Writing Paragraphs Signalling

Academic Writing

Writing paragraphs


Every paragraph has a structure. It is not just a random collection of sentences. The parts that make up the text are related in meaningful ways to each other.

It is the responsibility of the writer in English to make it clear to the reader how various parts of the paragraph are connected. These connections can be made explicit by the use of different signalling words.

For example, if you want to tell your reader that your line of argument is going to change, make it clear.

The Bristol 167 was to be Britain’s great new advance on American types such as the Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-6, which did not have the range to fly the Atlantic non-stop. It was also to be the largest aircraft ever built in Britain.  However, even by the end of the war, the design had run into serious difficulties.

If you think that one sentence gives reasons for something in another sentence, make it explicit.

While an earlier generation of writers had noted this feature of the period, it was not until the recent work of Cairncross that the significance of this outflow was realized. Partly this was because the current account deficit appears much smaller in current (1980s) data than it was thought to be by contemporaries.

If you think two ideas are almost the same, say so.

Marx referred throughout his work to other systems than the capitalist system, especially those which he knew from the history of Europe to have preceded capitalism; systems such as feudalism, where the relation of production was characterized by the personal relation of the feudal lord and his serf and a relation of subordination which came from the lord’s control of the land. Similarly, Marx was interested in slavery and in the classical Indian and Chinese social systems, or in those systems where the ties of local community are all important.

If you intend your sentence to give extra information, make it clear.

He is born into a family, he marries into a family, and he becomes the husband and father of his own family. In addition, he has a definite place of origin and more relatives than he knows what to do with, and he receives a rudimentary education at the Canadian Mission School.

If you are giving examples, do it explicitly.

This has sometimes led to disputes between religious and secular clergy, between orders and bishops. For example, in the Northern context, the previous bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Philbin, refused for most of his period of leadership in Belfast to have Jesuits visiting or residing in his diocese.

NB: Remember that in all cases, you are showing your position towards the relationships in the text. You are interpreting the world, not simply descrobing it. As Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad and Finegan (1999, p. 875) point out, the function of these signalling words is to “state the writer’s perception of the relationship between two units of discourse”.

Signalling words

1. Time/order

at first, eventually, finally, first, firstly, in the end, in the first place, in the second place, lastly, later, next, second, secondly, to begin with

2. Comparison/similar ideas

in comparison, in the same way, similarly

3. Contrast/opposite ideas

but, despite, in spite of, even so, however, in contrast, in spite of this, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, whereas, yet

4. Cause and effect

accordingly, as a consequence, as a result, because, because of this, consequently, for this reason, hence, in consequence, in order to, owing to this, since, so, so that, therefore, thus

5. Examples

for example, for instance, such as, thus, as follows

6 Generalisation

as a rule, for the most part, generally, in general, normally, on the whole, in most cases, usually

7. Stating the obvious

after all, as one might expect, clearly, it goes without saying, naturally, obviously, of course, surely

8. Attitude

admittedly, certainly, fortunately, luckily, oddly enough, strangely enough, undoubtedly, unfortunately

9. Summary/conclusion

finally, in brief, in conclusion, in short, overall, so, then, to conclude, to sum up

10. Explanation/equivalence

in other words, namely, or rather, that is to say, this means, to be more precise, to put it another way

11. Addition

apart from this, as well as, besides, furthermore, in addition, moreover, nor, not only…but also, too, what is more

12. Condition

in that case, then

13. Support

actually, as a matter of fact, in fact, indeed

14. Contradiction

actually, as a matter of fact, in fact

15. Emphasis

chiefly, especially, in detail, in particular, mainly, notably, particularly


1. Time/order

At first

At first the freemen of both town and country had an organization and a type of property which still retained something of the communal as well as something of the private, but in the town a radical transformation was taking place.


Eventually the group did manage to buy some land in a village not far from London, but the project had to be abandoned when the villagers zoned their land against agricultural use.


Finally, there have been numerous women altogether outside the profession, who were reformers dedicated to creating alternatives.


First I went to see the editor of the Dispatch.


There are two reasons.Firstly I have no evidence whatever that the original document has been destroyed.

In the end

In the end, several firms undertook penicillin production on a massive scale, but hardly any ever came to Florey himself for the clinical trials which he was desperate to extend.

In the first place/in the second place

If we try to analyse the conception of possession, we find two elements. In the first place, it involves some actual power of control over the thing possessed. In the second place, it involves some intention to maintain that control on the part of the possessor.


Lastly, we may notice that even a wrongful possession, if continued for a certain length of time, matures into what may be, for practical purposes, indistinguishable from ownership.


Later she went up to the office.


Next, I’d like to show you some pictures.


And second, this kind of policy does not help to create jobs.


He was first of all an absolute idiot, and secondly he was pretty dishonest.

To begin with

To begin with, the ratio between attackers and defenders was roughly the same.

