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What is transitional language?

Transitional language includes words, phrases, and sentences that writers use to help their readers make connections; new information is linked to previously stated material through the effective use of transitions.

While the writer may understand how the ideas between sentences or paragraphs are related, the reader may not perceive the same sense of clarity. When used effectively, transitions help the reader to understand the relationship between the writer’s ideas.

Where are transitions used?

  • Between sentences: Transitional words or phrases are used to create connections between sentences, as well as within sentences; both uses enhance the writer’s flow of thought at the sentence level.
  • Between paragraphs: Transitional sentences are used to create a bridge between paragraphs. These sentences should provide a summary of the main idea of one paragraph and give the reader a clue as to what is coming in the next paragraph.
  • Between sections: Transitional paragraphs are used in longer works to summarize the discussion of one section and introduce the reader to the concept(s) presented in the next section.

What words and phrases may be used to illustrate the relationship between ideas?

  • To compare: also, likewise, similarly
  • To contrast: however, nevertheless, conversely
  • To show cause and effect: as a result, consequently, therefore
  • To show a logical relationship: since, therefore, for this reason
  • To present a sequence of events: next, and then, first/second/third
  • To illustrate or provide an example: for example, for instance, for one thing
  • To add information: furthermore, additionally, moreover

How can appropriate transitional language be chosen?

  1. Determine which relationship connects the paper’s ideas:
    1. Does the relationship between the ideas appear to be similar or different?
    2. Does one action appear to have caused another?
    3. Does one idea lead to another idea?
    4. Does one statement contain information that explains or illustrates another?
    5. Does one statement add information to another?
  2. Once the relationship between ideas has been identified, choose appropriate transitional language to illustrate this relationship. (Consult a writing handbook for detailed lists of common transitional words and phrases.)
  3. Vary the choice of appropriate transitional language to avoid tedious repetition.
  4. Align transitional language with the tone and diction level of the remaining content.

Let’s look at an example:

Original sentences: Some people are concerned about the potentially negative effects of ingesting Genetically Modified Foods (GMF). Others believe that GMFs could help to relieve the hunger crisis.

Note: The first sentence communicates a negative aspect of GMFs, while the second sentence communicates a positive aspect, indicating a contrast between the ideas.

Revised sentences: Some people are concerned about the potentially negative effects of ingesting Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs). However, others believe that GMFs could help to relieve the hunger crisis.

Note: A transitional word has been added to illustrate the contrasting relationship between the two ideas.

For more information on transitions and segues, see also: