Writing Center Update!

Hello, Marauders! With this busy time of the semester, we’d like to let you know about our new hours. We will be open Monday through Thursday from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM and Friday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Other than closing an hour earlier than before, everything is the same!

    • We offer in-person, online, and Zoom tutoring sessions. Schedule an appointment with us through Starfish (see How to Schedule an Appointment on Starfish for instructions) or feel free to drop in! Our location is McNairy Library Room 106.
    • Contact us by emailing writing.center@millersville.edu or calling (717) 871-7389.

A quick reminder on our different types of appointments: 

    • IN PERSON: This appointment is a face-to-face interaction between you and a tutor at the Writing Center, and is the most beneficial for both parties. Meeting in person allows us (the tutors) to do a better job of getting to know you, your writing style, and your writing goals and needs. This appointment is preferred if you have a lot of questions, if you have a rough draft that might need some work, or if it’s a longer paper. 
    • ZOOM: This appointment is a face-to-face interaction between you and a tutor through a screen. This is a great option for when you can’t come to the Writing Center but still want that hands-on, interactive learning experience. We will ask you to share your screen so we can take a look. Also, having your video turned on is preferred (so we can have that personal interaction) but NOT required! This appointment is preferred for the same reasons as the in-person appointment. However, since our appointments only run for about 30 minutes, you may need to schedule again if it’s a longer paper. 
    • ONLINE: This appointment requires zero face-to-face interaction. This is best if you have a shorter paper. Once you schedule the appointment through Starfish, you can email your paper to Writing.Center@millersville.edu with the name of the tutor that you made the appointment with. Make sure that your paper is attached as a Word document! Do not send a link, as most times it is inaccessible! Please make sure to specify what you need help with as well, so that we have a focus for the appointment. During an online session, we look over your paper and make comments and suggestions throughout the paper. We will then email it back to you. 

I hope this is helpful to you, and as always, happy writing!

Out with Outline, In with Wastebin

In English classes across the board, the outline is considered a vital part of the writing process. Teachers preach that without an outline, a student has nothing, there is no other way for a paper to get off the ground than by outline. The tedious process of writing out, step by step, you will say in draft number one, which leads then to draft number two, hinders creative energy necessary to progress a paper beyond its beginning stages. The outline is a plague that convinces students that their ideas are held within black and white boxes, that their ideas once written remain constant, and that their ideas are valued for their presence on paper rather than on their creation.

What is done in an outline can be done in the mind. The step-by-step approach a student takes to writing a paper can be formulated without expulsion from the mind. The ideas have the right marinate in the head where connections from one concept, to the next, to one previously unrecognized, to an overarching concept that directs the student and writer to an outcome that they initially had no conception of. When writing is put on paper, it is seen as absolute, that it is the very definition of what the writer wanted from the begging. But if we look at writing as the pursuit of defining life, the pursuit of discovering how oneself fits into the world around them, how the world around them fits in them, and how the world itself fits into the worlds of everyone else, then there is little room for absolutes besides the answer to the one question that truly matters that has yet to be solved.

Less experienced writers gravitate towards the outline for its formulaic benefits. Writing is no easy task, so to be given a structure as advised by the “supreme writer” in the room, the teacher, puts students at ease. I’ll put this idea in the form of metaphor. When moving to a new town, one considers first and foremost where they can acquire life essentials such as food, water, gas, and so on and so forth. This task is very overwhelming and requires a few days’ worth of exploration and discovery and rediscovery. By rediscovery, I mean that there may be better deals offered in one supermarket as compared to the first supermarket the person bought groceries from, or the pharmacy first chosen is located next to a ruckus inducing canning factory and the second is neighbored by a park filled with potential friends.

There is more than meets the eye, and it is up to teachers to guide their students to a place where they see writing as a reflection of the self rather than a tedious pursuit of empty endeavor.

Upcoming Writing Workshops: Hosted by the Engage for Change Journal

Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another day, another post. Today I will be advertising two upcoming writing workshops that the Engage for Change Journal is hosting. Both workshops are located in McNairy Library, Room 104, and will be held from 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM.

