Thursday, September 26, 2013

5 Techniques for Connecting One Paragraph to Another

So you're going along, writing your textbook chapter or essay or, I dunno, bestselling novel, when you come to end of a complete section of content. You've said all you want to say about it.

Now what?

How do you get from the end of that section to a new section of content smoothly, so the reader isn't jarred out of her seat with an annoying non sequitur?

Here are five techniques to build a bridge from one paragraph to another, a bridge as strong as the Rialto in beautiful, downtown Venice.

[Note: We'll use the terms last paragraph and new paragraph to describe the two ends of the content bridge.]

#1 Define a word

If you introduced a term at the end of the last paragraph, define it in the next one. This technique is among the easiest and smoothest to use, but it works only if you need to introduce a new term.

#2 Repeat a word

Read the last paragraph or two and see if there is a word or short phrase that seems to carry the weight of the concepts you're trying to get across. Then use those same words in the new paragraph to relate the previous concept to the new one.

#3 Use a heading

Headings can be a great way to bridge that gap between concepts or chunks of content. Textbooks actually require headings to break up the text and help the reader perceive the hierarchy of content.

Headings are also useful and common in magazine, journal, and even academic essays. (For more on crafting a heading, see "Working with Headings.)

#4 Pull a switcheroo

When you need to change directions quickly, pull the ol' switcheroo. (That's really not the name, but I like it better.)

The switcheroo involves the mention of the concept covered in the last paragraph and switching to an opposite or otherwise contradictory concept in the new paragraph. Here are a few examples:
  • For all the advantages of using EMR software in the medical office, there exist disadvantages too.
  • As much as physicians might want to use social media, sometimes they just can't.
  • While many institutions are moving forward, others are moving backward or standing still.
  • Although too little bone calcium can cause fractures, too much bone calcium is a problem as well.

#5 Use "bridge" words

Many words and phrases, typically prepositional, can work as a key to bridging one paragraph to the next. Here's a list some of the more common bridge words:
  • along those lines
  • although
  • another (medication, test, approach, or whatever)
  • because of that
  • beyond that
  • by the way
  • even so
  • even with all that
  • except
  • however
  • in addition to
  • in contrast to
  • in spite of
  • instead of
  • it was around that time
  • rather than
  • since then
  • that's not all
  • while (this was happening, that) was also happening

If all else fails and you just can't figure out a way to bridge the last paragraph with the new one, put the whole work aside. Leave it alone for a few hours. Take a nap, ride your bike, go shopping, whatever.

When you return, I'll wager that the bridge appears before you, like magic!