When you’re writing an essay or assignment, you need to use every trick in the book to maximise your marks. And one of the best tools for radically improving your writing is the power of connective words.
Used correctly, connective words can give your writing new depth and meaning, improve readability (important for your examiner!) and demonstrate the logic of your arguments.
Luckily for you, we’ve got plenty of categories, definitions and connectives examples to help you get started…
Psst – this article uses loads of connectives. See if you can spot them in use: we’ve italicised the best examples!
What are connective words?
Simply put, connectives are words – or phrases – that link parts of your writing together.
You’re probably familiar with the most common connective words: and, as, because, but, if, or, so. In fact, I’ve used a few of them already – did you spot them?
Don’t limit your essay writing to the basics though, because there are hundreds of connectives that can help you to demonstrate different ideas, such as cause and effect, or the chronology of events.
We’re going to explore ten types of connectives below, but first, here’s a quick refresher on the grammar behind connective words:
Definitions: The grammatical bit
Understanding the grammar behind your writing might not be your thing – but bear with me, because remembering these six definitions will help you know which connective to use when, and where to place them!
(If you’re just looking for examples of connectives, feel free to skip straight past this bit!)
Connectives fall into three grammatical categories: conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs.
- Conjunctions: are a type of connective BUT they’re not the same. Conjunctions join words, phrases, clauses and sentences together to form longer complex sentences.
- For example: and, but, for, or, yet.
- Today, I finished my history assignment but forgot to workout.
- Prepositions: describe the relative location, place and time between two things. They demonstrate time and space, direction and agency.
- Such as: at, in, of, on, under.
- I need to finish the conclusion of my essay before I go to dinner.
- Adverbs: modify verbs, adjectives and clauses. Adverbs explain how an action is carried out by adding detail, describing manner, and showing the how, when, where and why of the action.
- For instance: upwards, quickly, fortunately.
- My deadline is tomorrow. Fortunately, I proofread my thesis chapter already.
Using adverb and preposition connective words adds specific meaning – and thus clarity – to your writing. They are particularly useful for successful essay signposting.
Definitions part 2: Connectives in sentences
When using connectives, it’s also important to remember that not all sentences are created equal in importance. And so, when connecting them into longer sentences, different types of connectives create different results:
- Co-ordinating connectives: link phrases and clauses of equal importance to create compound sentences.
- For example: I find French tricky but I love learning Spanish.
On the other hand,
- Subordinating connectives: connect main clauses and subordinate clauses to create complex sentences.
- A subordinate clause relies on the main clause to make sense. Therefore, these connectives give information about the relationship between the clauses by specifying an order or place to events, or a cause and effect link.
- Here’s an example: I need to do my homework if I want to get a good grade.
A useful type of subordinating connective for essay writing is the:
- Sequencing connective: which will help you establish the logical sequence of events/ideas, or demonstrate a chronological order. Great for signposting!
- For instance: Firstly, I carried out the experiment, and secondly, I analysed the results.
And that’s your grammar refresh done!
If you’re struggling with essay-writing grammar, a great tool for checking your writing is Grammarly * – we use it at Exam Study Expert because it catches a broad range of mistakes. Their blog is also a great place to learn how to use conjunctions, prepositions, adverbs and more.
How to use connective words
So how do you go about using connectives?
In this section, we’re going to discuss the where, what and how …
Where to add connectives:
As we’ve seen, connective words are often found in the middle of a sentence, joining two clauses. But don’t forget you can also use them at the beginning of a sentence to link two consecutive sentences – OR two ideas within your paragraphs (did you see what I did there?).
Some of your connectives will even be linking entire paragraphs and sections – these are often examples of signposting to guide the reader through your section or argument.
What’s more, many connectives are not just single words but phrases. These connectives are particularly useful for essay writing and academic vocabulary. For example: as well as, for an example of this, for instance, in addition to, on the other hand, such as.
What to use connectives for:
When you’re writing an essay or assignment there are plenty of tasks you need to achieve: presenting evidence, making arguments and more.
Happily, connectives can help you achieve all these tasks by clarifying your meaning. You can use connectives for:
- Reinforcing or emphasising a point
- Exemplifying and showing results
- Comparing and discussing points of view
- Constructing a timeline or sequence of events
- Listing points (and signposting them)
- Explaining your argument
- Drawing together conclusions
It’s a long list! So master using connectives and you’ll drastically improve the readability of your writing across all sections of your essay.
How to add in useful connective words:
You’re probably already using basic connectives in your writing.
But if you want to get serious about the benefits to your grades, make sure you’re systematic about how you add them during your essay construction – and (later) proofreading to check they make sense on a large(r) scale!
