As you prepare to organize your messages and supporting material into a form that suits your purpose and helps you achieve it, you may decide that one of the eight structures listed below is the best fit.
All eight replicate the cognitive structures through which thinking occurs; using one of them helps make your thinking clearer for your audience and thus easier to follow. But you can strengthen their impact by using signal words—sometimes called clue words—within the text to reinforce the structure chosen.
These signal words, moreover, connect one idea to another, show the logical relationship between ideas, serve as a reminder of what came before, and help the reader or listener predict what will come next.
The signal words that may be most useful for a particular structure are listed below; the links will take you to the articles that detail structures and their advantages.
Cause/effect: accordingly, affect, as a result, and, basis, because, cause, consequence, consequently, due to, effect, finally, for this reason, foundation, hence, impact, initiate, in order to, in short, leads to (led to), nevertheless, on account of, origin, outcome, produce, reason(s), result(s), root, since, so, source, then, therefore, thus, trigger, ultimately, yet
Classification: aspect(s), attribute(s), category/categories, characteristic(s), element(s), facet, feature(s), field(s), group(s) part(s), rank, some, trait(s), type(s), variety, various
Comparison: alike, all, also, as, as well as, at the same time, both, common, compared to, furthermore, in like manner, in addition, in comparison, just as, like, likewise, moreover, same as, similarly, similar to, whereas, yet Contrast: although, as opposed to, at the same time, both, but, conversely, despite, different from, however, in contrast, instead of, like, nevertheless, nonetheless, on one hand, on the other hand, on the contrary, notwithstanding, rather, regardless, unless, unlike, whereas, yet
Chronological: after, afterward, at last, at that time, before, days, during, even though, first, finally, formerly, frequently, how, immediately, initially, later, minute(s), moment(s), month(s), next, not long after, now, occasionally, presently, previously, regularly, second, shortly, simultaneously, since, subsequently, then, third, until, ultimately, when, while, years
Description: at first, also, another, in addition, in back, in front, for example, for instance, furthermore, near, such as, to begin with, to illustrate (and sensory words such as “fringed” or “bitter” or “soft”)
Problem/solution: answer, as a result, at stake, because, consequently, difficulty, dilemma, factor, indicate/indication, improve, issue, need, plan, problem, propose, puzzle, remedy, suggest/suggestion, resolve/resolution
Process/sequence: after, all, at the same time, before, both, currently, earlier, finally, following, frequently, how, immediately, initially, later, last, meanwhile, next, not long after, occasionally, partly, previously, prior, regularly, simultaneously, subsequently, then, ultimately, when, while
Spatial: a little further on, above, adjacent to, after, behind, below, beyond, close by, correspondingly, directly, elsewhere, in back of, in front of, inside, nearby, next to, opposite, outside of, then, to left (or right or south or east, etc.), within
As you structure the text of your presentation or document, then, include words that help listeners and readers understand the direction you are going. Like all transitions appropriately used, these signal words help audiences map your course, whether you are heading straight on, making a turn, taking a slight but meaningful digression, or pausing to contemplate the scene you have laid before them.