What are Transitions? Transition Words? Transition Phrases?
Transitions, Transition Words, Transitional Phases—these terms concern authors’ efforts to design the flow of information in a text in ways that promote clarity, brevity, simplicity, flow, unity for readers, listeners, users.
Accomplished writers understand interpretation is challenging. They understand readers can lose track of the big picture—the writer’s purpose, thesis, research question. Thus, when revising and editing, writers are careful to check the flow of information across words, sentences, paragraphs. They seek to identify and rewrite choppy spots in their writing when readers ask, “Why am I being given this information? So What? How does this relate to what’s been said thus far?”
Transitions refers to
- the act of shifting the focus in discourse from one idea, process, state, experience to something new
- a genre of discourse or mode of discourse characterized by
Transitional Words refers to elements of spoken and written language (e.g., words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and sections) that authors use to help audiences understand the flow of information across a text.
- Transitions may be referred to as sticky points, wounds, seques, gaps
- Transition Words may also be referred to as transitional language, linking language, explanatory language, metalanguage, pivoting, signposting
Why Do Transitions Matter?
For readers, listeners, users, transitions are a lifeline—a kind of conceptual superglue. Transition words are crucial to helping audiences keep track of the author’s reasoning and purpose for writing.
At any given moment, people experience a tsunami of information coming at them at warp speed. When reading or listening, people may be distracted by any number of other things—an email, a plane flying overhead, a social media post, a poignant memory, a stock market crash. Their own personal concerns or a nudge from social media may get them off task in a jiffy.
Function of Transition Words & Transitional Phrases
Transition words and transition phrases may be categorized by their rhetorical function—aim of discourse, as illustrated in Table 1 below.
|Aims (aka Purpose)||Examples of Transition Words for Essays|
|1. To guide readers|
You might first conclude . . .
Please consider the possibility that . . .
As you recall . . .
Consider now . . .
|2. To order ideas and structure texts||To begin…next…furthermore…|
First, second, third…
|3. To place emphasis|
Surprisingly, Astonishingly, Most unusually
Notably, Pierre did not actually know how to throw his voice.
|4. To compare||Elmer plotted his escape; similarly, Pierre imagined sweet freedom.|
|5. To provide examples|
For example, For instance, In fact
In other words, For instance
Pierre had a habit of failing to plan. For instance, when he robbed the local tractor supply store, he took the bus instead of obtaining a getaway car.
Additionally, he wore his rugby uniform to the heist, which was emblazoned with his name
6. To show logical connections
As a result
On the other hand…
|7. To hedge||Perhaps|
We may conclude
It may seem
|8. To show location, place, or space (spatial order)||Above, below, alongside|
in front, in back
First, Elmer engaged in a tryst with the night guard. Then, he was able to wrest from her a promise to be his co-conspirator.
Elmer slipped stealthily from his cell. Behind him, his paramour pretended not to notice.
|9. To clarify conditions||In the event of a betrayal on the part of his lover, Elmer even concocted a backup plan.|
|10. To summarize|
Finally, In conclusion, Thus
As a result
As I have demonstrated
Best Transition Words for Essays
The best transition words are the ones that best match yourrhetorical situation.
In order to identify the best transition words for an essay you are writing, you should first engage in rhetorical analysis and rhetorical reasoning. Subsequently, you can then make rhetorically informed decisions regarding the appropriate persona, tone, and voice you should adopt when you begin your composition.
Sample Questions for Rhetorical Analysis of Transitions
- What is the rhetorical situation that informs your reason for communicating, the exigency that informs the call to write?
- What is my purpose (aka aim)? What am I attempting to accomplish?
- Is your topic fairly straightforward?
- If so, you may not even need transitions.
- Is your topic complex?
- Then you’ll need extensive transitional language to help your readers follow your reasoning.
- Are there any genre considerations or media considerations that inform your readers’ expectations regarding effective or ineffective uses of transitional language?
Academic Writing Prose Conventions
Transition words in academic essays and academic writing in general tend
- to use formal diction.
- to be expressed as narratives or arguments.
- Academic essays often express transitions in paragraph form at the beginning of texts and interspersed between major sections
- to reflect the information literacy perspectives & practices of their intended audiences.
Template for Transitions in Academic Writing
Below are examples of common transitions in academic writing genres.
|To show agreement:||Smith (2022) asserts that a, b, c. Likewise, x asserts|
Similar to Balls’ position, I …
|To show qualified agreement:|
While it’s true that__________________, it’s important not to ignore_______________.
I agree that_______________; however_________________.
|To show disagreement:|
Smith argues_____________; yet, he doesn’t take into account________________.
Smith suggests _______________, but others argue________________.
|To offer examples:|
Smith’s finding have been replicated by a number of researchers. For example, _____________ and ________________.
Other investigators support Smith’s claims. Specifically, ___________________.
Professional Writing Prose Conventions
Transition words in professional writing (aka workplace writing) are similar to those in academic writing. However, there are a few distinctions: workplace writing tends to rely more on headings and visual language than rely on paragraph-style transitions like those used in academic writing.
Transitions & Invention
For writers, transitions across topics can spark invention. Sometimes when revising, when looking in between sentences and paragraphs to check them for clarity, writers identify breakdowns in their reasoning or gaps in scholarly conversations or discover entirely new things to say.
How to Edit Transitions & Transition Words
Teachers and critics write Transition? on texts when they
- cannot follow the logic, reasoning, or organization of a text
- They don’t understand why they are being told what they are being told.
- believe a transitional word or a transitional phrase is superfluous or used incorrectly (see Brevity)
Step 1: Rhetorical Analysis
First, make sure your transitions are appropriate for the rhetorical situation you are addressing. For example, if you are addressing a loved one in a personal note, you would want to use “also” instead of “moreover.”
Step 2: Textual Analysis
- between and within sentences:
Transitional words or phrases are used to create connections between sentences, as well as within sentences; both uses enhance the progression of ideas 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 (Internal link to: relate paragraphs logically to previous paragraph(s).
- 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.
Also, be sure to double check that you have avoided tedious repetition. Remember, when it comes to transition words, less is more. When possible, you want to vary your transition words.
Example of Unvaried transitional language that creates a primer-like style:
We went to the national mall. Then we visited the Air and Space Museum. Then we stopped for lunch at Jaleo.
Varied transitional language:
To start the day, we went to the national mall. After a stroll around the reflecting pool, we visited the Air and Space Museum. When we couldn’t walk another step, we stopped at Jaleo for lunch.
Transitions, Transition Words, Transitional Language — these concepts are intertwined with information architecture, organizational schema (aka organizational scaffolding), and recent research on cognitive development and learning science theory.
In contrast, writer-based prose lacks needed transitions and transition words.