Sentence starters, prompts and skeletons

Further to my recent post on planning and editing tips for writing that focused on the paragraph, I’ve complied here some useful pieces on sentence construction, using the idea of skeleton sentences – the bare bones but no content – into which the substance of an essay might be fitted. As I said in that previous post, starting with a blank piece of paper can be really difficult, and if you get hung up on the style then you might never articulate the content as you would hope to.

Pat Thomson has a great piece on sentence skeletons, although aimed at research students, that demonstrates some effective phrases. Her book with Barbara Kamal, Helping Doctoral Students Write, expands on this further.

EIT has a bank of sentence starters: opening phrases, connecting phrases, and useful verbs.

Aimed at English second language students, nevertheless ThinkELT.com has a comprehensive bank of sentence starters and linking words, handily grouped by whether they are sentences for discussion, debate, argument, evidence, etc.

And of course, if you are a University of Bedfordshire student, you can access Study Hub Online’s “how to” and “try it” worksheets on Writing and Assignments through BREO.

I also compiled some sentence starters. If you know of a great bank of sentence starters, please leave a comment below!

This essay will argue that …
The most important point is that …
To illustrate / illuminate this point, [evidence]
Evidence for this position can be found in …
[Author] in particular has focused on …
This approach is similar to [author’s] position
This idea can also be found in the work of [author]
[Author] offers compelling evidence to suggest that …
Proponents of [argument] have also suggested that …
But we should also consider …
A contrary explanation is …
Although it might be argued that [contradictory point], ultimately this is [less important / overshadowed by] …
Another significant factor is …
This counter-argument is supported by evidence from …
It is important to note the limitations of [point] …
Nevertheless, [issue] remains a problem, (because …)
Despite these criticisms, the evidence concerning [point] remains high
Of central concern to [theory/theorists] is explaining how …
Whether [point] is [sustainable/supportable] continues to be a matter of debate.
Each of these [theoretical] positions make an important contribution to our understanding of …
It can be seen from the above analysis that …
To conclude, the evidence above suggests that …

Although I support the use of first person, it is not always appropriate, and in essay work the focus should be what the evidence shows us, rather than on my opinion or what I think. So I have not included any first person sentence structures here. I hope this offers at least some inspiration!

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One thought on “Sentence starters, prompts and skeletons

  1. Dr Joanne Hill March 31, 2014 at 6:33 pm Reply

    @explorstyle pointed me towards http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk which is a great resource

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