What is Flow?
Flow refers to
- the logical coherence of a text, a sense of organization, a sense that the text uses the best organizational schema given the complexities of the rhetorical situation
- the sense that new information/data is woven into a text in ways that make logical and rhetorical sense
- the sense a writer, speaker, knowledge worker . . . or a reader, listener, or user . . . may feel when a text is developed, organized, and presented as it should be
- a sense of the gestalt, of realized felt sense
Additionally, the term flow may refer to writer’s writing process. Writers speak of being in the flow when their thoughts are flowing, when the story is telling itself.
Related Concepts: Composing, Writing, Drafting; Felt Sense
Types of Flow
Macro Flow (aka the global level)
Writers, speakers, knowledge workers create flow at the macro level by
- keeping a focus on a specific, focused message, thesis, hypothesis, research question.
- using the genres, grammars, mechanics, research methods, citation styles, conventions, rhetorical moves, commonplace organizational schemas, and media of particular audiences and discourse communities.
Micro Flow (aka the local level)
Discussions of flow at the local level concerns how writers use cadence, sentence patterns, sentence structures, sentence types, grammar, and mechanics to keep readers on track.
Sentence structure — syntax — strongly influences flow and tone at the sentence level. Writers vary sentence structure to create rhythm, emphasis, and balance.
Related Concepts: Clarity; Felt Sense; Gestalt; Global Perspective; Organization; Thesis; Rhetorical Moves; Research Question; Simplicity Local Perspective; Organizational Schema; Structured Revision
Why Does Flow Matter?
Flow — along with brevity, simplicity, and unity — is an essential element of successful communication.
Readers, listeners, users . . . need writers to organize information/data so they know why they are being told what they’re being told. This is why it’s so commonplace for writers to use rhetorical moves, organizational scenarios, and a deductive order: they want to avoid confusion, ambiguity, and loss of the reader’s attention.
- a style of writing that is easy to read and interpret.
- the use of different sentence structures to create rhythm, emphasis, and balance.
- the ability to set doubt aside and embrace believing when composing, a sense of momentum.
How Can I Create Flow?
Readers expect your ideas to flow easily from one thought to the next logical thought. You can make this process easier for them by maintaining a clear focus in each paragraph and by signaling the movement of your ideas with transitions and clear connections between sentences. It should be evident to your reader how each idea is connected to the last and where you’re headed next.
Flow is rooted in audience awareness. To create flow you need to understand
- what your audience knows about the topic,
- how your audience feels about the topic.
Only after you’ve engaged in robust rhetorical reasoning can you organize information for reader, moving from given to new information.
Furthermore, you can create flow
- by not flip-flopping from topic to topic;
- Rearrange the order of your sentences so that each idea connects to the others like scaffolding.
- Reword some of your sentences so that the ideas in one are linked to the ideas in the others.
- Use words like first, next, then, and finally when describing a process.
- by putting main ideas at the top; relate the following sentences to the main idea.
- by staying on message
- by using organizational schema, rhetorical moves, genres, that makes logical and rhetorical sense
- Between sentences, paragraphs, and sections, rhetors use transitional devices that highlight the logical connections between ideas.
- by developing a single topic before moving on to a new topic
- by using conventions that readers anticipate and understand
- by relating elements of discourse within a text (e.g., sentences or paragraphs) to other elements of discourse within the same text (i.e., other sentences or paragraphs) and the topic, thesis, research question, story that drives the discourse.
- Edit for Flow
- Jauss, David. “What Writers Mean by Flow.” Writer’s Digest. 6/1/2001