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Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
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Transitions in Writing

Effective, engaging sentences flows like a meandering river. They are pleasant and easy to read, connecting ideas without being rough, while staying focused on the topic or story. Part of skillful writing is how the sentences are connected together through transitions.

Transitions are clarifying words or phrases connecting ideas and concepts together in sentences and paragraphs. Similarly, when tile flooring in a kitchen meets the wood flooring in the living room, there is a transition between them. Sometimes transitions are seamless and invisible, while others are bulky and easy to trip over.

The same goes for transitions in writing. The best transitions are the ones that are seamless and nearly invisible. They effortlessly show relationships between ideas and concepts. Transitions are usually single words or phrases indicating a connection or relationship. Some common examples are:

  • First
  • Furthermore
  • As important as
  • Along with
  • In the event of

How to Write a Transition Sentence

Transitions are the key to making the connections between parts of writing flow and connect together. There are different types of transitions and different circumstances where they are used. Typically, there are three key types of transitions and transitional structures.

  • A transition between paragraphs – generally a phrase starting a sentence
  • A transition within a paragraph – generally a single word followed by a comma
  • A transition to a new part of the writing – often this includes a small paragraph but is at minimum a sentence.

The first step to writing an effective transition is to determine what is being transitioned. The transitional situation will determine what word or phrases will be appropriate.

This list of steps will provide a guide on how to approach and write an effective transition.

Step Action Explanation
Step 1 Determine the transition type Determine if the transition is between paragraphs, within paragraphs, or between sections.
Step 2 Determine the relationship Determine how the two parts requiring a transition relate to each other.
Step 3 Choose the appropriate relationship words. If the parts are contrasting, complementing, adding, or expanding, then the transition will need to indicate this purpose.
Step 4 Start the sentence with the transition. Write the transition word or phrase at the beginning of the sentence.
Step 5 Write the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence usually indicates what the upcoming ideas and concepts the following paragraph or section will discuss.
Step 6 Re-read both parts to hear the flow. Remember to read the transition out loud to make sure it doesn’t sound jumpy or awkward. An effective transition flows smoothly and easily connects ideas and concepts.

The following paragraphs show an example of a transition. Keep in mind the above steps while reading this example.

Exploring the solar system is crucial for humans and private companies should be encouraged to take to the stars. Humanity faces increasing global issues, making it seem less prudent for governments to spend valuable tax dollars on sending people into space. While space exploration is important, tax money should be spent on issues such as climate change, global medicine, and alleviating poverty. This leaves the importance of space exploration in the hands of corporations and wealthy individuals who are willing to finance space exploration. The public should encourage corporations and individuals to continue carrying the torch that NASA once did.

Despite the need for space exploration, those who go into space and how they get there should be heavily scrutinized. While private space exploration should be encouraged, these corporations and individuals should also be regulated to prevent privatization of resources that space provides.

This example highlights the transitional relationship between the two paragraphs. The first paragraph favors privatization of space travel, while the second paragraph explains a caveat to the first.

Examples of Effective Transition Sentences

While writing effective transitions can be taxing, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. There are boundless examples of good transitions that can be applied to almost any situation. For beginning writers, practice using tried and true transitions is better than stressing about coming up with a unique one.

The following sections provide examples of transitional words, phrases, and sophisticated alternatives.

Transition Words to Start a Sentence

Many times when a transition takes place within a paragraph, the sentence only needs a single word to transition to the next sentence. Transition words can also be used in the middle of a sentence to connect a compound sentence. The most common examples are the ones that are taught in early elementary writing. Those are usually first, second, third last or first, next, finally. While those work well for basic writing, there are better transition words available to writers. The following table gives examples of transition words to use to start a sentence.

