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Transitions

Transitions help readers understand the connection from one idea to the next as they read. This page has information about two types of transitions: transitions between the sentences within a single paragraph and transitions between one paragraph and another. Click on the links below to learn about each type of transition.

Sentence Transitions

Transitions between sentences help readers see the connection between one sentence and the next one. Not every sentence should have a transition; rather, transitions tend to appear in every few sentences, such as when the paragraph is changing directions or bringing up a new idea. One of the most common ways to make transitions is by using transition words, also known as conjunctive adverbs. The chart below lists some common transition words you might use to connect the sentences within a paragraph.

Transition Words

  • therefore
  • however
  • then
  • first
  • consequently
  • on the other hand
  • next
  • second
  • thus
  • conversely
  • afterwards
  • third
  • additionally
  • rather
  • later
  • finally
  • similarly
  • for example
  • meanwhile
  • in other words

Transition words are usually followed by a comma. When you use a transition word to connect the ideas in two sentences, you can punctuate your sentences with either a period or a semicolon.

Punctuation with Transition Words

Without a transition word

Frank needed a composition course to graduate from Las Positas College. He enrolled in English 1A.

With a transition word, a period and a comma

Frank needed a composition course to graduate from Las Positas College. Therefore, he enrolled in English 1A.

With a transition word, a semicolon and a comma

Frank needed a composition course to graduate from Las Positas College; therefore, he enrolled in English 1A.

Example

Notice the differences in the following paragraph with and without the transitions:

Without Transitions

One of my favorite hobbies is traveling. I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I led bicycle trips. It was a really hard job. I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. I went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible. The job was too much work and not enough play. While it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

With Transitions

One of my favorite hobbies is traveling. Therefore, I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I led bicycle trips. It was a really hard job. I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. In addition, I went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible; however, the job was too much work and not enough play. Thus, while it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

Transitions make the paragraph much clearer, helping readers see the connections between the sentences. Notice that transitions do not appear in every sentence, just when the connection betwee ideas would not be clear without them.

Paragraph Transitions

Paragraph transitions help the reader understand the connections between the paragraphs' ideas. They also help to clarify for the reader how ideas relate to the thesis.

Paragraph Transition Dos and Don'ts

Do put the transition at the beginning of the new paragraph that it introduces.

This will show readers how your new topic connects to what came before it.

Don't put the transition at the end of the previous paragraph.

This sounds like you're bringing up a new point and then dropping it, which can confuse your reader. Paragraphs should almost always end with the main point of that paragraph, not some new point. Learn more about body paragraph structure.

Do show how the new paragraph relates to what came before it.

example: "Maintaining their spirituality gave Africans the strength and focus to revolt against their slave masters."

This paragraph reminds us what came before it (that African slaves maintained their spirituality), and connects it to the new topic (that this spirituality helped the slaves revolt against their masters).

Don't rely on single transition words to make the connections between paragraphs.

example: "Additionally, Africans also revolted against their slave masters."

While this does have a transitional word, "additionally," it doesn't really tell readers how this information relates to what came before it.

Do use subordinators to create transitions between paragraphs.

example: "Although medical studies do not usually confirm the effectivenss of acupuncture, many patients claim it has helped them with pain management and recovery from injuries."

Subordinators such as although, since, when, while, because, and asare all useful in transitioning between paragraphs.

Essay Example

Notice the differences in the following example with and without the transitions:

Without Transitions

Traveling is my life. I work every day to fund my next trip. When I was 22, I went on my first trip by myself. I went to the Netherlands, Scotland, and Ireland. After that trip, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life traveling. I am so addicted to traveling that if I am not traveling, I am planning my next trip.

            I receive many emails a day from different traveling web sites. Sherman’s Travel and Travel Zoo are two of my favorites. When I open my email, the first thing I see is “Sale. $500 all inclusive 5 nights in Hawaii.” In my mind, I am already there. I am imagining myself lying on the beach, far away from my daily responsibilities.

            I recently paid to receive a monthly magazine called Budget Travel. I knew that this would help feed my addiction while I am saving for my next trip. This is one of the best traveling magazines I have ever found. It gives random tips about traveling like, “keep a $100 bill folded up inside my luggage tag for emergencies” (14).  The pictures entice me even further. My current issue showed the views of Sicily, and now I must travel there.

            I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I lead bicycle trips. It was a really hard job, but I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. I also went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible, but the job was too much work and not enough play, so although it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

            I have still managed to travel on my limited budget; I am currently planning a trip to Vancouver, BC next month. I love to travel so much that I subscribe to both magazine and online sources to feed my addiction. Every time I take a trip, it makes me want to see more of the world and enjoy all it has to offer.

This short essay feels choppy. All of the sentences start with "I", and the 
reader is not often clear about how the paragraphs relate to each other nor 
how they relate to the thesis. These have been left to the reader's interpretation.

