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Discourse Markers

Discourse markers (these are words like ‘however’, ‘although’, ‘nevertheless’) are referred to more commonly as ‘linking words' and 'linking phrases’, or ‘sentence connectors’. They may be described as the ‘glue’ that binds together a piece of writing, making the different parts of the text ‘stick together’. They are used less frequently in speech, unless the speech is very formal.

Without sufficient discourse markers in a piece of writing, a text would not seem logically constructed and the connections between the different sentences and paragraphs would not be obvious.

Care must also be taken, however, to avoid over-use of discourse markers. Using too many of them, or using them unnecessarily, can make a piece of writing sound too heavy and ‘artificial’. They are important, but must only be used when necessary.

WhatWhat areare thethe differentdifferent discoursediscourse markersmarkers thatthat cancan bebe used?used?

ThereThere areare manymany discoursediscourse markersmarkers thatthat expressexpress differentdifferent relationshipsrelationships betweenbetween ideas.ideas. TheThe mostmost commoncommon typestypes ofof relationshiprelationship betweenbetween ideas,ideas, andand thethe sentencesentence connectorsconnectors thatthat areare mostmost oftenoften usedused toto expressexpress thesethese relationships,relationships, areare givengiven inin thethe tabletable below.below. TheThe discoursediscourse markersmarkers inin thethe tabletable areare generallygenerally usedused at the start of a phrase or clause (a(a clauseclause isis aa minimalminimal grammaticalgrammatical structurestructure thatthat hashas meaningmeaning inin itsits ownown right,right, andand consistsconsists ofof aa subjectsubject andand verb,verb, andand oftenoften anan objectobject too).too). SentenceSentence connectorsconnectors dodo notnot alwaysalways beginbegin aa completelycompletely newnew sentence;sentence; theythey maymay bebe separatedseparated fromfrom thethe previousprevious ideaidea withwith aa semi-colon.semi-colon.

Type of relationship

Sentence connectors

Position within


AddingAdding somethingsomething

Moreover; In addition; Additionally; Further; Further to this; Also; Besides; What is more.

Initial position

MakingMaking aa contrastcontrast betweenbetween twotwo separateseparate things,things, people,people, ideas,ideas, etc.etc.

However; On the other hand; In contrast; Yet.

Initial position

MakingMaking anan unexpectedunexpected contrastcontrast (concession)(concession)

Although; Even though; Despite the fact that; In spite of the fact that; Regardless of the fact that.

Initial position

Starts a second/ subordinate



SayingSaying whywhy somethingsomething isis thethe casecase

Because; Since; As; Insofar as.


Initial position


Starts a second/ subordinate clause

SayingSaying whatwhat thethe resultresult ofof somethingsomething isis

Therefore; Consequently; In consequence; As a result; Accordingly; Hence; Thus; For this reason; Because of this.


Initial position

ExpressingExpressing aa conditioncondition

If; In the event of; As long as



Initial position

So long as


Provided that


Assuming that


Given that

Starts a second/ subordinate clause

MakingMaking whatwhat youyou saysay strongerstronger

On the contrary; As a matter of fact; In fact; Indeed.


Initial position

There are two particular features of the sentence connectors indicated above :

Sentence connectors can be used to begin a new sentence or a new clause that follows a

semi-colon. Some sentence connectors can be placed in different positions within the sentence – ‘initial position’ (e.g. BecauseBecause he is ill, he needs to rest’) and ‘mid-way position' at the start of another clause (e.g. He must rest, becausebecause he is ill).

HowHow cancan sentencesentence connectorsconnectors bebe replacedreplaced inin orderorder toto increaseincrease varietyvariety inin writing?writing?

InIn youryour writing,writing, youyou willwill wantwant toto spendspend somesome timetime ensuringensuring thatthat youryour workwork hashas aa sensesense ofof variety.variety. InIn orderorder toto dodo this,this, youyou mightmight thinkthink ofof thethe followingfollowing ::

Use conjunctions as well as/instead of sentence connectors AA conjunctionconjunction isis aa wordword likelike ‘and’,‘and’, ‘but’,‘but’, etc,etc, whichwhich isis usedused toto joinjoin twotwo ideasideas togethertogether intointo aa complexcomplex sentence.sentence. UnlikeUnlike sentencesentence connectorsconnectors suchsuch asas ‘However’,‘However’, etc,etc, aa conjunctionconjunction cannotcannot bebe usedused atat thethe beginningbeginning ofof aa sentencesentence andand mustmust comecome atat aa mid-point,mid-point, atat thethe endend ofof oneone clauseclause andand thethe beginningbeginning ofof another.another. ItIt isis usuallyusually possiblepossible toto rephraserephrase aa pairpair ofof sentencessentences thatthat useuse aa sentencesentence connectorconnector byby usingusing aa conjunctionconjunction instead.instead. ForFor example,example, insteadinstead ofof sayingsaying ‘He‘He studiedstudied French;French; however,however, hishis wifewife studiedstudied Physics’,Physics’, itit mightmight actuallyactually bebe moremore naturalnatural toto saysay ‘He‘He studiedstudied EnglishEnglish but hishis wifewife studiedstudied Physics’.Physics’. Similarly,Similarly,

insteadinstead ofof sayingsaying ‘English‘English isis hard;hard; therefore,therefore, oneone mustmust spendspend aa lotlot ofof timetime practisingpractising it’,it’, wewe cancan saysay :: ‘English‘English isis hardhard so oneone mustmust spendspend aa lotlot ofof timetime practisingpractising it.’it.’ TheseThese areare simplesimple examples,examples, butbut thethe principleprinciple ofof paraphraseparaphrase cancan bebe extendedextended toto other,other, moremore complexcomplex sentences.sentences.

