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Signal Words

In order to be able to lead your reader in the direction you want to go, you will have to use strong transitions in your writing. You can do that in several ways: by using entire sentences to connect one thought to another, entire paragraphs to give more background information, or simply a word or two to indicate your intentions.

This list of signals is from The New Reading Teacher's Book of Lists, 1985 Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. By E. Fry, D. Fountoukidis, and J. Polk.

1. Continuation Signals (Warning—there are more ideas to come):

and also another again and finally
first of all A final reason furthermore in addition last of all
moreover likewise more moreover next
one reason other secondly similarly too

2. Change-of-direction signals (Watch out—we’re doubling back):

although but conversely despite different from
even though however in contrast instead of in spite of
nevertheless otherwise the opposite on the contrary on the other hand
rather still yet while though

 3. Sequence signals (There is an order to these ideas): 

first, second, third A, B, C in the first place for one thing then
next before now after while
into (far into the night) until last during since
always O’clock on time later earlier

 4. Illustration signals (Here’s what that principle means in reality): 

for example specifically for instance to illustrate such as
much like in the same way as similar to    

 5. Emphasis signals (This is important): 

a major development it all boils down to a significant factor most of all a primary concern
most noteworthy key feature more than anything else a major event pay particular attention to
a vital force remember that a central issue should be noted a distinctive quality
the most substantial issue above all the main value especially important the basic concept
especially relevant the crux of the matter especially valuable the chief outcome important to note
the principal item        

 6. Cause, condition, or result signals (Condition or modification coming up): 

because if of for from
so while then but that
until since as whether in order that
so that therefore unless yet thus
due to resulting from consequently    

 7. Spatial signals (Answers the “where” question): 

between on by here there
left right these close to near
this side middle west beside
east about north south around
over under away in front of across
into behind toward beyond above
below opposite upon outside upon
outside inside alongside over out
far in adjacent near next to

 8. Comparison-contrast signals (We will now compare idea A with idea B): 

and or also too best
most either less less than more than
same better even then half
much as like analogous to but different from
still yet however although opposite
rather while though    

 9. Conclusion signals (This ends the discussion and may have special importance): 

as a result consequently finally from this we see in conclusion
in summary hence last of all therefore  

 10. Fuzz signals (Idea not exact, or author to positive and wishes to qualify a statement): 

almost if looks like maybe could
some except should alleged nearly
might reputed seems like was reported purported
sort of probably      

 11.           Non-word emphasis signals 

exclamation point (!) underline italics bold type subheads, like The Conclusion
indention of paragraph graphic illustrations numbered points (1,2,3) very short sentence: Stop War. “quotation marks”