2. Comparison

In comparison

The vast majority of social encounters are, in comparison, mild and muted affairs.

In the same way

Every baby’s face is different from every other’s. In the same way, every baby’s pattern of development is different from every other’s.


You should notify any change of address to the Bonds and Stock Office. Similarly, savings certificates should be re-registered with the Post Office.

3. Contrast


In 1950 oil supplied only about 10% of our total energy consumption; but now it’s up to about 40% and still rising.


Despite the difference in their ages they were close friends.

Even so

This could lead you up some blind alleys. Even so, there is no real cause for concern.


The more I talked the more silent Eliot became. However, I left thinking that I had created quite an impression.

In spite of this

My father always had poor health. In spite of this, he was always cheerful.


He had not slept that night. Nevertheless, he led the rally with his usual vigour.

On the contrary

I have never been an enemy of monarchy. On the contrary, I consider monarchies essential for the well-being of new nations.

On the other hand

John had great difficulties playing cricket. But on the other hand, he was an awfully good rugby player.


He’s treated you badly. Still he’s your brother and you should help him.


Everything around him was blown to pieces, yet the minister escaped without a scratch.

4. Cause/effect


She complained of stiffness in her joints. Accordingly she was admitted to hospital for further tests.

As a consequence

The red cross has not been allowed to inspect the camps, and as a consequence little is known about them.

The Cold War has ended. As a consequence the two major world powers have been able to reduce their arms budgets dramatically.

As a result

Many roads are flooded. As a result there are long delays.


Because these were the only films we’d seen of these people, we got the impression that they did nothing else but dance to classical music.

Because of this

The cost of running the club has increased. Because of this, we must ask our members to contribute more each week.


Japan has a massive trade surplus with the rest of the world. Consequently it can afford to give more money to the Third World.

For this reason

The traffic was very heavy. For this reason he was late.


The computer has become smaller and cheaper and hence more available to a greater number of people.

In consequence

The fastest these animals can run is about 65 kph and in consequence their hunting methods have to be very efficient indeed.

In order that

They are learning English in order that they can study a particular subject.

In order to

He had to hurry in order to reach the next place on this schedule.

Owing to this

The rain was terrible. Owing to this, the match was cancelled.


He speaks very little English, so I talked to him through an interpreter.

So that

You take some of the honey and replace it with sugar so that the bees have something to eat.


I’m not a member of the Church of England myself. Therefore it would be rather impertinent of me to express an opinion.


If I am to accept certain limitations on my freedom, I must be assured that others are accepting the same restraints. Thus, an incomes policy has to be controlled if it is to be effective.

5. Example

For example

Many countries are threatened by earthquakes. For example, Mexico and Japan have large ones this century.

For instance

Not all prices have increased so dramatically. Compare, for instance, the price of oil in 1980 and the price now.

Such as

There are many reasons why the invasion failed, such as the lack of proper food and the shortage of ammunition.


Plants as well as stones can be charms. The Guyana Indians have many plant charms, each one helping to catch a certain kind of animal. The leaves of the plant usually look like the animal it is supposed to help to catch. Thus the charm for catching deer has a leaf which looks like deer horns.

6. Generalisation

As a rule

As a general rule, the less important tan executive is, the more status-conscious he is likely to be.

For the most part

The New Guinea forest is, for the most part, dark and wet.

In general

The industrial processes, in general, are based on man-made processes.


Meetings are normally held three or four times a year.

On the whole

One or two were all right but on the whole I used to hate going to lectures.


She usually found it easy to go to sleep at night.

7. Stating the obvious

As one might expect

There are, as one might expect, several other methods for carrying out the research.

After all

They did not expect heavy losses in the air. After all they had superb aircraft.


Clearly, there is no point in continuing this investigation until we have more evidence.

It goes without saying

It goes without saying that I am grateful for all your help.


Naturally, publishers are hesitant about committing large sums of money to such a risky project.


Obviously, I don’t need to say how important this project is.

Of course

There is of course an element of truth in this argument.


In defining an ideology, the claims which seek to legitimate political and social authority are surely as important as the notion of authority itself.

8. Attitude


Admittedly, economists often disagree among each other.


Ellie was certainly a student at the university but I’m not sure about her brother.


Fortunately such occurrences are fairly rare.


Luckily, Saturday was a fine day.

Oddly enough

Oddly enough, it was through him that I met Carson.

Strangely enough

It has, strangely enough, only recently been discovered.


Undoubtedly, many families are victims of bad housing.


He couldn’t wait to tell Judy. Unfortunately, she had already left for work.

9. Summary/conclusion


Let’s come finally to the question of pensions.

In brief

In brief then, do you two want to join me?

In conclusion

In conclusion, let me suggest a number of practical applications.

In short

In short, the report says more money should be spent on education.


Overall, imports account for half our stock.


