Different Meaning of Coherence and Cohesion

by Mike Tam
(Cebu, Philippines)

Is it possible that an essay is coherent but not cohesive? and vice versa. How?

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Jan 20, 2018
Different Meaning of Coherence and Cohesion
by: IELTS buddy


In theory you could have one without the other to an extent, as this is one definition from the internet:

Coherence is based more on the logic of the ideas and how they are presented rather than on the language that is used to express these ideas. "Cohesion" refers to the degree to which sentences (or even different parts of one sentence) are connected so that the flow of ideas is easy to follow.

Or another definition:

Basically, coherence refers to the "rhetorical" aspects of your writing, which include developing and supporting your argument (e.g. thesis statement development), synthesizing and integrating readings, organizing and clarifying ideas. The cohesion of writing focuses on the "grammatical" aspects of writing.

So in other words, coherence is to do with the ideas and support you come up with and the way you present them - do you organise them in a way that makes sense and is logical.

Cohesion, on the other hand, is the language you are using to achieve that. For example, linking words such as 'however', 'and' etc.

So someone in theory could have clear logical ideas, but mess up with their linking words.

But realistically it's unlikely someone will do well in one but badly in the other, because as you can see they will likely end up very interconnected. In order to present your ideas in a logical and clear way you'd need to use the right connecting devices, and if you mess up with those, your ideas will probably be difficult to follow.

That is why they are placed together in the marking as they are really part of the same thing.

Certainly examiners are unlikely to be distinguishing between the two terms when they mark an essay.

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