Signal Words: Types, Functions and Examples

Signal Words: Types, Functions and Examples

The post, Signal Words: Types, Functions and Examples, introduces and explains with illustrative examples what signal words or sentence connectors are. In the course of your reading any printed text: novels, textbook, newspapers, articles, online posts, etc., have you noted certain words the writers have used to steer your thoughts in some particular directions?

Have you come across words like: for example, in summary, however, therefore, etc.? These words are not just used carelessly; they have specific functions they perform. Do you even know what such words are called? This post titled Signal Words: Types, Functions and Examples will provide answers to these questions and give you lots more. Let’s get started! Shall we?

Signal Words: A Definition

The word ‘signal’ is not strange to you, I believe. It is a noun formation of the verb ‘sign’ with the addition of a derivational morpheme or a noun forming suffix ‘al’. Signs show direction or guide just like a signpost or signboard. So signal words are not different. They are words that show the reader, the direction of the writer or speaker’s thought. They also indicate the course of events in a text. We also refer to them as ‘signpost’ or ‘road sign’ words. They are structural key words that signal the connection between ideas. They are clue words that determine direction the writer expects the reader to follow.

Transition Words, Transitional Adverbs and Sentence Connectors

We also refer to signal words as Transition words, Transitional Adverbs and Sentence Connectors. Transition words assist the reader to move from one idea of the writer or speaker to another and they connect these ideas. They enhance coherence within a text. In addition to the role of ensuring coherent relationships within a text, transition words introduce certain shifts, contrasts or oppositions.

We make use of them in depicting agreement, similarity or addition.  Signal or Transition words add information, reinforce ideas and express agreement with preceding material. They express cause, purpose, condition, emphasis, support, illustration, effect, result, consequence, etc.

Types of Signal Words or Road Sign Words

For those who take examinations like the Graduate Record Examination and similar examinations in which they have to complete sentences with appropriate words, road sign words help a lot in deciphering the right answers. For the Graduate Record Examination, these road sign words are divided into two parts. They are the ‘straight-ahead’ and the ‘detour’ road signs or signal words. Let us look at these two divisions closely:

Straight-ahead Road Sign Words

The ‘straight-ahead’ signpost words make one part of a sentence support, exposit, elucidate or clarify the other part. In other words, they advance the sentence in the same direction. The positive or negative connotation of what follows is not changed by these words of clues. Examples of ‘straight-ahead’ road sign words include: and, since, also, thus, because, likewise, moreover, similarly, in addition, consequently, etc.

Detour Road Sign Words

The ‘detour’ road sign words usually change the direction of a sentence. They make one part of the sentence contradict or contrast the other part. The positive or negative connotation of what follows is changed by these words of clues. Examples of such ‘detour’ signpost words include: but, despite, yet, however, unless, in spite of, rather, although, nevertheless, in contrast, the opposite, while, on the other hand, on the contrary, still, otherwise, unfortunately, nonetheless, even though, conversely, etc.

Signal Words: Types, Functions and Examples

We can also further break down the ‘straight-ahead’ and ‘detour’ road sign or signpost words we describe above into specific classifications that will help the listener or reader easily identify and comprehend them. Find below, some signal words, signpost words, road sign words and sentence connectors with their functions and copious examples to assist in comprehending the direction of any text you interact with. . .

Listing, Addition, Agreement, Comparison or Similarity Signal Words

Functions of Listing, Addition, Agreement, Comparison or Similarity Signal Words

  • We use listing to enumerate or catalogue the things we say.
  • We also use it for addition purpose – to add to what has been previously said
  • To reinforce ideas and express agreement with what has been said initially.
  • Comparison words signal that the author is pointing out a similarity between two subjects and these words show that the second idea is like the first one in some way.

