Author Topic: Part 4 - Mastery of the connectives can make us write much better  (Read 7168 times)

Joe Carillo

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Timely Reacquaintance with Connectives and Discourse Markers

For 12 consecutive days from June 1 to June 12, 2020, the Forum is running a special retrospective of its comprehensive series in 2017 on the English connectives and discourse markers. These connectives—the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs, prepositions, and discourse markers—are the basic tools of English for enabling readers or listeners to navigate the sense and logic of what’s written or being spoken about. Today it will be explained and demonstrated how mastery of the connectives can make us write much better.

Part 4 - Mastery of the connectives can make us write much better

I’ll share a secret with everyone who aspires to write or speak better.

As a professional editor for quite a long time, I have come to the conclusion that most people who don’t write or speak well can’t do so mainly because they have poor mastery of the connectives. By connectives, I mean the tools of the English language that can help readers or listeners navigate the sense and logic of what’s being written or spoken about. A writer or speaker may have acquired an impressive vocabulary and an admirable grasp of many English idioms, but if they don’t have a clear grasp of how the connectives can properly link their sentences, they would likely sound or give the impression that they are scatterbrains. They would fare so badly when making an effort to share their ideas with other people. In short, they would be bad communicators.

Before anything else, however, let us first make it crystal clear what the connectives are supposed to do and why they are so important to language. They are our primary tools for helping readers or listeners navigate our thoughts—their linkages, their correlations, their jumps, their permutations, and their digressions. They are words or word groupings that explicitly signal the logical relations between clauses, between sentences, and between or across sentences and paragraphs. Indeed, they are the overt logical operators for conveying our thoughts and ideas.

It might come as a surprise to many of us who have not formally studied linguistics, but no matter how wide its interplay of ideas, all writing or speech deals with only six basic logical relationships. They are (1) the additive relationship, (2) the comparative relationship, (3) the temporal or time relationship, (4) the reason-result relationship, (5) the conditional relationship, and (6) the example relationship. To establish these relationships, the primary logical operators in the English language are what I have already discussed in my preceding three columns: the coordinating conjunctions, the subordinating conjunctions, and the conjunctive adverbs.


Let’s take a look at what each of these six basic logical relationships does in both written or spoken language:

Additive relationship. It clarifies ideas by adding information similar to what the writer or speaker has already mentioned. The addition can be done between ideas within a sentence, between sentences, and between paragraphs.

Comparative relationship. It clarifies an idea by either (a) presenting another idea dissimilar it, or (b) contrasting two things or ideas by highlighting the difference rather than the similarity between them.

Temporal or time relationship. It establishes the sequence, duration, or perceived immediacy of two or more events as they happen in time.

Causal or reason-result relationship. It shows that certain effects, outcomes, or consequences are the results of certain causes or reasons.

Conditional relationship. It establishes either (a) that the truth or correctness of an idea is dependent on a certain condition or set of conditions, or (b) that a certain outcome can be expected as a result of another condition or even; and

Example relationship. It clarifies ideas by giving concrete examples of what is being talked about.

We have already made a quick review of how the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs work to establish these logical relationships. We saw that these connectives actually offer us several grammatical and structural options depending on the type of composition or utterance we are doing , our intent or purpose for doing it, and the tone or voice we want to achieve.

But then we come to a very important question: When there’s a choice, which of the coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs do we use to link particular ideas? We will take up the dynamics of choosing the most appropriate connectives or conjunctions next week.

(Next: Part 5 - Choosing the right connectives for our ideas - 1)      May 5, 2020
« Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 03:23:07 AM by Joe Carillo »