So if a woman did leave the home, she was only supposed to concern herself with matters pertaining to domestic life.


The importance of education, then, has been infinitely greater than in previous centuries.

To conclude

To conclude, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this conference possible.

To sum up

To sum up, we cannot hope for greater success unless we identify our needs clearly.

10. Explanation/equivalence

In other words

In other words, although the act of donating blood would increase the chances of the donor dying, this increase was small compared with the increase in the recipient’s chances of surviving.


He could not do any thing more than what he had promised – namely, to look after Charlotte’s estate.

… three famous physicists, namely, Simon, Kurte and Mendelsohn.

Or rather

The account here offered is meant as a beginning of an answer to that question. Or rather it contributes by setting the question in a certain way.

That is to say

The Romans left Britain in 410 AD – that is to say England was a Roman dependency for nearly 500 years.

This means

With syphilis and gonorrhoea, the ages are also recorded, and this means that an accurate map of disease prevalence can be drawn and any trends or changes can be recognized very quickly.

To be more precise

These reforms of Justinian in AD 529 proclaim that they are “imposing a single nature” on trusts and legacies or, to be more precise, imposing it on legatees and trust beneficiaries.

To put it another way

He was being held there against his will. To put it another way, he was a prisoner.

11. Addition


Sugar is bad for your teeth. It can also contribute to heart disease.

Apart from this

Eccleshall and Honderich find common cause in a desire to establish the ideological nature of Conservative thought, but apart from this their approaches to the study of Conservativism are very different.

As well as

Marx and Engels, as well as many of their contemporaries, believed that pastoralism predated agriculture.


Besides being good test cases, Locke obviously finds these ideas intrinsically interesting too.


Computer chess games are still a bit expensive, but they are getting cheaper all the time. Furthermore their chess-playing strength is rising.

In addition

Our survey will produce the essential statistics. In addition, it will provide information about people’s shopping habits.


The drug has powerful side-effects. Moreover, it can be addictive.


I could not afford to eat in restaurants. Nor could anyone I knew.

I couldn’t understand a word they said, nor could they understand me.

Not only…but also

Meissner was not only commander of the army but also a close friend of the President.


Evans was not only our doctor. He was a friend too.

What is more

What is more, more machines will mean fewer jobs.

12. Condition

In that case

Of course the experiment may fail and in that case we will have to start again.


Sometimes the computer system breaks down. Then you’ll have to work on paper.

13. Support

As a matter of fact

The company is doing very well. As a matter of fact, we have doubled our sales budget.

In fact

The winter of 1940 was extremely bad. In fact most people say it was the worst winter of their lives.


This act has failed to bring women’s earnings up to the same level. Indeed the gulf is widening.

They continue to work throughout their short life. Indeed it is overwork which eventually kills them.

14. Contradiction


There are many stories which describe wolves as dangerous, blood thirsty animals, but actually they prefer to avoid human beings.

In fact

I thought he could speak the language fluently. In fact, that wasn’t the case at all.

15. Emphasis


How quickly you recover from an operation chiefly depends on your general state of health.

The experiment was not a success, chiefly because the machine tools were of poor quality.


They don’t trust anyone, especially people in our position.

I’m not attracted to Sociology, especially the way it’s taught here.

In detail

The implications of this theory are examined in detail in chapter 12.

In particular

In particular, he was criticised for pursuing a policy of conciliation and reform.


The political group will have more power, mainly because of their large numbers.


Some people, notably his business associates, had learned to ignore his moods.

The organisation had many enemies, most notably among feminists.


Many animal sources of protein are also good sources of iron. Particularly useful are liver, kidney, heart, beef, sardines, pilchards (red fish generally), and shellfish, including mussels and cockles.


Look at examples of signalling in the following paragraph.

Correlation is a statistical technique that is used to measure and describe a relationship between two variables. Usually the two variables are simply observed as they exist naturally in the environment – there is no attempt to control or manipulate the variables. For example, a researcher interested in the relationship between nutrition and IQ could observe (and record) the dietary patterns for a group of preschool children and then measure IQ scores for the same group. Notice that the researcher is not trying to manipulate the children’s diet or IQ, but is simply observing what occurs naturally. You  also should notice that a correlation requires two scores for each individual (one score from each of the two variables). These scores normally are identified as X and Y. The pairs of scores can be listed in a table, or they can be presented graphically in a scatterplot. In the scatterplot, the X values are placed on the horizontal axis of a graph, and the V values are placed on the vertical axis. Each individual is then identified by a single point on the graph so that the coordinates of the point (the X and V values) match the individual’s X score and Y score. The value of the scatterplot is that it allows you to see the nature of the relationship.

(F. J. Gravetter and L. B. Wallnau (1996). Statistics for the behavioral sciences.)


Exercise 10Exercise 11 &  Exercise 12

Print Friendly, PDF & Email