Transitional Language, Metalanguage, Segues

Transitional language, Metalanguage, and Segues refer to words, phrases, and sentences that people use to illustrate relationships among specific ideas and the overall thesis:

  • Transitional language includes words, phrases, and sentences that writers use to help their readers make connections across ideas. Writers use transitional words like for example, as a result, and therefore to help readers understand how new information relates to information already provided.
  • Metalanguage is language that describes language. Transitional words words and phrases and segues are a form of metalanguage: they help readers follow the rhetor’s reasoning and organization.
  • Segues are a form of transitional language yet rather than help readers organize the flow of ideas from sentence to sentence, segues are broader clarifications about the rhetor’s reasoning and organizational scheme. Segues may be limited to a sentence or even pages longer (for a long document like a book). In segues writers may explain how an entire document is organized or how one section relates to another section.

Transitional Language

Writers use transitional language

  • 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.

Transitional Words & Phrases Help Clarify Relationships 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.
TRANSITIONAL CUESCOMMON TRANSITIONS
To guide readersYou might first conclude
Please consider the possibility that
As you recallConsider now
To order ideas and structure textsTo begin…next…furthermore
First, second, third…
To place emphasisMore importantly
Without doubt
Surprisingly
Remarkably
To provide examplesFor example
For instanceIn fact
Additionally
Also
Similarly
In other words
To show logical connectionsIf…then
Consequently
However
Furthermore
Hence
As a result
On the other hand…
In contrast
Nonetheless
Still
While
To hedgePerhaps
We may conclude
Possibly
This suggest
It may seem
To summarizeIn conclusion…
To summarize
As a result
As I have demonstrated

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.

How do you choose appropriate transitional language?

  1. Determine which relationship connects the paper’s ideas:
    • Does the relationship between the ideas appear to be similar or different?
    • Does one action appear to have caused another?
    • Does one idea lead to another idea?
    • Does one statement contain information that explains or illustrates another?
    • 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. Pay close attention to punctuation. When used properly, transitions often require a comma or semicolon.
  4. Vary the choice of appropriate transitional language to avoid tedious repetition.
  5. Align transitional language with the tone and diction level of the remaining content.

Original: 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.

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

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

Revised: 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.

Metalanguage

Metalanguage refers to language that helps writers explain relationships between ideas or words that explain how texts are presented. Use metalanguage to help your readers understand your organization and reasoning. Clarify logical relationships, temporal relationships, and spatial relationships by using metalanguage.

Phrases like “for example,” “as a result,” and “therefore” are examples of metalanguage. Like an impatient TV watcher clicking through hundreds of channels, readers tend to be impatient, always ready to put their work aside.

As a result, throughout a document, you must ensure that readers will understand how different ideas relate to one another. You don’t want your readers to ask

  • “So what?”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “Jeez, just what is this text about?”
  • “What’s going on in the world today?” i.e., tangential thoughts.

Successful writers attempt to be sensitive to their readers’ likely responses to their documents. Just as writers commonly summarize their message in their introductions, highlighting its significance, writers frequently repeat their main ideas throughout a document, reminding readers of what’s been discussed, what will follow, and how new information relates to old information. Your essay shouldn’t be a spinning top, wandering from one topic to another–not if you want readers (or a good grade), anyway. Of course, peppering your language with metadiscourse–such as “thus,” “therefore,” “consequently,” and so on–will not provide logic. By itself, metalanguage cannot provide missing logic; it merely provides the glue to help readers better understand how ideas cohere.

Below is a list of common metalanguage terms. Ideally, your ideas relate so well that you do not need extensive metalanguage.

Segues

Segues are used hand-in-hand with transitions to create uninterrupted movement between ideas. Without the use of segues, ideas can appear disconnected and the writing may appear to lack continuity.

In what ways are segues used to signal a shift in ideas?

  • To reiterate an earlier point before introducing another: Segues may be used to remind the reader of an important point or detail from an earlier discussion and link that idea to a new point.
  • To focus on how the author moved from one point to the next: Writers should not rely on their readers to make correct inferences about how two points relate. Instead, skilled writers make clear connections between ideas by using appropriate words or phrases to segue from one point to the next.
  • To help move the reader forward: Segues signal to the reader that they have left one destination and are moving on to another. In other words, they indicate that the author has finished discussing one point and is now presenting a related point or a new point.

Let’s look at an example:

  • Topic: Women’s and men’s perceptions of synthetically sculpted female bodies in magazines and advertisements
  • Main point of one body paragraph: One of the body paragraphs discusses how air brushing and photo editing of celebrities’ and models’ bodies in magazines and advertisements affects women’s body image.
  • Main point of the next body paragraph: The next paragraph discusses how such synthetic representations affect men’s perception of the female body.
  • Suggested segue sentence to link the paragraphs: While the media’s synthetic portrayal of the female body has an observable effect on women’s body image, such representations impact men’s perceptions less clearly.