Transitions are the glue that holds our ideas and essays together in this wild, jumbled world. This handout will teach you how to utilize transitional expressions and will show you how to use them effectively.
The function and importance of transitions
Your objective in academic and professional writing is to communicate information clearly and simply, if not to convert the reader to your point of view. Transitions aid in the achievement of these objectives by building logical links between phrases, paragraphs, and sections of your work. Transitions, in other words, advise readers what to do with the knowledge you’ve given them. They serve as cues that teach readers how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as they read what you’ve written, whether they’re single words, brief phrases, or whole sentences.
“Another example coming up—stay aware!” or “Here’s an exception to my earlier assertion” or “Although this thought looks to be true, here’s the real tale” are examples of transitions that show relationships between ideas. Transitions essentially provide the reader instructions on how to put your ideas together into a logically cohesive argument. Transitions are more than just word flourishes that improve the sound or readability of your paper. They are words with specific meanings that instruct the reader to consider and react to your thoughts in a certain way. Transitions assist readers understand the logic of how your thoughts fit together by offering these key hints.
Signs that you might need to work on your transitions
How can you know whether you need to improve your transitions? Here are a few possibilities:
• Your instructor has left comments on your papers such as “choppy,” “jumpy,” “abrupt,” “flow,” “require signposts,” and “how is this related?”
• Your readers (instructors, friends, or classmates) say they couldn’t follow your organization or thought process.
• You tend to write the way you think, and your mind moves around a lot from one concept to the next.
• You divided your paper into multiple “chunks” before pasting them together.
• You’re working on a group paper, and the draft you’re looking at was put together by pasting together portions of various people’s writing.
Because the clarity and efficacy of your transitions will be heavily influenced by how well you have ordered your paper, you may want to assess the organization of your paper before beginning to work on transitions. Summarize what each paragraph is about or how it fits into your overall analysis in a word or brief phrase in the margins of your document. This exercise should help you see the order of your ideas and their connections more clearly.
If you still have trouble connecting your ideas in a coherent manner after completing this exercise, your issue may not be with transitions but with structure. For assistance (as well as a more detailed description of the “reverse outlining” technique outlined in the article), you can order an essay from us.
How transitions work
The sequence in which you present the various parts of your debate or argument, as well as the linkages you establish between these parts, make up the organization of your written work. Transitions cannot replace good organization, but they can help to make it more obvious and easy to follow. Consider the following scenario:
After many years as a dictatorship, El Pais, a Latin American country, now has a new democratic government. Assume you want to make the case that El Pais isn’t quite as democratic as the mainstream would have us think.
Presenting the conventional perspective and then providing the reader with your critical response to this view is one method to properly structure your argument. So, in paragraph A, you’d list all the reasons why someone may think El Pais is very democratic, whereas in paragraph B, you’d reject these claims. The transition that would suggest to the reader that the information in paragraph B contradicts the information in paragraph A would create the logical connection between these two major aspects of your argument. As a result, you may structure your argument in the following way, including the transition between paragraphs A and B:
Paragraph A: arguments in favor of El Pais’ new government being very democratic.
Despite the preceding considerations, there are numerous reasons to conclude that El Pais’ new government is not as democratic as commonly assumed.
Paragraph B: Contrary to popular belief, El Pais’ new government is not especially democratic.
The transition words “Despite the prior arguments” in this example convey that the reader should not believe paragraph A and should instead evaluate the writer’s grounds for doubting El Pais’ democracy.
Transitions can help reinforce the underlying logic of your paper’s organization by giving the reader with crucial information about the relationship between your ideas, as seen in the example. Transitions serve as the glue that holds your argument or conversation together, making it a united, clear, and persuasive whole.
Types of transitions
Let us briefly review the types of transitions your writing will utilize now that you have a rough notion of how to go about establishing successful transitions in your writing.
Transitions come in all shapes and sizes, just like the situations in which you’ll need to employ them. A transition might be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or a paragraph in length. It works in the same way in each case: First, the transition either directly summarizes or implies a summary of the substance of a preceding sentence, paragraph, or section (by reminding the reader of what has come before). The reader will then be able to anticipate or comprehend the new information you intend to give.
1. Transitions between sections: In longer works, it may be important to include transitional paragraphs that summarize the content previously covered for the reader and specify the importance of that information to the topic in the next section.
2. Paragraph transitions: If you’ve done a good job of structuring paragraphs so that the content of one flows logically to the next, the transition will highlight an existing relationship by summarizing the previous paragraph and implying something about the content of the next. A word or two (for example, similarly), a phrase, or a sentence can serve as a transition between paragraphs. Transitions might be placed at the end of the first paragraph or at the start of the second.
3. Transitions inside paragraphs: Transitions within paragraphs, like transitions between sections and paragraphs, serve as clues by allowing readers to anticipate what is to come before they read it. Transitions between paragraphs are usually single words or brief phrases.
The ability to choose words or phrases that will suggest to the reader the type of logical relationships you want to portray is crucial to effectively structuring each transition. The table below should help you find these words or phrases more quickly. If you’re having problems coming up with a word, phrase, or sentence to function as an effective transition, look up the information in the table. Look for the type of logical link you’re seeking to convey in the table’s left column. Then, in the table’s right column, look for words or sentences that illustrate this logical relationship.
Keep in mind that the meaning of any of these words or phrases may vary slightly. Use a dictionary to help you.