Signal Phrases & Transition Words

read more

Transition words and signal phrases are parts of speech that improve writing and guide readers. These words must be properly used and understood by researchers. This guide discusses the peculiarities of the chosen forms of speech and clarifies how to develop successful connections. After reading it, a student will be able to develop strong texts that use signal phrases and transitional words as well as correct punctuation, which will result in improved writing.

Signal Phrases

Definition of Signal Phrases

Signal phrases are phrases, clauses, or sentences that introduce quotations or paraphrases involving statistics or other important summaries. A strong signal phrase usually consists of two meaningful parts: it includes a subject (e.g., the speaker’s name or the name of the person who is quoted) and an action (e.g., the explanation of what the author does or has done).


Mr. Smith underlined, “People who bought that production remained satisfied with the results.”

According to the results of observation, 65% of children behave naturally when their parents are in the room.

The doctor explains that healthy eating is the best solution for this 45-year-old female patient.

Placement and Punctuation

As a rule, signal phrases precede quotations to introduce a speaker and his or her actions. However, many modern editors and educators admit that these phrases may come at the end of a sentence or after a quotation, or even in the middle of it. This variation of positions can improve the readability of each phrase in a sentence or in a text.


Carla mentioned, “All your feelings seem to be fake because each current action contradicts the previous one.” (at the beginning)
“I cannot remember a day without that girl being present in my life,” Oliver said when he was asked about the role of Emily in his final decision. (at the end)
“Jonny was not present at our last meeting,” the manager admits, “but his report and contributions to our last project play a crucial role in the approved organizational strategy.” (in the middle)
According to the annual report that the CEO presented to the company, our total income has increased by 15% and is expected to change within the next six months. (at the beginning)

A comma is a punctuation mark that separates a signal phrase and the rest of a sentence. If an exclamation point or a question is used in a quotation instead of a comma, there is no need to capitalize the following word. If a signal phrase is used in the middle of a sentence, followed by a new sentence, capitalization is required.

Usage and Importance of Signal Phrases

There are several reasons why writers and researchers should study and use signal phrases:

  • To emphasize a source: an author uses a signal phrase to introduce a source and explain why the chosen information matters;
  • To create logical constructions and avoid repetition: a signal phrase may vary and present the same information in different ways;
  • To create smooth transitions: an author uses a signal phrase to create a boundary between his/her own words and the words taken from a source;
  • To avoid plagiarism in writing: a signal phrase is one form of citing a source and introducing a reference depending on the required citation style.

Additional Tips for Using Signal Phrases

  • Consider adding a brief justification for the chosen expert’s opinion (an author’s current position, contribution, or achievement);
  • Remember the most frequent signal phrases: say, report, suggest, think, offer, deny, believe, write, insist, emphasize.

Transition Words

Definition of Transition Words

Transition words are parts of speech that link words, ideas, sentences, and paragraphs. They aim to show the relationship between phrases and promote a smooth flow of ideas in different papers. In academic papers, transitional words play an important role as they help to unite sentences, make a work readable, and use evidence to support different statements. At the same time, they may be improperly or inadequately used, which can confuse the reader, distract from the main idea, or develop an ambiguous interpretation. Therefore, it is important to know how to use transitional words in writing in order to benefit.


For example, I like the idea of staying with her for a couple of days.
Besides, Mary wanted to read the book until we left the house.
So then, he took the coat and started searching for a hat.

Placement and Punctuation

Transitional words can be used in a sentence to unite several words or sentence parts, in a paragraph to unite several sentences, or even in a text to unite paragraphs.


My father did not know how to tell me the truth because he believed it could hurt me.
Students have to write an essay, complete a survey, and read a poem. In addition, the teacher expects them to develop a presentation.
First, a doctor should examine the patient and gather the necessary test results. It helps to get a clear picture of all symptoms and predict new complications. Obesity is a serious condition that ….. // Second, the patient should be provided with a comprehensive care plan.
In English grammar, transitional words must be comma-separated. A comma is usually placed after the transitional word or phrase, and a semicolon or a period may occur before it. The choice depends on the chosen sentence structure or text idea.


Consequently, the student does not want to participate in a discussion or share his personal opinion about the case.
The artist could not separate his emotions from his work; therefore, when the time to create a new work of art came, he was at a loss.
I like the idea of spending weekends with my parents. For this reason, I cancelled my meeting with a friend.

Categories of Transition Words

Transition words may be divided into several groups, depending on the type of relationships they may create. The connection may be one of the following:

  • Consequence
    Consequently, therefore, otherwise, hence
  • Addition
    In addition, also, besides, moreover, as well as
  • Comparison/Contrast
    On the one hand/on the other hand, in contrast, likewise, similarly
  • Chronology/Time/Sequence
    At first/second/third hand, after, in order to, simultaneously, rarely
  • Cause/Effect
    Because, for, in that case, as a result, in effect
  • Example/Explanation/Clarification
    In other words, including, for example, to clarify, to explain
  • Summary/Conclusion/Result/Generalization
    In general, in total, to conclude, as shown above

These are the most common transition words that are appropriate for academic writing. Some words can be representative in several categories at the same time. A writer has to be careful in choosing a transition to attract the reader’s attention. It is not correct to use a transition that does not have a meaning or a purpose simply to meet a word count requirement.

In general, this guide is a combination of definitions and examples of signal phrases and transitional words. It is not enough to learn the list of words and apply them to different parts of texts. Students must understand when a transition or connection is an obligatory tool in writing and when these words can negatively influence the general attitude toward a paper and the author’s message.

Please upgrade your Browser

Unfortunately, your browser is too old to work on this site.