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Crossman’s Crash Course for Writing with Style – Step Two: Linkages

Have you ever noticed that some written documents seem to flow more smoothly than others? While there are a number of factors at work, one of the most important is the strength of the writer’s linkages.

I define a linkage as the small piece of geography that steers the ending of one sentence or paragraph into the beginning of the next one. You want that nexus point to be as natural, normal and unobtrusive as possible – in a way, you want to turn the spaces between your sentences and paragraphs into tiny little bridges your readers can easily cross.

I use a number of techniques to do this and here are some of my favourites:


A conjunction is a word that joins two parts of a sentence and they’re invaluable!  There are many conjunctions available to us but here are a few you probably already know:

  • After
  • Although
  • As
  • As long as
  • As soon as
  • Because
  • Before
  • If
  • Since
  • Than
  • Unless
  • Until
  • Whenever
  • While

While conjunctions are useful in the middle of a sentence, they are just as helpful for starting a new sentence or paragraph. As long as you do so as gracefully as possible. Although some grammarians might quibble with the idea, I find that whenever I’m stuck for a “bridge” to my next sentence or paragraph, I will often pull out a conjunction and go from there. (Just as I’ve done in this paragraph.)

Refer to a previous thought.

Conjunctions aren’t always the perfect way to start a new paragraph, however, and sometimes it’s helpful to take an idea from a previous paragraph and use it as a springboard to catapult readers towards a new topic. (As I’ve done here.) Readers won’t give it a second thought.

Or will they?

Asking questions is also a good way to move the document into new territory.

Use interpretive comments.

They’re easy and authoritative, e.g., “What that means is that …” or “At first blush that might sound confusing but….”

Play with time.

Most people tend to have either a past or a future orientation and it’s rare to find an individual who is comfortable with both. That being said, we all understand both concepts and I capitalize on this understanding of time as a “flow” when I’m writing. For example, I might start a sentence or paragraph by saying “While that might have been true in the past, these days things are changing.” Or “New ideas like that are great but they haven’t always created a proven track record. “

Miscellaneous helper phrases.

I have a few stock phrases that I also keep on hand for those moments of terror when my mind goes blank and I can’t think of what to say next. To help smooth out your own linkages, try one of these and see if it works for you:

  • In the meantime,
  • Here’s the thing:
  • For the record,
  • Once people have …
  • The opportunities are …

It may take a while to get the hang of using all these different techniques linking different parts of your paragraph or document but they’ve all worked for me at various times in the past and I’m always on the lookout for more. If you know of any, please comment below and I’ll pass them along in a future blog post.

If you’re interested in reading previous articles in my series on writing with style, please check out my introductory blog post and Step One in the series, which deals with grammatical accuracy.



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