Flow, Coherence, Unity are stylistic terms used by people to describe

  • how well a rhetor develops a single topic before moving on to a new topic
  • how well a rhetor relates 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
  • how well focused the rhetor is on a topic of interest to the audience.

When people read or listen to others, they expect the various elements of a rhetor’s discourse (e.g., genre, rhetorical appeals and options, sections, paragraphs, and sentence) to relate to one another as well as the rhetor’s purpose, thesis, and research question.

A text may be called unified

  • when a rhetor maintains the focus to a specific topic throughout the text, no matter how long the text is;
  • when the rhetor only introduces substantive evidence that relates to the thesis, purpose, research question;
  • when the rhetor stays on the same topic rather than flipping from topic to topic, helter skelter.

A text may be described as coherent

  • when the rhetor employs organizational schema that enable a reader or listener to discern how words, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs relate to one another and the overall topic.

A text may be said to have flow

  • when it is unified and coherent.


  • unity is used to describe a text’s organizational schema from a global perspective
  • coherence is used to discern a text’s organizational schema from a local perspective.
  • flow is used to assess either unity or coherence, either global or local perspectives.

A writer, speaker, knowledge worker . . . who flips from topic to topic without developing any one particular topic may be critiqued for

A writer who develops specific ideas or parts of a story without relating those ideas to or parts to one another is said to have poor logical flow.

How can writers create flow, coherence, and unity?

Rhetors employ transitional devices and organizational schemas to develop unified, coherent texts:

  1. Between words, rhetors use parallel grammatical structures.
    • For instance, writers my employ a verb, noun, or prepositional series.
  2. Between sentences, paragraphs, and sections, rhetors use transitional devices that highlight the logical connections between ideas.
    1. Transitional devices include
      1. repetition of words at the beginning of a sentence that were used in the previous sentence
      2. metalanguage–i.e, transitional language that explain relationships between ideas or words
  3. At the global level, rhetors use genre conventions, modes of discourse, common methods for developing paragraphs. organizational patterns.

Metalanguage refers to language that helps writers explain relationships between ideas or words that explain how texts are presented. Use metalanguage to help your readers understand your organization and reasoning. Clarify logical relationships, temporal relationships, and spatial relationships by using metalanguage.

Phrases like “for example,” “as a result,” and “therefore” are examples of metalanguage. Like an impatient TV watcher clicking through hundreds of channels, readers tend to be impatient, always ready to put their work aside.

As a result, throughout a document, you must ensure that readers will understand how different ideas relate to one another. You don’t want your readers to ask

  • “So what?”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “Jeez, just what is this text about?”
  • “What’s going on in the world today?” i.e., tangential thoughts.

Successful writers attempt to be sensitive to their readers’ likely responses to their documents. Just as writers commonly summarize their message in their introductions, highlighting its significance, writers frequently repeat their main ideas throughout a document, reminding readers of what’s been discussed, what will follow, and how new information relates to old information. Your essay shouldn’t be a spinning top, wandering from one topic to another–not if you want readers (or a good grade), anyway. Of course, peppering your language with metadiscourse–such as “thus,” “therefore,” “consequently,” and so on–will not provide logic. By itself, metalanguage cannot provide missing logic; it merely provides the glue to help readers better understand how ideas cohere.

Below is a list of common metalanguage terms. Ideally, your ideas relate so well that you do not need extensive metalanguage.

To guide readersYou might first conclude
Please consider the possibility that
As you recallConsider now
To order ideas and structure textsTo begin…next…furthermore
First, second, third…
To place emphasisMore importantly
Without doubt
To provide examplesFor example
For instanceIn fact
In other words
To show logical connectionsIf…then
As a result
On the other hand…
In contrast
To hedgePerhaps
We may conclude
This suggest
It may seem
To summarizeIn conclusion…
To summarize
As a result
As I have demonstrated