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Linking words

Remember: an essay should not be merely a list of notes and sub-headings followed by a list of dashes (-) or stars (*) accompanied by one or two words and/or quotations from the text with no explanation of what they are doing there. An essay should be the development of argument, interpretation and analysis through extended and flowing narrative (see our sections on "How to write a paragraph" and "How to write an essay").

Using the right linking words helps you to organize what you have to say about a text. It also helps you introduce and develop the essential ideas that will form the basis of your essay in a tightly connected structure and as short a space as possible.
Linking words and other connecting devices help you carry over from one sentence to another, from one paragraph to another, in a way that allows the reader to better understand your ideas. Since your reader does not see the world exactly as you see it and does not necessarily make the same mental connections you make, linking words also help you to articulate your ideas and communicate them to other people in a way that supports a clear and persuasive argument.

Note that connecting words and phrases are aids to writing, not ends in themselves. Therefore, they should not be used excessively.


Exercise I:

In the following text, the linking words have been deleted. Try to reorganize the following sentences into a well-structured paragraph by choosing the most appropriate linking words from the list below. Remember that each point has to have some connection to the preceding one and the one to follow. The paragraph is not a complete text; it is excerpted from Elizabeth Grove-White's York Notes on Virginia Woolf's novel, To the Lighthouse:

In all novels incidents, actions, thought and descriptions are related, ------ narrated, by an agent who is known as a narrator. The reader, -------, sees the events of a novel to a greater or lesser degree through the eyes, ------- point of view, of the novel's narrator. It is obvious, -------, that the narrator is an extremely significant element in considering a novel, -------- it is the narrator who decides what to show or tell us, --------- what emphasis is to be placed on an event or character, -------- it is the narrator's language that describes events and characters.

[again, and, because, consequently, however, or, therefore, yet, whereas]

BAC1 students in English Literature MUST click HERE to do this exercise interactively and will have to enter their ULg "identifiant" and "mot de passe" to access the page. Others, whose work need not be monitored, can click here.

Exercise II:

Though poorly written, the paragraph below is not completely nonsensical. However, it lacks the connective devices holding ideas together. Read the text carefully and try to work out how it can be improved by means of linking words and phrases. When you have made your choices, scroll down the page and click on the link to check your answers:

One effect of Virginia Woolf's choice of the multiple point of view narrative mode is immediately obvious when we examine the characters and characterisation of To the Lighthouse. These characters are observed in action, or reflected in the consciousness of themselves and others. Their very perspective on external reality serves to define them. We cannot speak with confidence of Mrs Ramsay's goodness without acknowledging the reservations imposed by herself and the other characters upon that goodness. We must take into account the characteristic quality of Mrs Ramsay's view of the world. It is impossible to make any clear-cut distinction between the characters in this novel and its narrative mode. Virginia Woolf's method of creating the characters in To the Lighthouse is a cumulative one. Our knowledge of the characters depends on the accumulated impressions of them we receive from their own reflections and observations and from the responses they elicit from the other characters. The reader is obliged to re-create for himself the characters of this novel.

Click here to see another version of the same paragraph, one in which the connective devices linking the sentences help readers move easily from one idea to another.

Exercise III:

Read Philip Larkin's poem, "This Be the Verse" carefully. Write a short analysis of the poem (150 words) paying attention to  its basic ideas, its main thesis, supporting arguments and conclusion(s) (see also our section on Paragraphs). Before you begin this exercise, you may want to keep the following recommendations in mind:

(1) Think about the key points and issues considered in the text.
(2) Select the ones that deserve to be included in that limited space. (See also our section on Relevance and Selection)
(3) Organize them into a logical sequence in the form of an outline or a diagram containing the basic ideas you intend to develop.
(4) Articulate your thoughts and arguments in a way that is clear, logical and persuasive with the help of the right linking words.

Commonly Used Connecting Words and Phrases

* To show similarity:

similarly, likewise, in a similar manner, like, in the same way, analogously

* To compare or show contrast:

however, nevertheless, rather, whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, on the contrary, by comparison, compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, although, conversely, but, meanwhile, in contrast, after all, otherwise, alternatively.

* To express an alternative:

or, either . . . or, whether . . . or

* To express concession:

granted, naturally, of course, one may object that . . .

* To introduce a new point:

furthermore, moreover, in addition

* To place what you have just said in a particular context:

in this connection, in this perspective

* To add something:

and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, next, what is more, moreover, as well as, in addition, first (second, etc.), not only . . . but

* To prove your point:

because, for, since, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, indeed, in fact, in any case, that is, demonstrably.

* To show cause and effect:

as a result, consequently, hence, due to, in view of, on account of, accordingly, for this reason, therefore.

* To give an example or an illustration:

for example, for instance, in this case, in another case, take the case of, to illustrate, as an illustration, to take another example, namely, that is, as shown by, as illustrated by, as expressed by.

* To repeat, insist and/or refer back to an earlier point:

as I have said, in brief, as I have noted, as suggested above, as has been noted

* To emphasize:

definitely, extremely, indeed, absolutely, positively, obviously, naturally, always, never, surprisingly, emphatically, without a doubt, certainly, undeniably, without reservation, perenially, forever.

* To conclude a paragraph or an essay:

thus, lastly, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said

The words listed in each section have different meanings and are not interchangeable. If you have doubts as to the exact meaning of a connective, check them in your dictionary and/or in the "Essay writing" section of your Robert & Collins.


More exercises on linking words: BAC1 students in English Literature should click HERE to do these supplementary exercises interactively. The ULg "identifiant" and "mot de passe" is required to access the page. Others, whose work need not be monitored, should click here.