Using Guide Words to Write Effectively

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

This lesson will explain how to use guide words to improve your writing. We'll look at examples of different types of guide words and learn how to use them in sentences to help logically connect thoughts and ideas, transition clearly between them, and help the writing flow better.

Definition and Importance of Guide Words

Have you ever read a paragraph and found the writing hard to understand because it was choppy and nothing seemed to connect? Let's look at the following examples--what differences do you notice between them?

''Guide words are important. They guide the reader through a text. The reader can better understand the text. Not using guide words might leave the reader confused.''

''Guide words are important because they guide the reader through a text. Therefore, the reader can better understand the text. On the other hand, not using guide words might leave the reader confused.''

In the first example, the passage reads a bit choppy and the thoughts are not clearly connected--''not using guide words'' is an abrupt change from talking about using them. In the second example, though, the thoughts are clearly connected (''on the other hand'' shows that using guide words is opposite from not using them) and the sentences flow better.

As you might have figured out, these differences are caused by the use of guide words. Guide words are words that simply ''guide'' the reader through a text by connecting information in a logical way. Guide words can consist of small words like coordinating conjunctions (for, nor, yet, so, etc.), bigger words like the conjunctive adverb ''therefore,'' or even phrases like ''on the other hand.'' Guide words are essential for showing transitions between ideas and how the argument is progressing. So, let's discuss how to use them in order to write effectively.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are words that connect thoughts and ideas on a small level. These types of guide words are usually used within sentences. They are useful for explaining a cause and effect situation, like ''The dog was hungry so she ate,'' or for connecting thoughts that might seem oppositional, like ''The dog was hungry, yet she did not want to eat.'' Using these guide words in this context helps you logically connect your information within a sentence and add meaning, just by using one small word.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Another useful type of guide word is a conjunctive adverb, a word that connects and transitions between two ideas and modifies the verb. These are usually used on a larger level than coordinating conjunctions because they typically connect sentences. Some examples are words like ''therefore,'' ''however,'' and ''although.'' These words can serve a similar function to the coordinating conjunctions by explaining how something logically progresses or how something is contrary to what might be expected.

If you were arguing, for example, that movie versions of books help you understand them better, you might write the following: ''Humans are impacted by visual images. Therefore, people should watch movie adaptations of books to better understand them.'' Using ''therefore'' here guides the reader by showing that these two sentences are logically connected. With the same topic, you could write, ''People often do not take time to read a book before watching the movie adaptations. However, humans learn through visual images, so watching movies is a good way to understand the main point of novels.'' ''However'' here serves to guide the reader by telling them your next statement might seem contradictory to the previous sentence, but it is not.

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