What is the Engage for Change Journal, you may be wondering? It is a fairly new journal on campus that seeks to identify relevant political, social, or economic issues. Who can write for the Journal? The Journal takes submissions from MU students, faculty, staff, and Lancaster community members! What kinds of articles does the Journal accept? They accept research, impact, perspective, creative pieces, reviews, and more! The deadline for submissions for the upcoming issue of the Journal isn’t until September 9th, 2024, so you’ve still got plenty of time to write about something that you’re passionate about! Check out https://blogs.millersville.edu/engageforchangejournal/ for more information!

The theme for the Journal’s 2024-2025 issue is Equity and Justice in Education. Are you interested in sharing your thoughts, opinions, informed perspectives, research findings, or creative commentaries about a topic in equity and justice in education? This coming Tuesday, 3/26, the Journal is hosting a writing workshop for interested or current authors to come meet the Journal team and work with them to help you find partners to co-author with if you’re interested in collaborating, generate ideas focused on equity and justice in education, and determine what type of article you want to write! The event is FREE and light refreshments will be provided! You can register through this link: http://tinyurl.com/march14forum. If you have more questions about the Journal or the workshops, please email engageforchangejournal@millersville.edu or follow the Journal’s Instagram (@engageforchangejournal) for more updates.

Now, where does the Writing Center come into this? Well, the Center is a perfect place for you to bring your articles for us to look at if you have any specific questions or concerns! We help at any stage of the writing process, whether that be brainstorming, drafting, revising, or working on citations. We’d love to help! Visit us any time from 1-9 PM on Monday-Thursday, and from 1-4 on Fridays. As always, happy writing!

The Writing Center’s Friendly Fued

Hey all you Writing Center Blog enthusiasts, we’re coming back at you with yet another installment. Today we will be diving deep into the history of the Carson vs. Lauryn battle for MPT, Most Prolific Tutor. This semester started with a challenge for the ages, one of a magnitude yet unseen and yet repeated, between the Chiefs of the Carson and Lauryn factions, Carson and Lauryn respectively. Tensions were high during the first tutor meeting, with straws being drawn and glares being fired, luckily, the group remained cordial, and the moment passed without conflict, at least none that could be seen. But let me tell you, as someone who was in that room, at that table, the competitive hostility was as sharp as their two minds. What started out as a friendly bet, had turned into an event, that when concluded, deserves the erection of commemorative statues.

Based on current numbers, such a statue has Lauryn planting her flag into the leatherbound spine of literary stardom while Carson desperately clings to the fraying bookmark ribbon limply hanging off the edge of the highest shelf. The leaderboard shows Lauryn with a whopping twenty-two total tutor sessions. How she was able to pull off such a feat is unknown, her critics call foul play, but her followers, who will remain unnamed for fear of collateral damage, insist upon her tutoring prowess. On the short side of the ribbon is Carson, slipping slowly but surely out of the picture, balancing upon his meager ten sessions, grasping for a second semester surge to supersede Lauryn in her quest to become the first MPT. At this point in time, the winds of change of gone still, and Carson’s futile hope for a last second push is what storm chasers would call blowing out a candle during a tornado. And this tornado, in the form of Lauryn, is not one to be trifled with.

Spring Break 2024

Hello all you Writing Center Blog readers, we are coming at you with another genre bending, time warping, phase shifting blog post. Today we’ll be looking into the not-so-distant future, Spring Break. Some call it the promised land others call it a week away; I personally call it a week to sit around and do nothing. This leads me to my next point, when there’s nothing to do, there’s something to write, so why don’t we go over a few ways to gain inspiration for that long-awaited short story or patchwork poem that has been nagging at the back of your mind. As cheesy as it is, go for a walk, there’s plenty to write about out there, surprising right. Who knows you may cross paths with another walker looking for inspiration and next thing you know you are swapping stories with your new best friend, or at least that’s how it seems, and then next thing you know you see a news report on a recent serial cereal thief on the loose and, low-and-behold, the forensic sketch even got their mole the shape of Fruit Loop right. What am I saying, the wildest thing you’ll see is a dog off the leash being tailed by their owner furious with their pup when they were the one who didn’t latch the leash properly. Even then, instant inspiration. Ask yourself, what does this remind me of, get fantastical, get realistic, get anecdotal, who cares it’s only words on a page.