From experience, I would suggest that the best method for choosing and adding effective connectives is to:
- Sketch out a rough draft of your paragraph or essay section
- Separate out the points you’re making and identify how these arguments relate to each other
- Are they separate arguments for the same thing? Or opposite points of view? Do they follow on logically (cause and effect) or chronologically?
- Mark where you want to add signposting connectives to indicate structure
- Check your examples of connective word types and choose options that convey the meaning you need…
And for that purpose, we’ve compiled four lists of connective words for you – including the TOP 70 connectives for effective essay writing! So read on…
Types of connective words
So let’s get down to the really useful stuff: examples of connectives you can use in different situations in your essays!
There are three main types of connectives that we’re going to explore in turn:
- Comparative, Causal, and Temporal
Comparative connective words
These helpful words and phrases are perfect both for comparing similarities in data and arguments, and for pointing out their differences and oppositions. Use them to compare, discuss and argue.
When comparing points, you’ll often be adding to your argument, so these connectives are used for “addition”. The most common connectives for addition are: and, also, furthermore, moreover.
Here are some examples in practice:
- Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist and inventor, and also an influential Renaissance humanist.
- Exam Study Expert’s psychologist William offers expert one-on-one exam coaching. Furthermore, you can sign up for a free introductory session!
- My empirical data demonstrates that … ; similarly, theoretical models projected …
On the other hand, you might need to demonstrate and contrast your argument with the opposing point of view with a connective for “opposition”. The most commonly used are: alternatively, except, however, unless.
These examples all demonstrate opposition:
- Winston Churchill is best known for his wartime leadership of the United Kingdom, yet he was already in his 60’s when he took office.
- Some students find great study motivation from starting the day with their hardest task. In contrast, others find getting the ball rolling with smaller tasks more effective.
- Our first questionnaire was comprised of six questions. However, for our second questionnaire we …
Causal connective words
Causal connectives are effective for discussing cause and effect – relationships that have logical links that you want to point out and prove.
As such, academic writing is often full of causal connectives, and many of them demonstrate a very academic vocabulary (great for bonus points in your assignment!).
Most essays and assignments have a section (or several sections!) where you need to draw together your facts, ideas and arguments and point out the connections. These are the connectives to turn to at those moments!
The most commonly used are: as such, as a result (of), because, consequently, therefore, thus.
Here are some examples:
- The brains of London taxi drivers have a larger than usual area that deals with memory because they are required to memorise and navigate thousands of streets.
- Flashcards are a highly effective learning and memory tool, provided that you use them correctly.
- This study surveyed over 3,000 students. As a result, we were able to …
Temporal connective words
Whether you’re explaining the sequence of events that led to a historical battle, or demonstrating the steps in your experiment, temporal connectives are a highly valuable tool.
They’re all about discussing time and the chronology of events – what happened before, during and after. Therefore, they make for great signposting words too!
These examples explore each of the four sections in our temporal connectives lists:
- The law of gravity was not widely understood until it was mathematically formulated by Sir Isaac Newton in 1687.
- If you’re stressed about your exams, mindful meditation can be a great help. At the same time,an inspirational quote might give you the boost you need!
- Initially, the experiment was expected to demonstrate … Eventually, we came to the conclusion that …
The TOP 70 connective words for effective essay writing!
To make sure that you’ve got the tools you need to improve your grades, we’ve compiled this epic list of all the best connectives to use in academic writing.
This is just a selection from the hundreds of connective words and phrases available. So there’s no need to make your essay stale by over-using the same one or two!
If there’s nothing else you grab when you’re ticking off Step #4 from the connectives methodology above – make sure you grab this list!
It covers all the stages of essay structuring and writing, from introduction to conclusion. And includes lists of connectives for:
- Signposting and listing
- Showing your results by:
- Comparing and contrasting
- Illustrating your findings
- Demonstrating cause and effect
- Emphasising points
- Qualifying your arguments
We’ve highlighted the best and most commonly used connectives for each section to ensure you’ve got THE best resource to improve the quality of your essay immediately.
To finish off, here are some examples to get your essay-writing inspiration flowing:
- Firstly, it is well-known that retrieval practice is an effective learning method as compared with re-reading study texts and notes.
- I’m feeling tired tonight. Nevertheless, I must finish my homework and I want to take the dog for a walk.
- When it comes to …, however, there are several effective methods to …, in particular, …
Good luck with your essay!
Now you’ve mastered adding effective connective words to your essay you’re ready for the next step. Be sure to check out our guide on proofreading your assignment before you hand it in. Good luck!
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