Examples

  • Above all
  • Additionally
  • Again
  • Alike
  • Also
  • And
  • As
  • Another key point
  • As a matter of fact
  • As well as
  • Besides
  • By the same token
  • Chiefly
  • Comparatively
  • Correspondingly
  • Coupled with
  • Equally
  • Equally important
  • First of All
  • Finally
  • First
  • Firstly
  • First And Foremost
  • First thing to remember
  • Fourthly
  • Furthermore
  • In a similar fashion
  • In addition
  • Identically
  • In like manner
  • In the first place
  • Including
  • In the light of
  • In The Same Fashion
  • Just as
  • In the same way
  • Last of All
  • Like
  • Likewise
  • Moreover
  • Most Importantly
  • Next
  • Not only…but also
  • Not to mention
  • Of course
  • One
  • Second
  • Secondly
  • Similarly
  • Still another
  • Third
  • Thirdly
  • Three
  • To say nothing of
  • Together with
  • Too
  • Two
  • Uniquely
  • Etc.

Transition Signal Words

Functions of Transition Signal Words

  • It links to what has just been stated to what is to follow.
  • This usually leads to a new stage in thought development.

Examples

  • Now
  • With reference to
  • With regard to
  • Etc.

Summary, Restatement or Conclusion Signal Words

Function of Summation, Summary, Restatement or Conclusion Signal Words

  • It is a generalisation; it sums up what has preceded.
  • It summarises the points or issues of discussion.

Examples

  • After all
  • All in all
  • All things considered
  • Altogether
  • Arising from this
  • As a result
  • As can be seen
  • Briefly
  • As has been noted
  • As shown above
  • By and large
  • Finally
  • For the most part
  • From this we see
  • Generally speaking
  • Given these points
  • In a word
  • In brief
  • Hence
  • In conclusion
  • In either case
  • Last of all
  • In essence
  • In fact
  • Obviously
  • In overall
  • In short
  • On balance
  • In summary
  • In that case
  • On the whole
  • In the final analysis
  • In the long run
  • Overall
  • Then
  • Therefore
  • Thus
  • To conclude
  • Ultimately
  • To sum up
  • To summarise
  • Etc.

Apposition Support, Emphasis and Illustration Signal Words

Function of Apposition Support, Emphasis and Illustration Signal Words

  • It is used to refer to previous sentences or to parallel or related reference.
  • To illustrate for the purpose of clarity, the point being made to the reader or listener.
  • To introduce examples as support for the point the speaker or writing is making.

Examples

  • As an illustration
  • Certainly
  • Especially
  • Explicitly
  • Expressly
  • For Example
  • For Instance
  • Frequently
  • In detail
  • In fact
  • Indeed
  • In general
  • In particular
  • Including
  • Mainly
  • Markedly
  • Most compelling evidence
  • Namely
  • Notably
  • Or Rather
  • Particularly
  • Significantly
  • Specifically
  • Such as
  • Surely
  • Surprisingly
  • To be sure
  • To clarify
  • That is
  • To demonstrate
  • That is to say
  • To emphasize
  • To enumerate
  • Viz
  • To explain
  • To illustrate
  • Truly
  • To point out
  • To repeat
  • Etc.

Inference, Result, Effect or Consequence Signal Words

Function of Inference, Result, Effect or Consequence Signal Words

  • It expresses the consequences or result of what has been said before.
  • This indicates an inference from what is implied from the preceding sentences

Examples

  • Accordingly
  • Arising from this
  • As A Result
  • Because
  • Because of
  • Cause
  • Consequently
  • Due to
  • Effect
  • Else
  • For
  • For this reason
  • Forthwith
  • Hence
  • Henceforth
  • If . . . then
  • If so…then
  • In effect
  • In order that
  • Now
  • In that case
  • Reason
  • Result in
  • Resulting from
  • Since
  • So
  • So that
  • Then
  • Therefore
  • Thereupon
  • Thus
  • Under those circumstances
  • Etc.

Reformulation Signal Words

Function of Reformulation Signal Words

  • We use this to express something in another way.

Examples

  • In other words
  • Or rather
  • Put in another way
  • That is to say
  • To put it differently
  • To put it more simply
  • That is
  • To use another word
  • Etc.