Writer’s Block: How Do I Unblock It?


          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another weekly blog post from yours truly, the Writing Center. Today we’ll be talking about the dreaded problem of WRITER’S BLOCK. This is when you are trying to write something–anything–and for some reason, you simply cannot do it. You cannot figure out how to start, where to start, what to write, or maybe even why you’re even writing it in the first place. There’s a creative blockage that’s hindering your ability to write. So, what can we do about this? 

A Real Life Example from Emily, A Writing Center Tutor 

          Writer’s block can happen to anyone at any stage of their creative process. For example, the topic that my fellow blog writer, Jake, and I decided to write about this week was, obviously, writer’s block. And as I sat down to write it, I thought, “Oh, dear. What a topic to be writing about when I don’t even know what to write or how to write about it.” I started by writing the introduction, explaining what writer’s block is, the problems that it causes, etc. etc. But I didn’t really know where to go from there. So I googled it and glanced over the first results that popped up. Then I sat back and scrolled on my phone for a little (typically I would advise to NOT do this when trying to write, especially if it’s an academic paper or big project). Then I thought, “Let’s make a list. Lists are good. Lists are helpful.” I began to get over my writer’s block when I focused on breaking the big project (writing a blog post about writer’s block) into smaller pieces (such as the sections of the post, and two or three main ideas that I wanted to get across). I figured the easiest way to start was to offer at least 3-5 pieces of advice on how to deal with writer’s block. That way, I had a measurable goal that was realistic and manageable. I reminded myself that I wasn’t trying to cover EVERYTHING, but rather just some tidbits of information that I think are important and will be helpful to fellow students. So, here are the 5 helpful tips I found on how to deal with writer’s block: 

      1. Get some words onto the page (University of Illinois Springfield). Don’t wait for “inspiration to strike.” So how do you get words on the page? 
      2. Start brainstorming ideas for the topic. Pick ones that are interesting to you, or ones that you think you’d enjoy exploring further. From here, you can start outlining and coming up with main points or main ideas that you want to express (Purdue OWL). 
      3. Use visuals! Visualizing the problem and having something concrete in front of you can be a big help during the writing process (MasterClass). Use Post-It notes, circle important information, annotate, put a question mark next to something if you find yourself asking, “What does this mean?” etc. Personally, I like to highlight as I’m reading the articles that I’ve found. I’ll highlight quotes that stand out to me, or information that I think will be necessary or useful for my topic. 
      4. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WRITE THE INTRODUCTION FIRST! Sometimes writing introductions is hard. I totally understand. I like to write my body paragraphs first, because I’ve done the research, I have my quotes and evidence, and I know the topic pretty well at this point. So it’s easier to write about my main points, and once I have that, then I go back to my introduction. 
      5. Ask for help. If you still feel stuck and you don’t know what to write about, or how to narrow a topic down, or how to determine what’s important information and what’s not, go to a tutor or a teacher and ask for help! Bring your work and your ideas with you and bounce them off of another person. Having someone else present is so helpful because you can pick their brain and they can help you see the issue from a different angle and fresh perspective. 


          Oh! One more bonus tip: Put your phone in a place where you physically can’t see it or easily reach it. Put it somewhere where you have to get up and walk to get it. Seriously. Even if you do this for only 30 minutes, it can help you focus better on your work and get rid of distractions. Anyway, I hope you found these tips (and my personal experience) helpful! It may sound cliche, but the best remedy for writer’s block is to just start writing. Jot some words down on the page. Start mulling over ideas. And, of course, feel free to stop by the Writing Center for additional help! We can help you at any stage of the writing process, including brainstorming and outlining. Our hours are 1-9 PM on Mondays through Thursdays, and 1-4 PM on Fridays. With that being said, good luck and happy writing!

