Signal Phrases, Attributive Tags, and Transition Words


Here is a handy-dandy list of “signal phrases,” also called “attributive tags” –the phrases writers use to provide a seamless from his or her thoughts to the writer’s thoughts when paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting:

Acknowledges       Comments       Endorses       Reasons       Adds       Compares       Grants       Refutes       Admits       Confirms      Implies      Rejects      Agrees      Contends      Insists      Reports      Argues      Declares     Illustrates     Responds     Asserts     Denies     Notes    Suggests     Believes     Disputes     Observes     Thinks     Claims     Emphasizes Points out      Writes

Use them! Also, here are a few examples of how signal words work in a sentence:

  •  In the words of noted psychologist Carl Jung, “…”
  • As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead noted, “…”
  • Kanye West, Grammy award-winning songwriter and rapper, says, “…”
  • “…,” claims reality-TV star Hulk Hogan.
  • Authors Amy Tan and Tobias Wolfe offer two unique perspectives on growing up: “…”

Here is an example of a “dropped quote,” which is a quote without a signal phrase indicating the author.

Did you know that some bread batters should be hand mixed? “This light mixing technique produces quick breads with a lovely open crumb” (Greenspan 2).

As you can see, this thing is dangling out in space, all cold and lonely. Give it an attribute:

Did you know that some bread batters should be hand mixed? According to Dorrie Greenspan, author of Baking: From My Home to Yours, “This light mixing technique produces quick breads with a lovely open crumb” (2).

Note that when you mention the author’s name and text you are quoting from as a signal phrase in the same sentence as the quote, you don’t need to put the author name in the parenthetical citation. Just write the page number.

Here are lots of verbs that you can use in attributive tags, so choose one that works appropriately for your writing:

  • Neutral tags: says, writes, claims, comments, notes, discusses
  • Tags to suggest that an idea may not be fully accepted: contends, suggests, asserts, believes, proposes, speculates
  • Tags that allow you to emphasize a source’s key ideas: points out, emphasizes
  • Tags for adding information to an idea you’re establishing: adds, agrees, confirms
  • Tags to introduce counter-arguments or alternate views: argues, disagrees, warns, contends
  • Tags related to future actions/solutions: proposes, predicts, speculates

And finally, the icing on the cake of this language foray, here is a good list of transition words and their categories. I urge you to refer to this list every time you have to write a paper.


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