Linking direction

Most conjunctions are placed between the elements that they connect. In the examples above, yet, in addition and and are placed between the paragraphs, sentences and clauses they join, but whereas is not. Some conjunctions which link clauses within a sentence can be placed either at the beginning or in the middle of the sentence and still do the same job:

  • Whereas pain and discomfort usually lead to avoidance behaviour, hunger and thirst usually lead a person to seek food and drink.
  • Hunger and thirst usually lead a person to seek food and drink, whereas pain and discomfort usually lead to avoidance behaviour.

So the appearance of a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence does not necessarily mean that the link is being made with the previous sentence.

How do you know which order to choose? There is no fixed rule for this, but often a writer will arrange a sentence so that the topic of the first part (clause) clearly links to the topic of the previous sentence and the topic of the second part links to the following sentence.

In the example below the topic of the first sentence is the National Reform Agenda. The writer intends to discuss some of its disadvantages in the rest of the paragraph but wants to acknowledge that there are some benefits.

Through the National Reform Agenda the government is extending its reach beyond public education to include workplace training. Although the framework has many benefits, there are also some undesirable assumptions contained within it. One is that the people most involved in the learning process have little to contribute. ... In this extract the way the clauses are organised allows the writer to link the topics directly. ‘One’ clearly refers to ‘assumptions’.
Through the National Reform Agenda the government is extending its reach beyond public education to include workplace training. There are some undesirable assumptions contained within the framework, although it has many benefits. One is that the people most involved in the learning process have little to contribute. .... In this extract the topics are not linked directly. ‘One’ is likely to be interpreted as referring to ‘benefits’, which is not what the writer intends. Of course, it could be reworded to read ‘One assumption...’ but the link is still not as clear and direct as in the first example.

Conjunctions which can appear in either position include the following:

whereas Click the conjunctions to see how they can be used
while
(even) though
although
unless
as
because
since
so that
in order that
if
when(ever)
where(ver)
before
after
until

You can see a Table of English Conjunctions which contains a selection of the most commonly used conjunctions in academic writing. This table also shows which conjunctions relate ideas across clauses and which conjunctions relate ideas across sentences (or paragraphs).


Exercise 1

In the text below some of the sentences are shown in two versions. For these sentences, select the better versions, then click on the 'Feedback' button to check your answer.

The World Wide Web can be described as a system which allows information sharing between globally connected computers made possible by the development of hyperlinks.
As a result of this technologically efficient means of sharing information, the potential existed for a revolution in the personal computer use.orThe potential existed for a revolution in the personal computer use as a result of this technologically efficient means of sharing information.
Popular use of the WWW became a reality, however, only after user-friendly browsers were developed.orHowever, it was only after user-friendly browsers were developed that popular use of the WWW became a reality.
While information was now more accessible than ever, it was still difficult to find relevant material efficientlyorIt was still difficult to find relevant material efficiently, while information was now more accessible than ever.
However, the introduction of search engines finally led to phenomenal growth in information sharing online.
These new developments also imposed a new burden - the need for critical assessment - although they liberated the consumer.orAlthough these new developments liberated the consumer they also imposed a new burden - the need for critical assessment.

Continue on to Explicit vs. Implicit Logical Relations