The Origins of In-Person, Zoom, and Online Appointments: A Story by Jake


Hello, all you Writing Center Blog Fans! We are back with another fan-freaking-tastic adventure into the inner workings of the Writing Center. From the outside, it may seem like a simple place full of exuberance and jubilee, but trust me, on the inside we put ourselves through the wringer to give you the writing support you need. For us to do our job, so that you can work towards your future job, we need to know what location is most comfortable for you to receive our help. Because of this, we put our greatest minds together and developed a three-pronged approach to conquer the art of tutoring.

Trust me, it’s as mysterious as it sounds—I still have only gathered fragments of its origin from its founders, as they travel to lands unknown when the subject is broached. Where they went was beyond me, but I hope one day I can frolic with them in the fields they permanently toil or the sea they permanently tread. And if the stars align just so, we may one day stumble through rolling green hills together and slip into an ocean as blue as the fresh morning dew. But until then, I will recount what I know of the origins of tutoring appointments here:

The Story

In-Person Appointments were the first to be discovered:

One day in a Writing Center not so far away (in fact, it’s located in the library next to the Starbucks), Tutor 001 was sitting alone clacking away, tapping their foot, and bobbing their head when they heard frantic footsteps from beyond the doorway. What could this mean, they thought, is the prophecy true? (Side note: this prophecy nonsense feels farfetched, but just go with it. Let’s just say Tutor 001 doesn’t have all their I’s dotted and T’s crossed, if you know what I mean). From the doorway, 001 heard a voice whisper, “Excuse me, I need help with a paper.” At this, 001 froze, the clacking ceased, the tapping quit, the bobbing stuck. Slowly, 001 closed their computer and turned to the doorway. Before them stood the very first In-person Appointment tutee. 001 assuredly ushered them in with a wave of their pencil-equipped hand and said, “Then you’re in the write place… you see what I did there?” The tutee, occupied with measured steps, missed the cheap pun and sank into the plastic chair next to 001. “I’m sorry I just walked in, I didn’t know where to schedule an appointment,” they whispered, with eye contact this time. At this, the look that would come to adorn 001 permanently cast over them (again, what comes next sounds like some bruhaha to me, but hey what do I know, I wasn’t there), and what they saw was a world full of picnic blankets and charcuterie boards, where people gathered in circles with homemade punch and scribbled away on personalized notebooks and spoke up for advice when struck by an impenetrable writer’s block. At this moment, 001 knew that what they said and did next would fill the first inkwell on the path to that promised land. They said, “No need to worry, I’d be happy to help you, and next time, you can schedule an appointment on a helpful tool called Starfish by selecting the In-Person session option.”

Zoom Appointments came next:

For many years, In-Person appointments were all the rage. Tutors 002-050 joined tutor 001 on the front lines and the tutee population grew exponentially. They spread their love of writing and editing everywhere they went, taking notes asking for help, and offering advice. The Tutors loved seeing their blossoming young tutees crane their necks over the shoulder of a new tutee bulb. Soon the passion for sharing carried them far and wide and, sadly, traveling back to the Writing Center (next to Starbucks) for an In-Person Appointment became a burden. With time, the essential lessons they learned from the Tutors were lost, and the tutees began offering unconstructive criticism and idolizing false cognates. The Tutors knew they had to act, but they didn’t know how. They gathered for weeks and weeks and made no headway; they were too stuck in their ways to see the answer right in front of their noses. They had met their match and needed something or someone to overcome it for them. And, lo and behold, that person was Tutee 001.

(To be honest, by now I doubt you’re reading this so I’ll just say that you can schedule Zoom appointments by clicking the Zoom check box on Starfish, which is a thirty-minute Zoom conversation with a tutor. There is also an Online appointment option, which is when you send your paper to writing.center@millersville.edu with your M#, the class that it is for, and what specifically you need help with, and we’ll leave comments and send it back to you. Please check out https://blogs.millersville.edu/writingresources/2023/04/28/scheduling-an-appointment-on-starfish/ to find out how to operate Starfish. Now, for those who’d like to keep reading, here you go).

From the first In-Person appointment, Tutee 001 knew they wanted to wander the land, spreading the wisdom bestowed upon them by Tutor 001. They never strayed from what they had heard: be calm, ask questions, lead and don’t direct, learn from the Tutee as they learn from the Tutor. In their travels, they learned what it meant to be both Tutor and Tutee; they swung their legs off the bridge lodged between the Tutors stuck in their ways and the Tutees lost in the haze. When they heard the battle cries sound from one end of the bridge at the other, they knew it was time to return to the Writing Center from which they came. It was time to toe the bridge.

To the Center they went and, upon arrival, were bombarded with disarray. Loose leaf papers were flapping in the currents sent by the air vents and red ink rivers running across the carpet, pouring out the fateful pens. There was no clacking to be heard, no sound bouncing from one bare wall to the next. Deep inside the walled fortress of the Center, Tutee 001 discovered Tutors 001-050 huddled together, quivering in their failure. They were a defeated bunch with haggard faces and still fingers and muffled moans. Tutee 001 stood in the doorway until the Tutors acknowledged the presence of one of their pupils, as they had done since the beginning. Tutee 001 declared, “You are a defeated bunch. You are weary and drained. You fear that you have failed. But defeat gives you a choice. Stay down, sprawled and subdued with inanition. Or rise up, proud and coalesced by determination. You must expand your teachings to the beat of your following. You must channel the power possessed in Zoom into your practices. You must enter the face-to-face communication digital landscape.”

At this rousing speech, Tutors 001-050 stood one by one. They raised their chins to the tarped-over skylight and watched as a corner broke its bonds and flapped in the fresh air, revealing the beaming sun.

Online Appointments came last:

One day, once the Tutors’ ranks grew beyond triple digits, the unassuming and quiet Tutor 0008 suggested an Online Appointment option be added to Starfish (cue nature sounds, opera, violin). Tutors 0001-9999 came together for the one and only meeting of the entire Tutor population. It drew crowds, stressed infrastructure, and caved bandwidth. Tutors 001-051 (minus Tutor 050, who was unfortunately lost to a printer accident), met in person. And of course, Tutee 001, spokesman for Tutees and Tutors Alike in Dignity Together in Common, sat to the right of Tutor 001 at the banquet table of the Original 50. Across from the head drilled into the wall was a gigantic screen that contained Tutors 0052-9999 in puny boxes, that rearranged themselves at will bouncing to and from as the clacking once did so long ago.

A hush fell over the room as Tutor 001 clamped their hands on the silver-plated armrests of their jeweled throne. Slowly they rose, as the chaos once made them do before, and declared, “We come together, both near and far, for the final proposition. Our methods are nearing perfection. We have become an assembly line, all both parts and tools. Today we add one last piece to our puzzle: Online Appointments. They can be selected on Starfish by the desired tutees. We will take their papers with tender hands and read as if they were to our left or right. We will pin our comments in the margins and send the paper back with a smile. We will do this, for this is our duty to the world.”

And that’s it. This was inspired by true events that happened during an unspecified time at an unspecified location. Take with you what you will, and come back next week for more Writing Center Blog fun :). Happy writing!

Some Writing Tips from Our Tutors!

Hello, Marauders! As you know, the Writing Center is here to help you with all of your writing needs, so I decided to ask around for some helpful tips and tricks—and who better to ask than our very own tutors? Sometimes we also struggle with writing. We understand it can be hard to write introductions, come up with thesis statements, figure out how to organize the paper, and everything else in between. So what are some strategies to help with these common problems? Here’s what our tutors have to say about it: 

Eden, English Writing Studies major/Anthropology minor: Getting started is the hardest part. If you can’t get started, start in the middle. Start with your body paragraphs or your supporting evidence. You don’t always have to start with your introduction or thesis. 