Replacement Signal Words

Function of Replacement Signal Words

  • To express an alternative to what has preceded

Examples

  • Again
  • Alternatively
  • Another possibility would be
  • Better still
  • Instead
  • On the other hand
  • Rather
  • The alternative is
  • Worse still
  • Etc.

Contrast, Opposition or Contradiction Signal Words

Function of Contrast, Opposition or Contradiction Signal Words

  • To show contrast to what has preceded.
  • To indicate alternatives or evidence to the contrary.
  • To introduce a change in the line of reasoning. (Remember Detour Road Signs?)

Examples

  • At the same time
  • But
  • By way of contrast
  • Conversely
  • However
  • In contrast
  • Instead
  • On the contrary
  • On the other hand
  • Otherwise
  • Rather
  • Then
  • Yet
  • Etc.

Concession Signal Words

Function of Concession Signal Words

  • To indicate item of information which is unexpected.

Examples

  • (And) still
  • (And) yet
  • Above all
  • After all
  • Albeit
  • Although
  • Although this may be true
  • Anyway
  • As a matter of fact
  • As much as
  • At the same time
  • Be that as it may
  • Besides
  • But
  • Despite
  • Different from
  • Else
  • Even so
  • Even though
  • In contrast
  • In reality
  • However
  • In spite of
  • In spite of that
  • Instead
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • Notwithstanding
  • Of course …, but
  • On the contrary
  • On the other hand
  • Or
  • Otherwise
  • Rather
  • Regardless
  • Then again
  • Though
  • Unlike
  • Whereas
  • While
  • Etc.

Condition, Cause or Purpose Signal Words

Function of Condition, Cause or Purpose Signal Words

  • To show the conditions necessary for something to be done.
  • To indicate intentions.

Examples

  • As
  • As / so long as
  • Because of
  • Due to
  • Except
  • For fear that
  • For the purpose of
  • Given that
  • Granted (that)
  • If
  • In case
  • In order to
  • In the event that
  • If…then
  • In the hope that
  • In view of
  • Inasmuch as
  • In which case
  • Lest
  • On (the) condition (that)
  • Only / even if
  • Otherwise
  • Owing to
  • Provided
  • Provided that
  • Seeing / being that
  • Since
  • So as to
  • So that
  • To the end that
  • Unless, in that case
  • Until
  • When
  • Whenever
  • Whether
  • While
  • With this in mind
  • With this intention
  • Etc.

Emphasis Signal Words

Function of Emphasis Signal Words

  • To show that something is important and therefore, should be noted.

Examples

  • A central issue
  • A key feature
  • Above all
  • A major development
  • A major event
  • By all means
  • A Primary Concern
  • A Significant Factor
  • By the way
  • A vital force
  • Certainly
  • Chiefly
  • Especially relevant
  • Especially valuable
  • For one thing
  • Important to realize
  • In detail
  • In particular
  • Including
  • Indeed
  • It all boils down to
  • Like
  • Markedly
  • More importantly
  • More than anything else
  • Most compelling evidence
  • Most especially
  • Must be remembered
  • Most noteworthy
  • Notably
  • Of course
  • On the negative side
  • On the positive side
  • Particularly
  • Pay particular attention to
  • Point often overlooked
  • Remember that
  • Significantly
  • Surely
  • That is to say
  • The crux of the matter
  • The most substantial issue
  • To be sure
  • To clarify
  • Truly
  • To demonstrate
  • To emphasize
  • With attention to
  • To enumerate
  • To explain
  • With this in mind
  • To point out
  • To repeat
  • Etc.

Vagueness and Ambiguity Signal Words (Fuzz Sentence Connectors)

Function of Vagueness and Ambiguity Signal Words

  • To indicate a notion that is not precise.
  • To show that the writer is not affirmative and wishes to qualify a statement.

