Cohesive devices: lexical

time to complete: 20 minutes

Three types of lexical cohesion

There are three different ways to make your text more cohesive using vocabulary. Click on each of them below to learn more: 

As we saw in the previous activity, we can enhance cohesion by repeating key words. 

A lexical set is a set of words that all relate to the same topic or situation, for example, words for furniture, words for describing graphs, words for describing different kinds of movement.

A lexical chain is a series of words used in a text that are linked to the same lexical field, including synonyms and related terms.

e.g. Elephants have long trunks and tusks, which distinguishes them from many other animals.

The words elephants, trunks, tusks, and animals are a lexical chain. Trunks and tusks are parts of elephants, and elephants are types of animals.

Task: read the following paragraph and take notes of the three lexical cohesive devices:

  • repeated words/ideas
  • lexical sets
  • lexical chains/including synonyms

Cohesion is an important feature of academic writing. It can help ensure that your writing coheres, which will make it easier for the reader to follow the main ideas in your essay or report. You can achieve good cohesion by paying attention to five important features. The first of these is repeated words. A second key feature is reference words. A third one is linking words. A fourth is substitution. The final important aspect is ellipsis.

Text adapted from:

Smith, S., (2019). Cohesion [online]. EAP Foundation. [Viewed 8 November 2020]. Available from:

 Now, check your answers:

Answer key:

  • cohesion (x2), coheres (from the same word family)

  • important (x3)

  • feature (x3)

  • writing (x2)

writing, reader, main ideas, essay, report, words (writing)

  • repeated words, reference words, linking words, substitution, ellipsis (types of cohesion)

  • important = key

  • feature = aspect