and this is exactly what readers encountering several sentences must do: they must move from one sentence to the next, all the while understanding a sense of their direction as one sentence builds upon, predicts, contrasts with, exemplifies, reaffirms, another. To make sentences run smoothly along, the writer is responsible for supplying markers that signal to readers the relationship between one sentence (or one chunk of text) and another. Linguists calls the language that signals these relationships metadiscourse.
Literally “discourse about the discourse,” metadiscourse provides powerful shorthand tools for making your writing readable and for indicating various logical relationships between parts of your text. Sophisticated writing relies on metadiscourse to assist in the making of meaning. Without it, the reader is often left to infer relationships between sentences and other chunks of text—an extra step that can disrupt comprehension. We offer here an extensive list of metadiscursive signals. From time to time, it will be useful to quickly review them in order to refresh your mental lexicon of these tools. After practice, you’ll bring many of them automatically to mind.
Varieties of Metadiscourse
used to signal examples, specifics, and extensions
|called, defined as, for example, for instance, in fact, in other words, known as, namely, put another way, specifically, such as, that is, that is to say, that means, this means, which means|
used to signal sequence, order, and location
|in chapter X, in part X, in this part, finally, first of all, last, next, second, subsequently, then, to begin, to start with|
used to signal logical steps, conclusions, stages, synthesis
|all in all, at this point, by far, for the moment, in brief, in conclusion, in short, in summary, now, on the whole, overall, so far, thus far, to conclude, to repeat, to summarize|
used to signal objectives, interests, aims
|aim to, desire to, do not intend, focus on, intend to, not to say, not to suggest, objective, purpose, seek to, want to wish to, would like to|
|Shifts of Topic
used to signal changes in subject, attention, or attitude
|back to, digress, in regard to, move on to, reexamine, reinspect, resume, return to, revisit, shift to, to look more closely, turn to|
used to signal links, repetitions, contraries, additions
|accordingly, additionally, again, also, alternatively, although, and, as a consequence, as a result, at the same time, besides, but, by contrast, by the same token, consequently, equally, even though, further, furthermore, however, in addition, in contrast, in the same way, leads to, likewise, moreover, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, rather, result in, similarly, since, so, so as to, still, the result is, thereby, therefore, though, thus, whereas, while, yet|
used to delimit, modify, temper, indicate degree, etc.
|about, almost, apparently, appears, approximately, arguably, around, as far as can be discerned, as far as I can see, assumed, broadly, certain amount, certain extent, certain level, claimed, claims, doubtful, essentially, estimated, fairly, feels frequently, from my perspective, from this perspective, generally, indicated, in general, in many cases, in most cases, in my opinion, in my view, in this view, largely, likely, mainly, may, maybe, might, mostly, often, on the whole, perhaps, plausibly, presumably, probably, quite, rather, relatively, roughly, seems, sometimes, somewhat, somewhat, suggests, supposes, surmises, suspects, tends to, to my knowledge, typically, usually|