FANBOYS?: Linking Words in Academic Writing

Are you having problems linking two ideas in a sentence? Are you having a hard time trying to join paragraphs? If I say FANBOYS, it may not make too much sense to you. But what if I told you that it is an acronym that stands for seven of the most common linking words in the English language? That’s right. The seven letters that make it are the first letter of the following words: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

Having different functions, they all help to connect phrases, sentences, clauses and paragraphs. Let’s take a look at their use and some examples:

For

It is a more formal (and old-fashioned) version of because or since; it provides a reason for what was stated at the beginning of the sentence:


He couldn’t go for the weather was severe.

And

Arguably the most used connector in the English language; its function is to add to something to what was already expressed. It is, somehow, a simplified version of the transitional phrase “in addition (to…)”:

In addition to working in an office, I work as an Uber driver.
I work in an office and as an Uber driver.

For academic writing, however, I would suggest using in addition to rather than simply using and.

Nor

It can be used with neither to state something negative about a person or a thing. An example for such case would read as follows:

The president of the Chamber of Deputies believes the meeting was neither fruitful nor necessary.

You can also employ nor as a link between two negative clauses, that is:

The police didn’t believe her, nor did her family once she told them.

But

It establishes a contrast between two ideas. it can connect two ideas in the same sentence or two sentences in a paragraph, for that matter:

I like fruit, but I don’t like bananas.

The initiative has received widespread expressions of support during the last days. But a significant number of people has some misgivings about it.

In a more academic context, it is also used together with nevertheless to establish a contrast, that is:

She said that democracy may not be perfect, but nevertheless it is preferable to a dictatorship.

Or

It introduces an option to what was expressed in the first part of the statement. It can join two nouns or two clauses.

Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
Are you going on vacation or are you staying home?

Additionally, or is used combined with either to indicate correlation or a likely consequence of a previously stated idea.

Either the president makes an announcement today or the social unrest will not cease.

Yet

It is a contrastive conjunction and, as its name hints, serves the purpose of opposing two ideas. Although usually accompanied by the conjunction and, it can perfectly work without such a word. It can also be thought of as conveying the same meaning of but, but in a more emphatic way. It works very much like nevertheless, still, and however.

We know he’s going to say no, (and) yet here we are waiting for him. Despite his obvious refusal, here we are waiting for him.

So

Conveying a similar meaning to therefore, it is used to indicate that what was previously stated serves as the reason for what will be stated next.

He didn’t want to waste any more time, so he started his research
right away.

In academic writing, linking words -also referred to as transition words- are fundamental to create the flow of your ideas: they can smoothly transit from one point to another. By using such words, it is easier for the reader to follow your train of thought as your text becomes not only more fluent but also more interesting.


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