An argumentative essay comprises -
A thesis statement - This states your argument.
Topic sentences - These introduce each new idea to prove your argument. Writers build paragraphs around topic sentences.
Supporting information - Details, examples, facts, and data that support each topic sentence.
Good organization and logical flow make an effective argumentative essay. Transitions, signals, and other language devices allow writers to link thoughts and achieve coherence. Coherence means ideas are well organized, fact driven and, as a whole, they prove the thesis statement. This is essential in argumentative essay writing.
A common way to link sentences is with the basic words and, but, so and because. Academic language offers alternative words and phrases to ensure your sentences flow well.
And - in addition, additionally, moreover, apart from this, as well (as), further, furthermore
But - alternatively, conversely, despite, although, even though, however, on the other hand, in contrast, on the contrary, nevertheless, nonetheless
So - accordingly, as a result/consequence, consequently, for this reason, hence, therefore, thus
Because - due to, a/the consequence of, the result of, for, since, the effect of
Most of these words join two independent clauses, and they follow similar punctuation and grammar rules. For example:
Technology has enhanced communication. In addition, health & lifestyle benefits are unprecedented.
Technology has a dramatic impact on lifestyle choices; nevertheless, humanity continues to abuse the power that technology bestows.
Economic turmoil threatens business’ survival. Most companies, therefore, invest in technology that promotes efficiency and reduces costs.
Observe the different ways to use linking words to combine independent clauses. Notice their punctuation marks and their varying positions within a sentence. Check a usage guide if you are not sure of the correct rules.
A strong essay links ideas so a reader can follow the progression of an argument without losing focus or becoming confused. Sometimes information needs to be repeated to highlight the angle being developed. Other times, concepts and accusations must be explained or clarified by providing examples.
To repeat/simplify - in other words, simply put, to put it differently / another way
To show similarities – similarly, in a similar manner, correspondingly, in the same way, equally, for the same reason
To give examples - for example, for instance, a further instance of this is..., an example of this is…, such as
To concede/contrast - admittedly, although, even though, however
To show emphasis - interestingly, indeed, it should be noted (that), (un)fortunately, more important(ly), most importantly, unquestionably
Here is an example of how these words improve cohesion and sentence flow:
The complexities and moral dilemmas that nuclear technology poses are beyond the scope of simple minds. In other words, mankind is not ready to adopt nuclear technology into mainstream life. In the same way, advances in cloning and stem cell treatment raise ethical questions that humans struggle with. For example, could cloning be used to advance warfare? Admittedly, progression to this level is years away, but it is a valid concern.
Again, take note of sentence construction and punctuation in the paragraph above.
We have linked sentences and connected ideas. The final step is to provide stepping-stones between paragraphs. This seals the overall essay unity.
A useful mechanism is to remind readers of main points from previous paragraphs so that your next topic sentence makes a stronger impression. Use signal/pointing words at the beginning of paragraphs, as well as time signals.
Signal words - besides, in addition to, having..., not only...but also..., although, even though, while, despite
Time signals – first, second (etc.), meanwhile, subsequently, finally, to conclude
In an essay about the effects of technology on humanity, the topic of one paragraph could be:
Technology has prolonged life through advances in healthcare.
To proceed to the next paragraph, you could write:
In addition to unparalleled progress in medical treatment, technology enables people to acquire unlimited knowledge.
While there have been many positive outcomes, technology has also caused much pain and suffering.
Having looked at several advantages of technology, the negative implications now need to be considered. First,...
The purpose of connecting sentences, ideas, and paragraphs is to guide the reader along the path you develop. That is a solid way to prove an argument. An essay writer does not leave it to the reader to make assumptions or to fill in the blanks. Linking words and phrases, and other transition signals are a vital element of academic work. Learn to use them accurately to write better essay.
USING TRANSITIONAL TAGS
Transitional tags run the gamut from the most simple the little conjunctions: and, but, nor, for, yet, or, (and sometimes) so to more complex signals that ideas are somehow connected the conjunctive adverbs and transitional expressions such as however, moreover, nevertheless, on the other hand.
