Good writing makes it easy for the reader to understand your ideas. Explaining a complicated subject involves more than just writing a series of sentences. You also need to show the reader how each idea is related to the next one so they can follow your logic. Connecting one thought to another is often done with the help of transition words.
Transitional words and phrases link ideas to each other in a sentence. They can also connect sentences and paragraphs to each other in a logical order. Depending on what you're trying to express, transition words can be used to highlight the order of steps, the passage of time, cause and effect relationships, and more.
Transition words are important to master to make your writing more fluid and exact. There are several functions of transition words, so consider what connection you want the reader to understand before selecting the right word for your purpose. Below are common examples of transitional words and phrases for various purposes.
Transitional words are often used to provide alternatives or choices in a sentence. For example,
The bank had the right to foreclose on the home in question due to missed mortgage payments; alternatively, it could work with the homeowners to create a payment plan.
In this sentence, the transitional word "alternatively" distinguishes between two separate courses of action open to the bank.
Additional transition words to provide alternatives include the following:
In writing, it is a common to show the similarities between two different things. For example,
My daughter just learned to do her own laundry. Similarly, her brother picked up the skill before leaving for college.
In this sentence, the transitional word "similarly" shows that the siblings' actions in learning to do chores are alike.
Additional transition words to make comparisons include:
In both fiction and academic writing, writers often need to offer evidence in support of a particular point. For example,
Supporters and opponents of the property tax increase offered valid points in their arguments at the public forum, but in the final analysis the measure passed due to the obvious need for better roads.
In this sentence, the transitional phrase "in the final analysis" connects the original arguments to the final conclusion of the vote.
Additional transition words to add evidence include the following:
Transitional words are essential for placing events on a timeline and explaining the order in which things happen. For example,
With 50 percent of the precincts reporting, there is less than a percentage point difference between the candidates. At this time, it is impossible to predict a likely victor.
The transitional phrase "at this time" indicates that a prediction is impossible now, but might be possible in the future.
Additional transition words to show chronology include the following:
Quantifiers are transitional words that define differences between amounts, whether of physical materials or in reference to ideas. For example,
Due to the severe snow, fewer than the minimum number of commissioners needed were able to attend the meeting and it had to be rescheduled for next week.
In this sentence, "fewer than" shows the number of commissioners referred to in the sentence by making an explicit contrast to the number required.
Additional transition words to show quantity include the following:
There are times when a writer wants to make clear to the reader that a new idea, section or sequence is about to begin. For example,
To begin with, I will pass around samples of volcanic rock so you may observe just how a volcanic eruption changes the physical makeup of the surrounding environment.
In this example, a teacher uses "to begin with" to introduce a new unit and plan of action for the class.
Additional transition words to introduce new ideas or change the subject include the following:
When used correctly, transitional words can enhance your message and give the reader a clearer understanding of the ideas you wish to express in your writing. They are equally important in speaking to help listeners follow your train of thought. Each transition word or phrase has a slightly different meaning and purpose, so it's a good idea to learn as many of them as you can. This will allow you to be as precise as possible in your writing and help you avoid repetition that could make your writing seem dull or stilted.