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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Test Your Essay for Connectivity

If you were to read a skilled writer’s work (in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times or New Yorker, for example), you would find articles that are characterized by “connectivity.” Simply put, a skilled writer ensures that each sentence is part of a chain—each sentence depends on the previous one and necessitates the next. With this linkage in place, the central idea is constantly moving forward, giving the story a natural flow and making it easy to follow. Although you do not need to write at the same level as a professional journalist, you should still embrace this concept, because it is central to excellent essay writing. With a “connected” essay, you will grab and hold your reader’s attention.

You can test your essay’s connectivity by removing a sentence from one of your paragraphs. If the central idea in the paragraph still makes complete sense, then odds are you have superfluous language, are not advancing the story effectively and should revise your draft.

Try this exercise with a random selection from the New York Times:

“For many grocery shoppers, the feeling is familiar: that slight swell of virtue that comes from dropping a seemingly healthful product into a shopping cart. But at one New England grocery chain, choosing some of those products may induce guilt instead. The chain, Hannaford Brothers, developed a system called Guiding Stars that rated the nutritional value of nearly all the food and drinks at its stores from zero to three stars. Of the 27,000 products that were plugged into Hannaford’s formula, 77 percent received no stars, including many, if not most, of the processed foods that advertise themselves as good for you. These included V8 vegetable juice (too much sodium), Campbell’s Healthy Request Tomato soup (ditto), most Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen dinners (ditto) and nearly all yogurt with fruit (too much sugar).”

If you were to delete any of these sentences, you would create complete confusion for the reader, proving that each sentence is connected and vital!




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