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Transition Words and Transitional Phrases

What Are Transition Words?

Transitions, or transition words, are used to connect ideas within a piece of writing. In this article, we’ll introduce you to some helpful transitional phrases and explain how to use them effectively. 

The Importance and Function of Transitions

In any form of writing, your goal is to share information in a clear, concise manner. In many cases, you’re also trying to convince the reader to agree with your position on the topic at hand. Transitions help you accomplish these goals by making logical connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections of a piece of writing. Essentially, transitions help readers understand what to do with the information presented in a piece. Transitions work as signs that indicate how to think about, organize, and react to ideas as a person reads through your piece of writing. They can be full sentences, brief phrases, or even single words. 

Transitions show the relationships between ideas. A couple of examples are, “Here’s an exception to the statement I made,” and “Although this idea seems to make sense, here’s the evidence against it.” In this way, transitions give readers instructions regarding how to put together your ideas into a logical argument. 

Transitions aren’t just a way to embellish your paper and make it read more smoothly. These words have specific meanings that explain to the reader how to think and react to your ideas. By providing these important cues to your readers, transitions help them to understand the logic of your argument and the way your ideas fit together. 

How Do You Know if You Need to Work On Your Transitions?

Here are a few signs that your transitions need some work:

  • You’ve received feedback that your work is abrupt, choppy, or doesn’t flow well. 
  • Readers have said they can’t follow the train of thought in your writing.
  • You write in the same way you think, with your writing jumping quickly from one idea to another. 
  • You tend to write your paper in separate chunks and then paste them together.
  • You’ve worked on a piece with a group of people, and the draft was created by pasting everyone’s writing together. 

A Note on Organization

Your transitions won’t be as effective as they can be unless you’ve organized your paper properly. Take a look at the piece of writing you’re working on, and in the margins, jot down a short summary of each paragraph and explain how it fits into the piece as a whole. This exercise helps you understand the order of your paper and the connections between your ideas.

If you’ve completed this exercise and still find it challenging to link your ideas together coherently, then your problem may be with the organization rather than transitions. Check out this article‘s explanation of outlines for more help.

How Do Transitions Work?

A written work’s organization is made up of two elements: the order of the parts of your discussion and the relationships between those parts. Good organization cannot be replaced by transitions, but transitions do enhance your organization by making the work clear and easy to follow. Take a look at the following example.

A country has a new democratic government after decades of being ruled by a dictatorship. Assume that you’d like to argue that the country isn’t as democratic as the conventional perspective would have you believe.

One way to organize your argument effectively is to present the conventional perspective and then provide your critical response to this view. So, in the first paragraph, you would explain all the reasons that someone might consider the country highly democratic, while in the second paragraph, you would disprove those points. 

To indicate to your readers that the information in the second paragraph contradicts the information in the first paragraph, you’ll need to use a transition that establishes the logical connection between these two parts of your argument. Therefore, you could organize your argument in the following way:

Paragraph 1 lists points that support the view that the country’s new government is very democratic

Transition: Despite the aforementioned arguments, there are multiple reasons to think that the country’s new government is not quite as democratic as is typically believed.

Paragraph 2 explains points that disprove the view that the country’s new government is extremely democratic.

In this situation, the transition words “despite the aforementioned arguments” suggest that the reader shouldn’t believe the first paragraph. Instead, they should pay attention to the writer’s arguments for viewing the country’s democracy as less than democratic.

As shown by this example, transitions help to reinforce your paper’s underlying logic by providing readers with the necessary information that explains the relationship between your ideas. Transitions essentially act as glue, binding the components of your argument into a coherent and unified whole.

Types of Transitions

Now that you know how to develop effective transitions in your writing let’s talk about the types of transitions you’ll use. There is a diverse range of transitions to choose from, ranging from single words to phrases to sentences to entire paragraphs. But regardless of its length, a transition always functions in the same way. It either directly summarizes the content of the section before, or it implies a summary by reminding the reader of what they’ve read before. Then, a transition indicates to the reader how to comprehend the new information. 

1. Transitions Between Sections

If you’re writing a longer piece, you might need to include transitional paragraphs. These paragraphs should provide your reader with a summary of the information just presented. They should also explain why that information is relevant to the following discussion.

2. Transitions Between Paragraphs

As long as you’ve arranged your paragraphs in a way that they lead into each other logically, a transition will highlight the relationship between the content that already exists. It does this by summarizing the preceding paragraph and making a suggestion regarding the content that will follow. Transitions between paragraphs can be single words, phrases, or sentences. They can be located at the end of the first paragraph, at the beginning of the next paragraph, or in both locations.

3. Transitions Within Paragraphs

Just like transitions between paragraphs and sections, transitions within paragraphs help readers anticipate what they’re about to read. Transitions within paragraphs are usually single words or short phrases. 

Transitional Expressions

To effectively construct transitions, you need to identify the correct words and phrases to indicate the logical relationships you want to convey to your reader. You can take a look at the table below for numerous examples of these words and phrases. If you’re ever struggling to find a word, phrase, or sentence to act as an effective transition, simply refer back to the table. The left column consists of various types of logical relationships you may be trying to express. Meanwhile, the right column provides plenty of examples for each type of logical relationship. However, it’s important to note that each word or phrase has a slightly different meaning, so if you’re not sure of the exact definition of a transition, be sure to consult a dictionary. 

Similarity similarly, also, in the same way, just as … so too, likewise
Exception/Contrast but, in spite of, however, nevertheless, on the one hand … on the other hand, yet, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still
Sequence/Order then, finally, first, second, third, … next
Time after, before, afterward, at last, earlier, currently, during, meanwhile, immediately, later, then, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently
Example for example, namely, for instance, to illustrate, specifically
Emphasis even, in fact, indeed, truly, of course
Place/Position above, adjacent, beyond, below, nearby, here, there, in front, in back
Cause and Effect accordingly, consequently, therefore, hence, so, thus
Additional Support or Evidence additionally, again, as well, also, and, besides, in addition, equally important, further, then, furthermore, moreover
finally, in a word, in conclusion, in brief, briefly, in the end, on the whole, in the final analysis, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, to sum up, in summary


Test your new-found knowledge of transition words with this quiz!

Posted by Jessica Allen
By Jessica Allen

I am a full-time freelance writer and editor, and I’m passionate about producing and enhancing content. I’ve loved the English language, reading, and writing for as long as I can remember, and I dreamed of becoming a writer from the time I was in elementary school. Now, I've made my writing dreams a reality and earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish. During my college years, I spent time refining my writing skills in both languages before making the decision to write full-time in 2020.

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