Transitioning helps maintain coherence in your writing by establishing relationships among ideas and/or showing the progression of ideas. Transitioning involves signaling to your reader that you are about to change direction in your paper, which enables you to shift from one point to another.
Three types of transitions exist:
3. between sections in longer works.
This handout deals with the first two types of transitions: within paragraphs and between paragraphs. The third type of transition—between sections in longer works—is dealt with in the handout “Draft Body Paragraphs: Special Purpose Paragraphs.”
Transitions within paragraphs tend to be short—either words or phrases. Sentences within each paragraph should work together and logically follow each other. You can use transitional words and phrases to help make connections between sentences for your readers.
Let’s look at an example where the writer has employed transitional phrases in a paragraph. Transitional words and phrases are bolded.
Most children enjoy water recreation during the summer. From their first steps taken at the beach to their first slippery ride down a water slide, children of all ages are drawn to water when it is time to play. Beginning as early as Spring Break and pushing it as far as Halloween—depending on their proximity to the tropics—young ones dash for their splash. