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A previous post on signpost language in introductions highlighted the fact that signpost language is used extensively in English academic writing and is part of the Anglo-Saxon style.

Because signpost language is generally very straightforward and clear, it can seem too simple to use in academic or professional contexts. After teaching signpost language at the FSV for a few years, I started to doubt whether it is really used in practice.

The answer came by way of experiences with British English in high-level academic and professional contexts. First, I attended a few lectures by native English-speaking professors from Oxford and Cambridge. Both of them used very simple and clear signpost language extensively throughout their lectures. Second, I attended a Brexit conference in London with academics and leaders from business and government. I did not realize how high level this conference was until I arrived and realized that the conference rooms overlooked London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. Virtually every speaker I saw used signpost language extensively in their presentation. Third, I have also noticed this in videos of Oxford and Cambridge debates and speeches of British politicians.  

A future blog post will explore why signpost language is used so extensively in English. 

Signpost language should always be used in academic presentations. By reinforcing a clear structure, signpost language guides listeners through the material. While it is possible to use more complex signpost language, I recommend using the simplest versions (e.g. first, second) since they are academic and effective, yet easier to remember.

Below is an excellent BBC link with signpost language for presentations. While this is from a business skills section, the same signpost language is used for academic presentations and lectures.

Signpost language : http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/business/talkingbusiness/unit3presentations/expert.shtml

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Pamela Cotte

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