Text-referring words

Text-referring words are ones that pick up their content from the surrounding text. This sentence in isolation does not mean much:

We decided to look at the problem again and try to find a solution.

What problem? We need to refer to some other sentence or to the context to find out. Problem and solution help organise the argument of the text, but they do not tell us the topic of the text. They refer to something somewhere else.

Here are some examples. What the word in bold refers to is underlined.

Pollution is increasing. The problem is getting worse each day.

Should taxes be raised or lowered? This was the biggest issue in the election, [topic causing great argument and controversy]

Whether the war could have been avoided is a question that continues to interest historians.

Let’s discuss crime. It’s always an interesting topic, [subject to argue about or discuss, e.g. in a debate or in an essay]

Punishment is only one aspect of crime, [part of the topic]

Problem-solution words

Text-referring words are often associated with common patterns in text, such as the ‘problem-solution’ type of text. Note the words in bold connected with problems and solutions here and try to learn them as a family.

The situation in our cities with regard to traffic is going from bad to worse. Congestion is a daily feature of urban life. The problem is now beginning to affect our national economies. Unless a new approach is found to controlling the number of cars, we will never find a solution to the dilemma.

In this dialogue, two politicians are arguing on the radio. Note how the words in bold refer to parts of the argument.

A: Your claim that we are doing nothing to invest in industry is false. We invested £10 billion last year. You have ignored this fact.

B: But the investment has all gone to service industries. The real point is that we need to invest in manufacturing.

A: That argument is out of date in a modern technological society. Our position has always been that we should encourage technology.

B: But that view will not help to reduce unemployment.

A: Rubbish. Utter rubbish.

Here are some more words associated with problem-solution texts. They are grouped in families associated with the key-words in bold. The prepositions which are normally used with these words are given in brackets.

situation: state of affairs position (with regard to)

problem: difficulty [more formal] crisis matter

response: reaction (to) attitude (to)

solution: answer (to) resolution (to) key (to) way out (of)

evaluation [of the solution]: assessment judgement