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|
|next||before||lately||in the meantime|
Does the next thing I am going to say simply make an addition to something I've just said?
To indicate ADDITION:
|finally||in addition||furthermore||in fact|
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|
|since||truly||so||in order that|
Am I showing how two things are alike?
To indicate COMPARISON:
|as well as||similarly||both__and__||in a like manner|
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)|
|even though||whereas||nor||on the contrary|
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|
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):
|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|
(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
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
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.