|For additional information on conjunctions, click HERE.|
The use of the little conjunctions especially and and but comes naturally for most writers. However, the question whether one can begin a sentence with a small conjunction often arises. Isn't the conjunction at the beginning of the sentence a sign that the sentence should have been connected to the prior sentence? Well, sometimes, yes. But often the initial conjunction calls attention to the sentence in an effective way, and that's just what you want. Over-used, beginning a sentence with a conjunction can be distracting, but the device can add a refreshing dash to a sentence and speed the narrative flow of your text. Restrictions against beginning a sentence with and or but are based on shaky grammatical foundations; some of the most influential writers in the language have been happily ignoring such restrictions for centuries.*
Here is a chart of the transitional devices (also called conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions) accompanied with a simplified definition of function (note that some devices appear with more than one definition):
|addition||again, also, and, and then, besides, equally important, finally, first, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, last, moreover, next, second, still, too|
|comparison||also, in the same way, likewise, similarly|
|concession||granted, naturally, of course|
|contrast||although, and yet, at the same time, but at the same time, despite that, even so, even though, for all that, however, in contrast, in spite of, instead, nevertheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the other hand, otherwise, regardless, still, though, yet|
|emphasis||certainly, indeed, in fact, of course|
|after all, as an illustration, even, for example, for instance, in conclusion, indeed, in fact, in other words, in short, it is true, of course, namely, specifically, that is, to illustrate, thus, truly|
|summary||all in all, altogether, as has been said, finally, in brief, in conclusion, in other words, in particular, in short, in simpler terms, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to put it differently, to summarize|
|time sequence||after a while, afterward, again, also, and then, as long as, at last, at length, at that time, before, besides, earlier, eventually, finally, formerly, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, in the past, last, lately, meanwhile, moreover, next, now, presently, second, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon, still, subsequently, then, thereafter, too, until, until now, when|
A word of caution: Do not interlard your text with transitional expressions merely because you know these devices connect ideas. They must appear, naturally, where they belong, or they'll stick like a fishbone in your reader's craw. (For that same reason, there is no point in trying to memorize this vast list.) On the other hand, if you can read your entire essay and discover none of these transitional devices, then you must wonder what, if anything, is holding your ideas together. Practice by inserting a tentative however, nevertheless, consequently. Reread the essay later to see if these words provide the glue you needed at those points.
Repetition of Key Words and Phrases
The ability to connect ideas by means of repetition of key words and phrases sometimes meets a natural resistance based on the fear of being repetitive. We've been trained to loathe redundancy. Now we must learn that catching a word or phrase that's important to a reader's comprehension of a piece and replaying that word or phrase creates a musical motif in that reader's head. Unless it is overworked and obtrusive, repetition lends itself to a sense of coherence (or at least to the illusion of coherence). Remember Lincoln's advice:
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
In fact, you can't forget Lincoln's advice, because it has become part of the music of our language.
Remember to use this device to link paragraphs as well as sentences.
Pronouns quite naturally connect ideas because pronouns almost always refer the reader to something earlier in the text. I cannot say "This is true because . . ." without causing the reader to consider what "this" could mean. Thus, the pronoun causes the reader to sum up, quickly and subconsciously, what was said before (what this is) before going on to the because part of my reasoning.
We should hardly need to add, however, that it must always be perfectly clear what a pronoun refers to. If my reader cannot instantly know what this is, then my sentence is ambiguous and misleading. Also, do not rely on unclear pronoun references to avoid responsibility: "They say that . . ."
Music in prose is often the result of parallelism, the deliberate repetition of larger structures of phrases, even clauses and whole sentences. We urge you to read the Guide's section on Parallelism and take the accompanying quiz on recognizing parallel form (and repairing sentences that ought to use parallel form but don't). Pay special attention to the guided tour through the parallel intricacies within Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Coherence Devices in Action
|In our section on writing the Argumentative Essay, we have a complete student essay ("Cry, Wolf" at the bottom of that document) which we have analyzed in terms of argumentative development and in which we have paid special attention to the connective devices holding ideas together.|
Look at the following paragraph:
The ancient Egyptians were masters of preserving dead people's bodies by making mummies of them. Mummies several thousand years old have been discovered nearly intact. The skin, hair, teeth, fingernails and toenails, and facial features of the mummies were evident. It is possible to diagnose the disease they suffered in life, such as smallpox, arthritis, and nutritional deficiencies. The process was remarkably effective. Sometimes apparent were the fatal afflictions of the dead people: a middle-aged king died from a blow on the head, and polio killed a child king. Mummification consisted of removing the internal organs, applying natural preservatives inside and out, and then wrapping the body in layers of bandages.
Though weak, this paragraph is not a total washout. It starts with a topic sentence, and the sentences that follow are clearly related to the topic sentence. In the language of writing, the paragraph is unified (i.e., it contains no irrelevant details). However, the paragraph is not coherent. The sentences are disconnected from each other, making it difficult for the reader to follow the writer's train of thought.
Below is the same paragraph revised for coherence. Italics indicates pronouns and repeated/restated key words, bold indicates transitional tag-words, and underlining indicates parallel structures.
The ancient Egyptians were masters of preserving dead people's bodies by making mummies of them. In short, mummification consisted of removing the internal organs, applying natural preservatives inside and out, and then wrapping the body in layers of bandages. Andthe process was remarkably effective. Indeed, mummies several thousand years old have been discovered nearly intact. Their skin, hair, teeth, fingernails and toenails, and facial features are still evident.Their diseases in life, such as smallpox, arthritis, and nutritional deficiencies, are still diagnosable. Eventheir fatal afflictions are still apparent: a middle-aged king died from a blow on the head; a child king died from polio.
The paragraph is now much more coherent. The organization of the information and the links between sentences help readers move easily from one sentence to the next. Notice how this writer uses a variety of coherence devices, sometimes in combination, to achieve overall paragraph coherence.