Have you ever read any piece of academic work and come across phrases like “In this essay,” “this essay is about,” or “as we conclude?” These are signposting words or phrases, and we commonly use them in supporting points throughout an essay.
Essays need to have a logical flow and using signposting words can help you achieve that. They play an important role in keeping your readers focused on the point of discussion and the overall aim of the essay.
As a result, signposting in an essay is a technique you must have in your writing skillset. It is a surefire way to help readers understand your point or the connection between points, guide readers through your essay or remind them when you change direction and of key points.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what is signposting in an essay and also share 40 signposting words you can use.
Signposting in an Essay How It Works
Signposting gives your essays a certain flow and style that readers love. It shows how each point is connected, the link between paragraphs, what you are discussing, and where you are, so your readers can follow your essay with ease.
It involves using words and phrases that will require the reader much less concentration to understand your point.
Apart from helping the reader to easily follow your work, signposting in an essay makes your work enjoyable to read, as you will sound professional. Signposting the structure of your essay strengthens the presentation of your argument, especially when used in the introduction.
Here are six tips to keep in mind when using signposting words, to help you write an essay that stands out.
1. Address the main topic early on
You have only eight seconds to capture the reader’s attention. Besides, as little as 20% of readers read past the headline of an article or essay.
Your chances of having more people read past your essay headline lie in revealing to the reader where the text is heading early on.
Failure to do so, other things will distract them or they’ll begin to prejudice. As a result, don’t be afraid to tell readers what your essay is all about before you set off writing the meaty part of it.
For example, in your introduction, you can say, “this essay will discuss three factors affecting the gender pay gap...”.
2. Reiterate key points
As a writer, you can’t stop capturing your readers’ attention. You also need to keep them engaged and motivated to continue reading your essay.
You can achieve this by reminding your readers of where you are headed, key points, what you have covered, and what is coming. For example, you can use phrases like “the key point here is...” or “in other words...” or “I had already mentioned earlier that X == Y...”.
When you do so, it shows that the point matters and they need to take it into serious account. Another reason for reminding readers of the destination or key points is it brings them back to your essay just in case their minds wander away.
Consider also repeating complicated points—ones that are hard to comprehend because they may cause controversy or create unnecessary surprises.
Reminding readers of key points, destinations, and what you intend to write is a good orientation technique. So if you are talking about the same point, the reader will know from the repetition likewise, if you are talking about a different point.
3. Use paragraphs breaks and subheadings
Paragraph breaks and subheadings are also a form of signposting signals that keep readers focused on your essay by informing them when you are starting a new subsection or a new argument.
They are mostly ideal in longer essays such as research essays or after major headings like Methodology and Result which tend to get longer.
The trick around paragraph breaks is to use three to four paragraphs before starting another one. But we also know that some sentences will be shorter and others longer, so it is upon you to make the right judgment when using paragraph breaks or when splitting sentences.
Consider also using boldface to signal transition, while italics, underlining, and solid caps, keep the reader focused on your piece.
4. Use transitions well
Sometimes, a reader will easily understand how two sentences or paragraphs relate. Sometimes they won’t. If it is not obvious, make it obvious by adding transitions.
There are different transitions you can use to show different things. To illustrate a previous point, use “for example” or “for instance”.
To develop a point further, use “even more,” “in addition,” “furthermore,” or “similarly.” To contrast, a point, use “despite,” “however,” or “nevertheless.” This is just a snapshot. You can find more transitions in the next section of this text. Even so, cap the number of transitions you use to avoid boring the reader.
5. Write clear introductions and conclusions
Write clear introductions and conclusions. For instance, in the introduction, give the overall aim of the essay and share what will be discussed. In the body, signal what you intend to discuss and what is to come. Similarly, in conclusion, remind readers what you have discussed and whether you have answered the original question.
Essays tend to become complicated to read, and without a proper introduction and conclusion, your readers will lose interest.
It’s also a good idea to create an outline before you start drafting the essay. Outlines are like roadmaps. It gives your paper structure and guides you through the writing process.
6. Use signposting sparingly
The best way to communicate something to a reader more effectively and accurately is to use precise language and words. That is why it is prudent to carefully consider what words you are using and where in the text to place them. To avoid making your work look sloppy, avoid excessive signposting in an essay.
When you decide to link two paragraphs or two texts, think carefully about what words you would want to effectively convey your message. For example, if you choose a word like “in contrast,” ensure you want to add a strong alternative or challenge something. Do not use it if you want to add more weight to a previous point.
43 Signposting Words You Can Consider for your Essays
Having hinted at the importance of using signposting sparingly, we want to look at the common signposting words and phrases and where to use them to link your paragraphs or words so that your ideas have a logical connection and are easily understandable.
Here are the different ways you can use signposting, along with examples for inspiration.
A. To highlight a point
- In fact
- More importantly
- It is also important to highlight
B. Making a comparison
- In contrast
- On one hand
- On the other hand
- In comparison
- Another point to consider is
- Compared to
- In conclusion
- In summary
- To summarize
- The (number) main points are
D. Giving an example
- For example
- This can be illustrated by
- For instance
- Such as
E. Introducing a new perspective
F. Adding a similar point
G. Being more specific
- In particular
- More specifically
- In relation to
- In terms of
- With respect to
In summary, we have discussed ways to make your writing or essay stronger, more easily understandable, and improve your writing as a whole through the use of signposting.
When your professors find your line of reasoning and links between ideas easy to follow and understandable, they will be more engaged. You can achieve this by using signposting sparingly, adding paragraph breaks and subheadings, repeating key points and phrases, and revealing the main point or argument at the start of your essay.
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Last edit at Jul 27 2023