Examples

  • Alleged
  • Allegedly
  • Almost
  • Could
  • Except
  • If
  • Looks like
  • Maybe
  • Might
  • Nearly
  • Probably
  • Purported
  • Purportedly
  • Reputed
  • Seems like
  • Should
  • Some
  • Sort of
  • Was reported
  • Etc.

Spatial Signal Words

Function of Spatial Signal Words

  • As this relates to issues of space, the function is to provide answers to the question of ‘where’.
  • To limit, restrict or qualify space, place or location.

Examples

  • About
  • Above
  • Across
  • Adjacent
  • Adjacent to
  • Alongside
  • Amid
  • Among
  • Around
  • Away
  • Before
  • Behind
  • Below
  • Beneath
  • Beside
  • Between
  • Beyond
  • By
  • Close to
  • Down
  • East
  • Far
  • From
  • Further
  • Here
  • Here and there
  • In
  • In front of
  • Inside
  • In the background
  • In the centre of
  • Into
  • In the distance
  • In the foreground
  • In the middle
  • Left
  • Middle
  • Near
  • Nearby
  • Next
  • Next to
  • North
  • On
  • On this side
  • Opposite
  • Opposite to
  • Out
  • Outside
  • Over
  • Right
  • Side
  • South
  • There
  • These
  • This
  • To the left/right to the left/right
  • Toward
  • Under
  • Up
  • Upon
  • West
  • Where
  • Wherever
  • Etc.

Temporal or Chronology Signal Words

Function of Temporal or Chronology Signal Words

  • To provide answers to the question of ‘when’.
  • To restrict and define time.

Examples

  • About
  • After
  • All of a sudden
  • As long as
  • At the present time
  • At the same time
  • As soon as
  • At this instant
  • Before
  • By the time
  • During
  • Eventually
  • Finally
  • First
  • Formerly
  • Forthwith
  • From time to time
  • Further
  • Hence
  • Henceforth
  • In a moment
  • In due time
  • Immediately
  • In the first place
  • In the meantime
  • Instantly
  • In time
  • Last
  • Later
  • Meanwhile
  • Next
  • Now
  • Now that
  • Occasionally
  • Once
  • Presently
  • Prior to
  • Quickly
  • Second
  • Shortly
  • Since
  • Sooner or later
  • Straightaway
  • Suddenly
  • Then
  • Till
  • To begin with
  • Until
  • Until now
  • Up to the present time
  • When
  • Whenever
  • Without delay
  • Etc.

Note

Many of these temporal signals or transition words have other uses; they qualify time in expressing other signals of condition, reason or qualification.

In Conclusion

There is no way we can write effectively and comprehensibly in English without the use of signal words or sentence connectors as they give direction to our writings and help the reader to follow the thought patterns of the writer. Any write up without sentence connection or signal words will collapse in terms of structure, cohesion and coherence.

They are the chains or string that hold our words together for them to make appropriate sense. So read and learn these signal words and sentence connectors and make use of them accordingly and appropriately in your writings. Ensure that when you read, take note of the signal words you come across and determine the functions they perform.

If you do this, you will certainly get a handle on signal words which we also refer to as transition words, transitional elements, signpost words, road sign words and other reference other terminologies by which we describe them. Check some of our other educative posts and share with your friends and colleagues. Watch out for our next post! See you around!

References

Broderick, (1990). Groundwork for College Reading. PA: Townsend Press, Inc.

Fry, E. B., Kress, J. E., & Fountoukidis, D. L. (1993). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists. 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Kaplan, (2014).  GRE Premier 2015. New York: Kaplan Publishing

Langan, (1989). Reading and Study Skills. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co.

Sentence Connectors 

Transition Words

 

28 Comments

  1. It help me to no more about words,and where we used word to press things in different form or detour and the right place.

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  14. Thank you very much for directing us here sir.
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  15. This write up has really increase my knowledge on how words can be use both in speech and in written form.

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  18. There is not enough explanation on transitional adverb and sentence connector, you only emphasis on transition words.

  19. Thanks so much sir, I have learned a lot from this article about signal words I have not come across or been familiar with, words like forthwith, thereupon

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