Anna, Secondary English Education major/Theatre minor: When you’re working on something, the most important part is writing the first draft. Because once it’s concrete, not just something in your head, you can work on improving and revising, and anything else to make it better.   

Lauryn, Secondary English Education major: You don’t have to write your paper in any specific order; you can jump around from section to section. 

Emily, English major/Writing Studies minor: After you’ve finished writing a first draft of your paper, READ YOUR PAPER OUT LOUD! After working on it for an extended period of time, it’s so easy to miss things no matter how many times you review it on your screen. Reading the paper out loud is so helpful in catching grammatical mistakes, missing punctuation, and hearing how the paper flows.  

Carson, Secondary English Education major: Always write your introductions last.  

Allison, English major/Art minor: In terms of writing advice, I think it’s really important to get into the practice of letting your peers read your work, even if it’s just like your best friend. Just letting someone else see it to review it and letting another person get another pair of eyes on it is an important part of the writing process in my opinion. 

Jake, Writing Studies major: Write a bad first draft. 

As you can see, there are lots of different approaches to writing. The important thing is to figure out what works best for you and your writing style, habits, and productivity. Writing is a process that involves a lot of different moving parts, and the journey is usually never linear. Author Akemi Dawn Bowman says, “Focus on your own journey, and try not to worry about what’s going on in the lane next to you” (“21 Authors Share One Piece of Advice for Writers”). I hope these tips and tricks from our tutors are helpful to you! As always, stop by the Writing Center for more help! We’re open Monday through Thursday from 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM and Fridays from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Feel free to drop in or better, make an appointment through Starfish (click here for instructions). Happy writing!

How To Make Your Paper Flow: Cohesion


          Hello, Marauders! If we remember from last week, we talked about how to make our paper flow by using two components called coherence and cohesion. We talked about coherence and how to achieve it (check out the post here: How to Make Your Paper Flow: Coherence). For a refresher, take a look at the terms defined below: 

        • Flow “refers to how easily a reader can get into the text. That is to say, how easily the reader moves past the text and into a reading experience where she or he [or they] is connecting with the ideas presented within the text” (Flow in Scholarly Writing). 
        • Coherence is when the reader can see that everything–ideas, evidence, argument, etc–is logically connected (The University of Auckland). 
        • Cohesion is the quality of sentences and paragraphs to “hang together” in a pleasing and clear way. 

          This week, we’ll look at cohesion and how to achieve it.

Cohesion: The Known-New Contract 

          Cohesion refers to how sentences and paragraphs connect to each other in a way that is clear and makes sense to the reader. Readers may refer to a sense of “flow” in texts with internal cohesion. When we encounter something “new,” our brains are set up to work through the new thing in terms of its relationship to what we already know. So, in a text, the reader expects the writer to make connections between the known and the new. This can be done within paragraphs and in the entire paper. 

Within paragraphs: To increase cohesion and help your reader through your paragraph, here are some things you can do to utilize the “known-new contract”:

        • All the content in your paragraph illuminates your key point/commitment sentence 
        • Repetition of key words and phrases 
        • Use of pronouns (he, she, it, they) and demonstrate adjectives (such, that, this, these, those) 
        • Use of transition words and phrase

In the piece as a whole: Your paragraphs need to “hang” together in such a way that your reader follows easily from one major “chunk” of your meaning to the next:

        • Logical progression of major ideas/chunks 
        • Transitions between chunks

To check if your paragraph has cohesion: Use a skeleton summary outline (which is a bare-bones version of your paper). For each paragraph:

        • Give a one-sentence summary 
        • Ask yourself, what job does this paragraph do? 

          This will help you to know if your paragraph does a good job of connecting ideas and thoughts in a clear way that is easy for the reader to follow and understand. 


          I hope this helps clarify what cohesion is and how to achieve it in your paper. Remember to follow the known-new contract. The goal is to connect information that readers already know to new information so it’s easier for readers to understand. As always, please feel free to visit the Writing Center for more help!

