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A text is made up of a series of connected clauses and sentences, following one another. Coherence and cohesion are basic requirements if the writer’s thoughts are to be presented in an organized manner. As Williams (1988) rightly states: “one group of words that helps them cohere are called signpost words”. For instance, in the statement: “You can come with us or…” We cannot say the exact words that are to follow but the signpost word or indicates the type of information we should expect. Thus, the function of a signpost word is to tell us the type of information that comes next.

Signpost words are also referred to as connectives; they serve as links to the various ideas or sentences in the text. Below are some of the commonly used ones with their functions preceding them. For ease of study, they have been tabulated.

Note: Some signpost words serve different functions in different contexts. It is best to identify their functions in specific sentences.

1. Inference (expresses an inference from what has been implied in the preceding sentence(s).)
If so, that implies, then, in that case, in other words, otherwise, and. 
2. Exemplification (indicates that what follows is an illustration of what has been stated.)
For example, for instance, by way of illustration, say, such as, including, especially.
3. Enumeration (indicates listing, item by item, cataloguing of something just mentioned)
First(ly), second(ly), furthermore, finally, above all, first and foremost, most importantly.
4. Result (expresses the result or consequence of the information or argument in the preceding sentence(s).
So, therefore, as a result, then, thus, as a consequence, hence, for this/that reason, because of this or that, accordingly.
5. Contrast (indicates a contrast or change of thought/idea from that contained in the preceding sentence(s).
On the contrary, by (way of) contrast, in comparison, on the other hand, then, conversely, instead.
6. Apposition (indicates reference to previous sentence(s).
And, as follows, or, rather, or better, that is, namely, in other words, that is to say.
7. Reformulation (used to restate information that has just been given, but in a different and simpler form to aid comprehension).
In other words, in that case, to put it simply, better, rather, better put/stated.
8. Replacement (indicates an alternative to what was stated in preceding sentence(s)
Alternatively, or, again, rather, better/worse (still), on the other hand, another possibility would be, an/the alternative is.
9. Concession (indicates a change in the line of reasoning. It warns the reader that something surprising or unexpected is about to be said, in view of what was said earlier).
However, besides, else, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, only, still, at any rate, in spite of, despite that, even if/though, all the same.
10. Addition (indicates the development of ideas/facts already given by presenting additional information).

Also, furthermore, again, moreover, what is more, in addition, besides, above all, then.

11. Summation (shows a summing-up or generalization of what has preceded). Indicates an end to the line of reasoning.

In conclusion, to conclude, to sum up briefly, in brief, to summarise, overall, then, therefore, thus.


(a) in fact: precedes specific information to support a more general and broader information just given.

(b) meanwhile: indicates a reference to an event that takes place at the time the preceding event occurred.

(c) of course: is used to remind the reader that what is being stated is something he already knows or assumes.

Signpost words are, clearly, an indispensable feature of good writing. When properly used, they help to effectively communicate the writer’s thoughts or ideas to readers. Also, they liven up a text and at the same time create cohesion.

Further Reading: Byrne, D. 1982. pp. 122-6.

Source: Brown, F. A. (2003). English for Tertiary Education. Pp. 12 – 15.

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