UTS Library

Shut up and write: On signal words and discourse markers

In the shut up and write workshop on Friday, Terry Royce shared a number of useful tips on academic writing. I was particularly taken with his comments on discourse markers and signal words in writing. These are words or phrases that indicate:

  • What is about to happen in the text;
  • Link what the writer is saying, to what they have already written; or
  • Indicate what writer thinks about what they are writing to the reader
The Problem:

Sometimes writers get into the habit of using the same signal words over and over again in their writing. Some examples include words like however, moreover and nevertheless. As we all know when a writer uses the same word frequently in a text it can be distracting and makes their arguments harder to understand. 

The Solution:
  • If you notice you're using a word often in your work do a find/replace search in word to see how frequently it is appearing. This will also help you change the text.  
  • There are lists of signal words or discourse markers online which will help you find an alternative word or phrase with the same or a similar meaning.