How to Make Your Paper Flow: Coherence


          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another info session! Today we’re talking about how to make our paper flow. Maybe you’ve heard your professor say, “Make sure your paper flows well!” What does that mean? Two important concepts that help increase the “flow” of a paper are coherence and cohesion. First, let’s define what these three terms mean. 

        • Flow “refers to how easily a reader can get into the text. That is to say, how easily the reader moves past the text and into a reading experience where she or he [or they] is connecting with the ideas presented within the text” (Flow in Scholarly Writing). 
        • Coherence is when the reader can see that everything–ideas, evidence, argument, etc–is logically connected (The University of Auckland). 
        • Cohesion is the quality of sentences and paragraphs to “hang together” in a pleasing and clear way. 

          When your paper has coherence and cohesion, it flows. It’s organized, it’s logical, and most importantly, it’s easy to follow and understand. This week, we’ll talk about coherence. Next week, we’ll look at cohesion. So, let’s take a look at coherence and how we can achieve it. 

Coherence: The Topic Chain  

          A great strategy to help you determine if you’re using coherence or not is something called the topic chain. BYU Writing Center offers some great insight into what the topic chain is and how to use it. 

        1. Topics are crucial because they focus a reader’s attention on a particular idea toward the beginning of each clause. 
        2. These ideas provide thematic signposts that focus your reader’s attention on a set of well-defined of connected ideas.
        3. If a sequence of topics seems coherent, that sequence will move your reader through a paragraph from a coherent point of view. 
        4.  But if your topics shift randomly, then your reader has to begin each sentence out of context, from no coherent point of view. 

          For example, take a look at the paragraph below, taken from David Herbert Donald’s book Lincoln. New York: Touchstone, 1995. Word Works: Learning through Writing at Boise State University. Number 97, March 1999. Published by the BSU Writing Center. 

 [1] Returning to Indiana, Lincoln dutifully handed over his earnings to his father, but he began to spend more and more time away from home. [2] The village of Gentryville lay about a mile and a half away, and he liked to go there and occasionally help out at James Gentry’s store or work with John Baldwin, the local blacksmith. [3] All the young men who were about to come of age and were restless in the narrow society of southern Indiana gathered about him, because he was always full of talk and plans and jokes and tricks. 

          This is not hard to read, but it is harder than it should be. Notice how the beginning of each sentence pulls the reader’s attention off to a different topic: “Lincoln handed over his earnings,” “The village of Gentryville,” “All the young men.” The reader has to wait to find out what sentences 2 and 3 have to do with the theme of Lincoln’s restlessness, the theme being set up in sentence 1. When this happens, your reader will feel dislocated, disoriented, and out of focus. 

          Abe Lincoln should be the topic of each sentence. By rewriting, we get: 

[1] Returning to Indiana, Lincoln dutifully handed over his earnings to his father, but he began to spend more and more time away from home. [2] He liked to go to the village of Gentryville, about a mile and a half away, where he occasionally helped out at James Gentry’s store, and he worked sometimes with John Baldwin, the local blacksmith. [3] As always, he was full of talk and plans and jokes and tricks, and he gathered about him all the young men who were about to come of age and were restless in the narrow society of southern Indiana. 

          Notice that Abe Lincoln is now the topic of each sentence: “Lincoln dutifully handed over his earnings,” “He liked to go to the village,” “He was full of talk…”. Every sentence is connected logically to one another by the subject, Abe Lincoln. Readers no longer have to wait to find out what sentences 2 and 3 have to do with sentence 1. BYU Writing Center states that you must provide your readers with a coherent point of view, with a logical continuity that will guide them not only through individual sentences but through whole paragraphs. 


          I hope that helps clarify what coherence is and how to achieve it! For overall coherence, all of your main points and ideas should make logical sense and connect to one another. The topic chain helps focus the reader’s attention on a particular topic throughout the entire paragraph and keeps your paper organized throughout. As always, feel free to stop by the Writing Center (Mon-Thurs 1-9 PM and Friday 1-4 PM) for more help! Happy writing!