Transitions and Connective Words
Examples illustrating their use
Transitions carry your reader from phrase to phrase, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and through the major divisions of your article. Although you may be able to write perfectly clearly without using transition words, they help readers know what they are reading about, how they got there, and where the thought is leading them.
In early drafts, it is better to overuse transitions; you can always cut them later. Be over-specific at first.
Use transitional words to guide your reader through each step of the article:
First..., next..., then..., finally....
Apparently..., for example..., but actually..., in conclusion....
Sometimes..., but not always....
On the one hand..., on the other hand..., in summary....
Use transitional words to point out how the current thought is related to the previous one:
on the other hand
Use transitional words to spell out the connections among the different elements of your writing. For example, consider how many ways the following two simple statements can be combined and related:
He stayed home. He was shot.
He stayed home, and he was shot.
Because he stayed home, he was shot.
Although he stayed home, he was shot.
He was shot while he stayed home.
If you do not spell out the connections among your ideas, readers will insert them. And they may get them wrong.
See the Chart of Transition Words for other examples.
A Little Story Illustrating the Major types of Transitional Terms
--Dr. Gerald Grow, Florida A&M University, Division of Journalism.
I felt a cold shiver, then I saw them sneaking up on
As soon as I saw them, I started running.
I ran for my life; nearby, children played at recess.
Junior loves weird combinations of foods; for instance, yesterday he poured gravy on his cake.
Every object seemed determined to drown out my cries as I ran; one motorcycle, in particular, met me at every intersection for the sole purpose of making my call for help inaudible.
Junior still felt hungry; likewise, George sized up
I should have felt glad; on the contrary, I was terrified.
Junior turned next to the bountiful harvest of the fjords
of Norway, that is to say, a can of sardines.
Because he expected the movie to make him hungry, Junior slipped a few sardines into his coat pocket for a snack.
I saw the outline of a familiar building; for that reason, I felt renewed hope.
Junior bought popcorn and forgot about the sardines; consequently,
his cleaning bill was even larger than usual that month.
In order to confuse my pursuers, I darted into the
Although I staggered down the aisle, I kept my balance.
As we collided, I recognized Junior by the smell of sardines;
undoubtedly, he, too, was surprised to meet this way.
One villain broke an arm. Another was knocked cold. A third rose to stab me when Junior threw up all over him. In short, confusion reigned.
Finally, overcome with relief and nearly overwhelmed by the smell, I dragged Junior into the sunlight. Leaning close to his trembling lips, I could just make out his gutteral whisper: "I'm starving."
Admittedly, I was taken aback; nonetheless, I bought him the biggest hamburger in Brooklyn.
In practice, you will not use as many transitions as these examples do. [That is because] overuse of transitions makes your style sound old-fashioned. [Because of this,] contemporary writers organize their writing carefully so that the transitions are implied, instead of spelled out explicitly.
Nonetheless [he transitioned], beginning writers need to master transitional terms and the concepts behind them, whether they use transitions explicitly or implicitly.
If you don't indicate how the elements of your thinking relate to one another, your readers will make up their own links, and may interpret your writing differently than you intended.
Gerald Grow's Homepage at <www.longleaf.net/ggrow>