All writers need transition words. Transition words can help you increase the quality of your writing, whether you’re writing an academic paper, blogging, a speech, or fiction. Believe it or not, it can even help you in your text messages.
What exactly are these transition words? How or why do you need transition words? Read on to figure out!
What Are Transitions?
Transition words and phrases connect paragraphs, ideas, and sentences, thereby improving the flow of your writing. These words or phrases show connections to help the reader understand the ideas presented. Transitions in addition to showing several other relationships also aid in connecting, showing cause and effect, contrasting, and indicating order.
As such, transitions help make your overall writing better. Your disjointed ideas are brought together and prepare your readers for what’s going to happen next.
Why Do Writers Use Transitions?
Whether you are writing academically or professionally, your goal will either be to convey information clearly and concisely or to convince the reader to embrace your position. These goals are better achieved by using transitions to establish logical connections among the sections, paragraphs, and sentences in your content.
A transition tells the reader what to do with the information you have presented. They tell your readers how to think, and can be short phrases, full sentences, or single words. As your readers read through what you have written, transition expressions will help them figure out how to organize and react to all the ideas presented in your writing.
This can be achieved through several transition expressions, such as:
- “Though this seems to be true, here is the real story …”
- „This is an exception to what I said before …” or
- “We’ll see another example soon – read on!”.
As you can see all three of these transition examples provide the reader with directions for putting your ideas together to form logically coherent arguments. One could argue that a transition, such as the ones displayed above, enhances the readability or sound of your content.
In a nutshell, writers use them because they help the reader to follow along with the original authorial intent of the writer in chronological order. Understanding this progression allows your reader to create important cues about how your ideas fit together, hence grasping the logic of whatever you’ve written.
How to Tell if The Transitions Used Are Effective
What are the ways to tell if your transitions need improvement? Consider these factors:
- Instructors, beta readers, critique partners, or your editor commented on your content with words such as “jumpy,” “flow,” “abrupt,” “choppy,” or “how does this relate? ”
- Your readers (classmates, betas, friends, editors, teachers, ) didn’t understand what you were trying to convey.
- The ideas that made it to the page are similar to your thinking stage. Our brains tend to jump from one idea to another pretty quickly often without any linking phases. So, if this is the manner in which your content reads, it needs more transitional phrases.
- Your content reads as if you wrote your paper or book in separate sections (or out of order) and then pasted it together.
- The paper or book is a collaborative project with multiple writers then pasted together without anything to merge the ideas into one cohesive voice, and it still reads like different people.
If you fall into any of these scenarios, chances are you need to tighten your use of transitions.
How Can Organization Help Your Transition?
Before you work on your transitions, you might want to evaluate your content’s organization to ensure that your transitions are clear and effective. Write a short sentence or a few words describing what each paragraph is about or how it fits into your larger analysis. Exercises such as this will help you to see your ideas in a more orderly fashion.
In case you find that after the transitions exercise you still have trouble linking your ideas, your issue may be with the organization of your ideas rather than the transitions. Check out The Writing Center‘s handout if you need help working on content organization.
How Transitions Work (With Examples)
The organization of your written work includes two elements:
- Your choice of order in presenting the different parts of your argument or discussion.
- You build relationships between these parts. Transitions can’t replace good organization, but they can help make it clearer and easier to follow.
Here is an example to illustrate the point:
Following a long period of dictatorship, El Pais, a country in Latin America, now has a democratic government.
Consider the argument that El Pais isn’t as democratic as conventional beliefs might lead us to believe.
Organizing your argument effectively would involve first presenting the conventional view, followed by a critical response. Paragraph A would list all the reasons why someone might consider El Pais highly democratic, while Paragraph B would argue the opposite.
Addition of Transition & Effectiveness
To establish a logical connection between these two key elements of your argument, you need to indicate to the reader that the information in paragraph B contradicts the information in paragraph A. In the following manner, you could organize your argument, including the transition linking paragraph A with paragraph B:
Paragraph A: El Pais’s new government is very democratic, according to Paragraph A.
Transition: Even with the previously mentioned arguments, there are many reasons to believe that El Pais’s new government is not as democratic as is usually believed.
Paragraph B: Contrary to the view that El Pais’s new government is democratic.
The transition words “Despite the previous arguments” in this case suggest that the reader should not trust paragraph A. One should, however, take into consideration the writer’s reasons for being suspicious of El Pais’s democracy.
By providing information regarding how these ideas relate to each other, you help to reinforce the underlying logic of your content. The transition is the glue that holds your discussion or argument together into a persuasive, coherent, and unified whole.
Are There Different Types of Transitions?
There definitely are! Let’s briefly examine the types of transitions your writing will benefit from. Once you have an idea of how transitions work, let’s proceed to create them.
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to use a variety of transitions. Transitions can be single words, phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs. In all cases, it summarizes the content of a paragraph, section, or preceding sentence whether directly or implied (by reminding the reader what has come before). Then, it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.
Transitions Between Multiple Sections
Especially in longer works, transitional paragraphs may be necessary to provide the reader with a summary of the information covered and to describe the relevance of that information to the discussion in the next section.
Transitions From One Paragraph to the Next
If your paragraphs are organized logically so that the content of one leads to the next. Transitions highlight relationships that already exist by offering a recap of an earlier paragraph and highlighting something in the upcoming paragraph’s content.
You can transition between paragraphs with a word or two (for example, also, similarly, or especially), a phrase (for example, on the other hand, or in addition to), or a whole sentence. The transition can occur at the end of the first paragraph, at the beginning of the second paragraph, or both.
Transitions Between Paragraphs
In the same way that transitions between paragraphs and sections serve as cues, transitions within paragraphs assist readers in anticipating what is to come. Transitions within paragraphs are typically single words or short phrases.