Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Poor signposting can cause your reader to get lost

When you are getting ready on your essay, there are a lot of things on your mind. You have to write a strong intro, do research, use good vocabulary, make arguments, etc. Sometimes students forget about the simplest of things. Sign posting is one of those simple things that are usually taken for granted, but when viewed from a reader’s perspective, they carry a huge importance. Your reader has to know what is being referred to at some particular point. Many people who have written a lot of essays don’t even know what signposting is!
Signposting is actually using words in an essay to tell the readers about the content. For example, “This essay explores the theoretical and practical approaches to communication”  is a sentence that gives you a clear cut indication about what the readers are going to read about throughout the essay, but it does not mention any content itself.

Among the types of signposting, small-scale and large-scale signpostings are done on different levels. The signposting done on a small scale refers to using one or two words or a phrase to show  the reader where you are going with your argument. Words like “However” and “hence” are common examples of small scale signposting. Large-scale signposting is using a full fledge sentence to signal what the coming paragraph is about. The example quoted  in the second paragraph is essentially an example of large-scale signposting.

There are a lot of ways to ensure effective use of signposting in essay writing. Firstly, you must ensure that you use a variety of words for small-scale signposting. For example, the words “hence” and “thus” can be used interchangeably.  Secondly, you should use the large-scale signposting sentences at the start of the paragraph.  This would help the reader know about what the whole paragraph is about. Thirdly, try to keep sign posting in check. Yes, it helps your essay a lot, but too much of it can make your essay look messy. There should be a perfect balance between signposting and the content. Fourthly, whenever you proofread your essay, make sure you pay special attention to your signposts. If any of them goes wrong, it can change the whole direction or meaning of your essay.  And finally, make sure that you are smart with your choice of signposts. Read about them on the internet so that you know in what specific sense they are used in the English language.