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Transitions

Transitions create bridges between sentences and paragraphs, helping an essay to flow smoothly and make sense.  Coherence in a paper requires transitions, and transitions can take the form of a word or a phrase.  Transitions carry your reader from one part of your paper to the next by showing the relationships between ideas. 

Sometimes specific transitional words, such as those listed below, can express these relationships. These words are placed at or near the beginning of a sentence to show how that sentence is related to the preceding sentence.  The coordinating conjunctions and, but, or, nor, so, and yet are also used this way. 

The following is a list of additional common transitional words and phrases.  To decide which group of words to choose from, ask yourself the question listed with each group.

Am I trying to show the next thing that happened? 

To indicate TIME or SEQUENCE relations:

as soon as  afterwards    as long as after a short time
at that time at last at length    at the same time
earlier    meanwhile  subsequently     previously
next     before   lately   in the meantime
recently presently  frequently occasionally
soon   thereafter    until    when
later often    while  

Does the next thing I am going to say simply make an addition to something I've just said?

To indicate ADDITION:

again also then besides
finally in addition furthermore in fact
similarly first second equally important
additionally last likewise moreover

Does the next event I am writing about occur because of the event I just wrote about?

To indicate CAUSE and EFFECT:

accordingly because as a result in other words
consequently hence in short finally
otherwise then therefore thus
since truly so in order that

Am I showing how two things are alike?

To indicate COMPARISON:

also like too neither__nor__
as well as similarly both__and__ in a like manner
likewise      

Am I showing how two things are different?

To indicate CONTRAST:

although though and in opposition to
but yet in spite of on the other hand
for all that however nonetheless in contrast (to)
nevertheless still conversely notwithstanding
even though whereas nor on the contrary
despite or even though otherwise

Am I agreeing with a certain idea so I can more strongly prove a different point?

To indicate that you are CONCEDING a point to the opposition:

of course no doubt doubtless to be sure
certainly granted (that) nonetheless  

Am I showing a specific detail or example about a more general point I am making?

To indicate SPECIAL FEATURES or EXAMPLES:

for example for instance incidentally in other words
in fact indeed in particular specifically
that is to illustrate frequently occasionally
especially in general usually as an illustration

Am I bringing together the points of my argument or beginning the final idea of the essay?

To indicate SUMMARY (conclusion):

so and so finally last
hence thus on the whole all in all
therefore in summary in brief in conclusion
in short in other words to conclude to sum up
to summarize consequently    

(Note: Many of the words or phrases above should be followed by a comma when they are used at the beginning of a sentence. Please consult the rules for using commas.)

There are, of course, other ways to show transitions in your writing.  A few of these include:

Repeating key words, phrases or ideas

For example:

He walked until his feet hurt.  He walked until his arms felt like two bars of lead.  He walked until, finally, he could no longer put one foot in front of another.

Her dress was a bright, vibrant red. Amid the summer pastels worn by the other girls, it stood out like a lush red rose in a bed of pale pink flowers, and throughout that long afternoon, his weary eyes kept turning toward that red dress like a moth toward a glowing flame.

(Since word repetition tends to add emphasis, be careful that you do not overdo this technique.)

Using parallel structures

For example:

When you drive an old car, you may not be surprised if you have a bumpy ride. When you drive a new one, you expect everything to go smoother.