Have you ever read a paragraph that felt disjointed or choppy?
By choppy, we mean the sentence order was discombobulated; ideas bumped into each other rather than supported each other, and you might have found yourself rereading to see if you missed something. In short, it was a mess, and you likely encountered a paragraph that didn’t flow.
A paragraph that doesn’t flow can make a piece of writing difficult to read. But not to worry, we’ve got tips on how to avoid (and fix) this issue. The key to writing that flows is logical sentence order.
Why are sentences that flow important?
A logical sentence order presents your argument clearly. If you’re writing fiction, flowing sentences help your reader follow the narrative and understand the plot. That said, there are instances where authors “break the rules” for stylistic purposes in creative writing, particularly in poetry.
But when you’re doing any kind of academic or business writing, flow is critical to your reader’s understanding of your writing. When readers can easily understand your position or how you arrived at a conclusion, it strengthens your position and signals that you’re an authority on the topic.
Effective flow also makes your writing more enjoyable to read. Because your readers don’t have to stop, think about how the sentences fit together, then pick back up and try to decipher what you’re communicating, they can become more immersed in your writing and spot the larger themes at play. Of course, paragraphs are composed of sentences, which makes sentence order a critical part of writing that flows.
What is sentence order?
Sentence order is the sequence sentences follow. It’s also the key to flow because writing that unfolds in a logical order communicates the relationships between the ideas being presented. Sometimes, these relationships are hierarchical—which can also be shown through sentence order.
There are a few ways to order sentences.
First, you need to be accepted into the program. Then, you’re required to meet with your adviser to discuss your academic goals. After you’ve met with them, you’re allowed to choose a concentration.
Another sentence-order strategy is listing ideas based on their significance.
Order of importance:
Only students in good standing are considered for admission. Preference is given to students with at least a 3.5 grade point average. Additionally, positive faculty recommendations can improve a student’s chance of being accepted into the program.
The most effective sentence order depends on the type of writing you’re doing. For example, the best sentence order for an opinion essay might group related ideas together to show how they intersect and form your opinion’s basis.
Group ideas to bolter a thesis:
Composting bins are the garbage cans of the future. Consumers are beginning to reject non-compostable packaging. Gardening is gaining popularity as a source of food cultivation. And public information on the release of methane from food waste is influencing what people feel comfortable throwing out.
In an analytical essay, an effective approach might be to use a cause-and-effect sentence order.
Cause and effect:
While you might think that adding lanes to freeways with heavy traffic would reduce congestion, the opposite is true. Research shows that when a highway expands capacity, vehicle usage rises, canceling the benefit. In contrast, a deeper investment in bike lanes reduces traffic congestion, as more people feel safe biking to their destination instead of driving.
In a lot of writing, it’s easier to recognize poor flow than good flow because effective flow is “invisible.” In other words, when sentences flow together well, readers move through the text seamlessly.
Signs of a poorly constructed sentence:
- Abrupt content or tone pivots
- Text that jumps around
- Sentences that introduce confusing or redundant information
- Information that feels like it’s out of order
Here’s an example passage:
Once you’re in the program, you need to maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0. Most of the students in this program are full-time students and live on campus. To get into the program, you need to be in good academic standing, have a 3.5 GPA, and have recommendations from faculty.
Awkward, right? Strong paragraphs with effective flow usually include transition sentences that demonstrate the relationships between the other sentences. These sentences contain transition words, which communicate relationships. Here are a few examples of transition words:
- Above all
In most cases, when structuring a transition sentence, you’d place the transition word at either the beginning or the end.
How to ensure sentences are in logical order
As you craft your outline, think about how you want your writing to flow. Under each heading, list your sentence order for that section. You don’t necessarily have to write out each sentence, but note the sequence you’ll follow when introducing and supporting ideas. As you do this, determine whether each sentence prepares readers for the next sentence. When you reach one that doesn’t, think about the relationship between those sentences.
- Are you introducing two chronological events?
- Does the next sentence offer a contrast with the one that came before it?
- Does the second sentence expand on your point in the first sentence?
Once the relationship is clear, drop in an appropriate transition sentence to clue in your readers.
As you write your first draft, refer to your outline regularly to ensure your writing isn’t meandering from your thesis statement. In effective writing, every sentence ultimately supports the thesis statement. When you edit your work, look for sentences that are not related to the thesis statement or don’t add any new information. These sentences are likely redundant or irrelevant and can be removed.
Sentences in logical order examples
Look at the two example paragraph pairs below to see how you can revise your writing to improve its flow. Pay close attention to things like sentence starters, transition sentences, and the paragraphs’ structures.
Four of us will work on the project, and it’s due by the end of the month. Our manager wants an analysis of website traffic from the past year. I work better individually, but this will be a collaborative effort. We have to determine the best tools for finding and studying the data.
Our manager wants an analysis of website traffic from the past year. The four of us will work collaboratively on the project. The first order of business is to determine the best tools for finding and studying the data. The project is due at the end of the month.
I love seeing my students improve their skills. I want to become a teacher after I graduate. When students ask for help, I stay after class with them to work one-on-one even though I don’t get paid for tutoring.
I want to become a teacher after I graduate. When students ask for help, I stay after class with them to work one-on-one. I do this because even though I don’t get paid for tutoring, I love seeing my students improve their skills.
Keys to sentences that flow
Sentences that flow are ones you put in logical order in support of a thesis or idea.
- Create a paragraph outline to stay on topic
- Order your sentences based on their relationship, such as chronology, order of importance, compare and contrast, and cause and effect
- Use transition words to demonstrate the relationship between sentences
- Eliminate redundant or unnecessary sentences
- Fix run-on sentences