With Transitions

Traveling is my life. I work every day to fund my next trip. When I was 22, I went on my first trip by myself. I went to the Netherlands, Scotland, and Ireland. After that trip, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life traveling. I am so addicted to traveling that if I am not traveling, I am planning my next trip.

            Since I am addicted to traveling, I make sure to stay on top of the latest deals. I receive many emails a day from different traveling web sites. Sherman’s Travel and Travel Zoo are two of my favorites. When I open my email, the first thing I see is “Sale. $500 all inclusive 5 nights in Hawaii.” In my mind, I am already there. I am imagining myself lying on the beach, far away from my daily responsibilities.

            As if receiving constant emails about deals wasn’t enough, I recently paid to receive a monthly magazine called Budget Travel. I knew that this would help feed my addiction while I am saving for my next trip. This is one of the best traveling magazines I have ever found. It gives random tips about traveling like, “keep a $100 bill folded up inside my luggage tag for emergencies” (14).  This is something that I have never thought of, but I know that even if I don’t use it, I will definitely start checking luggage tags at the airport! Not only do I appreciate the traveling tips, but the pictures entice me even further. My current issue showed the views of Sicily, and now I must travel there.

            Although looking at magazines and web sites is exciting, it doesn’t compare to actually traveling, so I decided to get a job that paid me to travel because I just couldn’t afford my habit. I worked for a company called Offroad where I lead bicycle trips. It was a really hard job, but I got to spend two months living and working in France’s wine country. I also went to the south and stood on the red carpet where they hold the Cannes Film Festival. Riding bikes all summer was great, and traveling around France was incredible, but the job was too much work and not enough play, so although it fed my traveling addiction, I knew that job wasn’t for me.

            Although I am no longer working for the traveling company, I have still managed to travel on my limited budget; I am currently planning a trip to Vancouver, BC next month. I love to travel so much that I subscribe to both magazine and online sources to feed my addiction. Every time I take a trip, it makes me want to see more of the world and enjoy all it has to offer.
     
Notice that without the transitions, the essay is understandable, but the author's ideas seem disconnected from one another. However, with the transitions, the author has taken more control over the reader's interpretation of the writer's work. The author's voice is much stronger and clearer in the second example. In addition to the transitions at the beginning of the sentences, the second example has a transition after a quote. Instead of just leaving the quote alone, the author has now told us why he/she used that particular quote, again taking control over the reader's interpretations.

This page was created by Meghan Swanson and Karin Spirn.

Tying Paragraphs and Thoughts Together: Using “Furthermore” and Other Joining Words

Posted on March 6, 2013 by Cheryl B

When writing, whether you are writing something fun, a non-fiction or fiction book, a marketing project or a white paper, you don’t want your writing to sound disjointed. Using certain words to tie everything together makes your writing stand out and can make you the best ghostwriter for any subject. Disjointed writing is tiresome to read and strings of sentences without flow are difficult if not impossible to achieve without using some type of transitional phrase.

What is a Transitional Phrase

A transitional phrase ties thoughts together. Words such as “and,” “but,” “however,” “furthermore,” “moreover” and “thus” tie thoughts, sentences and paragraphs together. Transitional phrases could be conjunctions, adverbs or prepositional phrases. You can use these words anywhere within a paragraph, but they are especially useful when you need to break one long thought up into a couple of paragraphs. Reading something without paragraph breaks sends most people into conniptions, and they will often leave the page or the entire web site.

To Use or Not to Use Transitional Phrases

In some schools of thought, using transitional phrases is verboten. However, that should not be the case in most types of writing. When you use a transitional phrase, you let the reader know that there is either more to come on the subject or a take-away on the subject. Furthermore, it tells the reader there is more to come on the subject – even if only one sentence. It’s also a good way to continue a thought within a paragraph instead of writing a long sentence.

Where to Use Transitional Phrases

Transitional phrases are usually found at the beginning of a sentence. You can also use transitional phrases between sentence parts and within parts of sentences. A writer can use them in the same paragraph or as a lead-in to a second paragraph. However, there are times when you don’t want to use “and,” “but” or “or” and these include formal writing. When you need a transitional phrase in formal writing, you should use “however,” “thus,” “moreover” and “in addition.”

These words often sound too “formal” for informal writing, so although your favorite grammar checker tells you to use “in addition” instead of “and,” you might want to leave the “and” at the beginning of the sentence.

When It’s All Said and Done…

Ultimately, it is your choice to use transitional words – or the choice of the person for whom you are ghostwriting. The best ghostwriter will know whether a client prefers not to use transitional phrases – or may even debate whether they should be used. In this writer’s personal experience, though, most clients tend to think writing is choppy if the copy doesn’t use transitional phrases.

Cheryl B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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