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Lessons on Cohesion Part II: Pronouns and Repetition

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Adapted from Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln (3rd ed.)


We can make our writing more cohesive by either (1) using pronouns (like he, she, we, it, him, her, this, that, these, those) to refer back to people, things, or ideas in the preceding sentence (antecedents), OR (2) purposefully repeating words or phrases from previous sentences.

Notice the way Abraham Lincoln uses both methods in this portion of the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

Notice, too, that for the most part Lincoln uses specific nouns with his demonstrative pronouns for further clarity and cohesion (e.g., “that nation,” “that war,” “that field”).


1. Make the following sentences more cohesive by either using effective pronouns or repeating words or phrases from the preceding sentence. You may have to change pronouns to nouns to make the sentences clearer.

a. The Sonora Desert Museum has a fantastic snake exhibit. The Sonora Desert Museum also has many animals, including javelinas, coyotes, bears, wolves, mountain lions, and other indigenous fauna with natural habitats built into the Sonora Desert Museum’s grounds. You can also find at the Sonora Desert Museum beaver, otter, and all kinds of fish that no longer inhabit the Sonora Desert.
b. Carpenters often use a table router to make molding or picture frames. It cuts into the wood in the shape of the bit used. Sometimes they get injured because it catches the wood and it cuts their fingers off. That is something that they don’t want to do, especially if no one is around to take them to the emergency room.

2. Look at a passage of writing from your essay or from a peer’s. Revise the passage by either using effective pronouns or repeating words or phrases. Note: repetition can be redundant, as in sentence (a) above, but most of the time readers appreciate it, if it is done purposefully.