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Student Writing Guide: Transitions

Written by Chandra Clarke

Regardless of your subject or audience, when you write, you need to arrange the text so readers can understand and follow your ideas. The sentences and paragraphs that make up any written document will often contain different ideas and subtopics. The transitions between these ideas help readers digest information successfully. A transition can be a word, a group of words, or a complete sentence, and the effective use of transitions alerts readers to shifts in ideas so they can better understand the information presented. After writing, spend time editing to ensure the correct use of transitions throughout a document.

What Are Transitions?

Transitions are words or phrases that help readers recognize connections between ideas. As you write, use transition words to help you organize information effectively. Transitions can help signal connections between a main idea and supporting ideas. They can also signify comparisons or contrasts, and transition words are an excellent way to introduce and identify related concepts. Use transitions within and between paragraphs, but be careful not to overuse transitional words as this can be tedious for readers. It is often helpful to start by writing an outline of your essay to gain a clearer picture of how your various ideas are related; then, you can select transitions accordingly.

Types and Examples of Transitions

Sentence transitions help readers understand how different sentences relate or connect. Some sentences can stand alone without transitions. However, other sentences need to flow logically into the proceeding sentences, and this necessitates specific transition words or phrases. Sentence transitions should occur as additional ideas or directions arise in a piece of writing.

Paragraph transitions also help connect ideas and maintain the logical flow of a document. These transitions occur at the beginning of a new paragraph to introduce an idea or direction. The purpose of the paragraph transition is to help readers understand how the new paragraph connects to preceding paragraphs. When using paragraph transitions, choose words carefully to ensure they are correct. A single word is not effective as a paragraph transition because it does not provide enough information. Therefore, you should always use either a transitional phrase or sentence at the beginning of a new paragraph. Try not to use a subordinating conjunction such as although, since, or while as a paragraph transition.

Addition or Agreement Transitions

These types of transitions are effective for reinforcing ideas, adding information, and showing agreement with other information. Examples of these transitions include the following words and phrases:

  • In addition
  • By the same token
  • Equally
  • Moreover
  • Similarly
  • As well as
  • Furthermore

Contradiction or Opposition

Words and phrases like those in the list below indicate to readers a different perspective or contradictory ideas.

  • In contrast
  • In spite of
  • In reality
  • But
  • Although
  • Instead
  • Despite
  • Nevertheless
  • Regardless

Cause or Condition

You can communicate conditions or causes for new ideas or events with cause or condition transitions. Examples include the following:

  • In the event that
  • For the purpose of
  • In order to
  • Because of
  • While
  • Provided that
  • Due to

Examples or Emphasis

Use examples to emphasize or support ideas. Transitions like the following can highlight information for the reader's attention:

  • In other words
  • For this reason
  • Notably
  • Chiefly
  • Especially
  • In general
  • For example
  • To emphasize
  • To enumerate

Effect or Consequence

Explain the effects and results of events or ideas with this type of transition. The word choice shows the reader something that happened afterward, which would be an effect, or something that happened before, which would be a cause. Examples of these transitions include the following:

  • For
  • Because
  • Accordingly
  • Consequently
  • Hence

Time or Sequence

To define time in a document, use chronological transitions like these:

  • From time to time
  • In the meantime
  • First, second, etc.
  • Later
  • Before
  • Henceforth
  • During
  • By the time
  • Until now
  • Occasionally

Location or Place

Use transitions to restrict or qualify location or place in writing. Some of these transitions also overlap into time and sequence transitions. Here are a few examples:

  • In the middle
  • In the background
  • Near
  • Above
  • Under
  • Further
  • Between
  • Alongside
  • Beneath
  • Across

Conclusion or Summary

Wrap up an idea or a subject with conclusion or summary transitions. Words such as the following often indicate a restatement of ideas:

  • As shown above
  • For the most part
  • In summary
  • In conclusion
  • To sum up
  • Ultimately

Additional Resources

About the Author

Chandra ClarkeChandra is the founder and former president of Scribendi. She holds a BA in English and an MSc in Space Exploration Studies. Her lifelong devotion to the written word started when she joined The Chatham Daily News as a regional stringer. She then worked as a reporter/photographer for a large chain of weeklies before becoming the managing editor of an independent paper, a post she held for two years before striking out on her own. She pens a weekly humor column and has written dozens of short stories, newspaper articles, and magazine articles. She is an enthusiastic supporter of space exploration and scientific research, and is the author of Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science.

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