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How to Avoid Overusing Linking Words as a Non-Native English Writer

A simple way to write well-connected texts that people will enjoy reading

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Photo by Kindel Media on Pexel

Starting each new sentence with linking words and phrases such as:

  • However,
  • In addition,
  • As a result,
  • Therefore,
  • Indeed,
  • In fact,

…has a bad impact on the readability of your text.

When I started writing in English — my second language — I would begin each new sentence with such words. This is what I was taught in my academic English classes.

I then became an English teacher and noticed that most non-native English writers have this tendency to overuse linkers too — not only in academic texts but also in emails and more informal writing.

I’ll explain why you should avoid doing this and what you could do instead.

Why overusing linkers is a bad idea

Read this paragraph. Do you agree with what it says?

One thing you can do to improve your writing is to avoid starting each new sentence with a linking word. Indeed, too many linking words can make your writing monotonous and fragmented. As a result, your text would sound artificial and robotic. For example, this paragraph sounds awful because every sentence starts with a linker. Therefore, try not to write like this.

Boring, artificial, and choppy.

Compare to this:

One thing you can do to improve your writing is to avoid starting each new sentence with linking words because too many of these can make your writing monotonous and fragmented. Your text would sound artificial and robotic. For example, the paragraph above sounds awful while this one is better as every sentence doesn’t start with a linker. Try to write like this.

If you read both paragraphs aloud, you’ll notice how the second one flows more naturally.

Here’s another example:

Learning a language requires time. Therefore, you should be consistent and patient. Indeed, this is what will help you make progress. As a result, you will succeed.

Better paragraph:

Learning a language requires time so you should be consistent and patient. This is what will help you make progress so you can succeed in your language learning journey.

I hope you can see the difference.

So, what exactly can you do to avoid overusing linkers?

 

How to avoid overusing linkers in 3 simple step

Step 1: When you’re writing a text, write one sentence per line.

This can help you see all your sentences separately so you can decide how to connect them, how to order them, and which ones you can remove. Don’t use any linkers at this stage.

Like this:

One thing you can do to improve your writing is to avoid starting each sentence with a linking word.

Too many linking words can make your writing monotonous and fragmented.

Your text would sound artificial and robotic.

This paragraph sounds awful because every sentence starts with a linker.

Try not to write like this.

(The idea of writing one sentence per line comes from Derek Sivers, one of my favorite writers.)

Step 2: Once you have all your sentences in front of you, you need to connect them otherwise the text won’t flow.

But instead of using a linking word or phrase at the beginning of each new sentence, you can:

  • join sentences together using simple conjunctions (e.g. and, but, so, because) and write a longer sentence.
  • substituting words with pronouns such as “it,” “this,” “that,” “ones,” and so on, to avoid repetition.
  • making relevant changes and adjustments to the sentence.

For example, this:

One thing you can do to improve your writing is to avoid starting each sentence with a linking word. Indeed, too many linking words can make your writing monotonous and fragmented.

…becomes this:

One thing you can do to improve your writing is to avoid starting each sentence with linking words because too many of these can make your writing monotonous and fragmented.

I joined the first sentence with “because” and used the pronoun “these” to avoid repeating “linking words”. I removed “indeed” and made the sentence slightly longer.

You can also play around with the order of the sentences.

Like this:

Too many linking words can make your writing monotonous and fragmented so try to avoid starting each sentence with these.

I switched the sentences, used a simple conjunction — “so” — and inserted the pronoun “these” to avoid repeating “linking words”.

***

Another thing you could do is to place two sentences one after the other without a linker and check if they sound OK.

Let’s see:

One thing you can do to improve your writing is to avoid starting each sentence with a linking word. Too many linking words can make your writing monotonous and fragmented.

Hmm, they look like two isolated sentences to me. It doesn’t work in this case.

But there are times when you can cut the linking word at the beginning of the sentence without compromising the meaning or flow.

For example, you can cut “indeed” in the following:

Learning a language requires time. Therefore, you should be consistent and patient. Indeed, this is what will help you make progress.

So it becomes:

Learning a language requires time. Therefore, you should be consistent and patient. This is what will help you make progress.

It works.

I would also remove “therefore” and write:

Learning a language requires time so you should be consistent and patient. This is what will help you make progress.

Step 3: Always read your finished paragraph aloud. Always. If you sound like a robot, keep editing it until you sound like a human.

Conclusion

Linkers are useful as they help you join sentences and ideas together. But overusing them can often make your writing stilted and unpleasant to read, especially if you’re not writing an academic paper.

Removing them, varying the length of your sentences, and playing around with sentence structure are all ways to avoid overusing linkers and write better texts.

Hope this helps!

***

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Fabio Cerpelloni is an English language teacher, writer, author, and podcaster from Italy. You can find out more about him and his work by clicking on his glass of beer in the photo.