Use conjunctions at least some of the time WordsWords likelike ‘and’‘and’ andand ‘but’‘but’ maymay seemseem boring,boring, butbut theythey helphelp toto lightenlighten thethe stylestyle ofof youryour writing.writing. ThisThis inin turnturn helpshelps thethe writingwriting toto soundsound lessless pompouspompous andand formal.formal. AndAnd inin anyany case,case, inin writing,writing, itit isis oftenoften helpfulhelpful toto useuse aa varietyvariety ofof structuresstructures ratherrather thanthan justjust sayingsaying thingsthings inin oneone way.way.

It can also be helpful to omit discourse markers ifif theythey dodo notnot serveserve anyany usefuluseful purpose.purpose. KnowingKnowing whenwhen toto omitomit thethe discoursediscourse markermarker isis aa subtlesubtle aspectaspect ofof languagelanguage useuse andand comescomes withwith moremore practicepractice andand widerwider reading.reading.

Try joining two clauses together byby makingmaking oneone subordinatee toto thethe other.other. IfIf wewe gogo backback toto thethe sentencesentence ‘He‘He studiedstudied EnglishEnglish butbut hishis wifewife studiedstudied Physics’,Physics’, wewe cancan rephraserephrase thisthis asas followsfollows :: ‘He‘He studiedstudied EnglishEnglish whereas hishis wifewife studiedstudied Physics’,Physics’, oror ‘He‘He studiedstudied EnglishEnglish while hishis wifewife studiedstudied Physics.’Physics.’ TheThe clauseclause beginningbeginning withwith while/whereas isis subordinate.subordinate. thisthis meansmeans thatthat itit isis usedused toto qualify/addqualify/add extraextra informationinformation toto thethe sentence,sentence, butbut cannotcannot standstand onon itsits own.own.

Remember, it can be tedious to read a piece of writing which has too many discourse markers. TheThe writingwriting cancan seemseem pedantic,pedantic, heavyheavy andand over-pompous.over-pompous. YouYou areare ideallyideally seekingseeking aa light,light, flowingflowing style,style, notnot aa heavyheavy oror forcedforced

HowHow areare paragraphsparagraphs linkedlinked together?together?

InIn muchmuch thethe samesame wayway thatthat ideasideas withinwithin aa paragraphparagraph areare linked,linked, aa newnew paragraphparagraph mustmust bebe linkedlinked inin somesome wayway withwith thethe previousprevious This,This, too,too, necessitatesnecessitates thethe useuse ofof discoursediscourse markers.markers.

HereHere areare somesome differentdifferent waysways inin whichwhich thethe openingopening ofof aa paragraphparagraph cancan linklink backback toto whatwhat hashas happenedhappened before.before. TheThe threethree basicbasic typestypes ofof paragraph-paragraphparagraph-paragraph relationshiprelationship areare :: reinforcementreinforcement ofof idea;idea; contrastcontrast ofof idea;idea; andand concession.concession. IndicatingIndicating thesethese relationshipsrelationships buildsbuilds aa 'bridge''bridge' betweenbetween paragraphsparagraphs andand makesmakes readingreading thethe texttext easier.easier.

Relationship with previous paragraph

Possible linguistic formula

ReinforcementReinforcement ofof ideaidea


A further example of this phenomenon can

be seen in Foucault's work.


Jones (1999) further demonstrates this

point in his most recent research.

ContrastContrast ofof ideasideas


Jones, meanwhile/on the other hand,

expresses this notion as 'self-defence'.

b) This argument is not, however, accepted by all critics. For instance, Smith (1999)


holds that


a) Although the ideas of Jones (1999) are interesting and useful, they do not take account of the growing problems of identity theft.

b) While Roberts (2006) emphasises the importance of Foucault's notion of the panopticon, the opposite view is held by other commentators. For example,

InIn youryour ownown writing,writing, itit isis usefuluseful toto considerconsider thethe followingfollowing pointspoints ::

DoDo mymy paragraphsparagraphs serveserve aa definitedefinite purpose?purpose?

WhatWhat isis thethe exactexact linklink betweenbetween thethe paragraphparagraph II havehave writtenwritten andand thethe previousprevious paragraph?paragraph? IsIs

thatthat linklink clear?clear? AreAre mymy paragraphsparagraphs laidlaid outout strategically,, inin orderorder toto helphelp meme toto organiseorganise mymy materialsmaterials toto bestbest effect?effect?

DoDo mymy paragraphsparagraphs helphelp meme toto buildbuild upup mymy ideasideas inin aa logicallogical andand gradualgradual fashion?fashion?

TheThe texttext waswas preparedprepared byby DrDr GerardGerard SharplingSharpling.