Transition Word Type of Transition Example Sentence
Furthermore Agreement Furthermore, cats can be left alone for longer periods of time.
Likewise Agreement Likewise, fish can also be left alone without the need to be taken out.
Additionally Adding On Additionally, recycling can provide a small source of income for the consumer.
Unlike Disagreement Unlike hybrid cars, electric vehicles require no gas at all.
Despite Disagreement Despite being a good movie, it doesn’t compare to the original version.
While Conditional While adding a stoplight would be helpful, there are other things to consider.
Because Cause/Effect Because test scores were so low, the district has to consider all opens on the table.
Hence Cause/Effect The weather was terrible, hence the need to cancel the event.
Therefore Cause/Effect Therefore the town council all voted to turn down the business’ proposal.
Indeed Support Indeed, the king’s decision to open the hunting grounds was well within his rights.
Explicitly Support Explicitly, the power falls to the chairman of the board in these matters.
Presently Time Presently, there is nothing that indicates that the board will change their minds on the matter.

There are countless transitions that can be used for every type of essay and relationship.

Image of a group of transition words

Transition Phrases for Essays

Transition phrases are used in a similar way to transition words. They can start a sentence, transition a sentence, or transition a section. They can be more flexible because of the interchangeable nature of the multiple words. Some transition phrases for essays are determined by the type of essay.

Informative Essays – Transition phrases for informative essays will often include cause and effect, additional information, and explanations.

Persuasive Essays – Persuasive essays often use opposition or counter argument transition words.

The following table shows examples of some useful transition phrases and their uses.

Transition Phrase Type of Transition Example Sentence
Combined with Adding on Combined with installing solar panels, heat pumps can significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Of equal importance Introduce/add on Of equal importance is the need to provide free public transportation to encourage people to ditch their cars.
On the other hand Opposition On the other hand, eliminating speed limits on highways could lead to more fatal car crashes.
As much as Opposition As much as streaming music is convenient, there’s nothing like putting on a vinyl record.
On the other hand Contrast On the other hand, ranked choice voting could lead to confusion about what happens to a person’s vote.
In the event of Cause/Effect In the event of a tie, the deciding vote goes to the Vice President.
As long as Cause/Effect As long as the levies hold, New Orleans should prevent the worst-case scenario.
For this reason Support For this reason, I fully endorse the incumbent candidate for mayor.
In other words Explanation In other words, the community needs to protect its citizens at all costs.
In the meantime Time In the meantime, residents should take precautions when traveling down Morris road.

College-Level Transition Words

Simple transitions and basic words are key to younger students being able to grasp the concept of transitions, but they can be a problem at the collegiate level or professionally. Transition words and phrases should be more sophisticated and eloquent than the words use by grade school and high school students.

What are some tips for using more sophisticated transitions?

  1. Use an online thesaurus on single transition words to find better alternatives.
  2. Think of ways to interchange words in the transition phrases.
  3. Avoid repetition of a phrase or word throughout the writing.

Making use of a dictionary or thesaurus can be a great way to find college level word alternatives.

Image of a blurred page from a dictionary

The following examples highlight some basic transitions and college level words that mean the same thing, but have a sophistication to them.

  • so – hence, thus, accordingly, ergo
  • first – initially, cardinal
  • but – yet, although, nevertheless, however
  • while – albeit, whereas, whilst

Some basic words can also be replaced by sophisticated phrases that mean the same thing and add some clout to the content,

  • because – for the sake of, in the interest of, as a result of
  • therefore – in consequence, on account of, on the grounds
  • overall – generally speaking, in the long run, on the whole
  • now – in the meantime, in the here and now, at the moment

Lesson Summary

Transitions are words and phrases used in writing to smoothly move between ideas, paragraphs and sections. Transitions are generally found connecting paragraphs, sentences within paragraphs and sections of overall writing. Determining the best transition is best done by figuring out what is being transitioned, whether it needs a single word or a phrase, figuring out the relationship and finding an appropriate transition to use. It’s important to read the transition outlaid to make sure it’s appropriate.

Transitioning sentences within a paragraph often start with a transition word, while a transition between paragraphs can require a phrase. When using transitions at the higher educational level it’s important to find more sophisticated words to make the writing sound more credible and academic.

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