Introduction to Connectors and Transitions

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Connectors, transitions, and signposts allow your listeners to orient themselves within the overall argument.

One of the ways a speaker can help an audience follow what they’re saying is to use words and phrases that illuminate the connections between different parts of the speech. These parts of speech, known as connectors, transitions, or signposts, help the listeners keep track of the movements of an argument.

Imagine describing a house to someone over the telephone. You probably wouldn’t just list the objects and furniture: “I see a sofa. And a table. Now there’s a bed. And a window. There’s a stove and a sink.” If you wanted your listener to be able to picture the layout of the house, you would use connector words to help them orient themselves in space. “I’m walking through the front door. To my left is the living room. There’s a sofa with a table in front of it. To my right is the dining room. I’m walking through a door into a bedroom. There’s a bed and a large window.” This is how transitions and signposts work in a speech. But rather than orienting ourselves in space, we’re orienting ourselves within a story or argument. Are we changing directions? Are we going deeper into a particular detail? Are we moving into a new section? Are we giving an overview of the section to come or recalling the part we just finished? Signposts are what allow your listener to understand where they are in the overall structure of the speech.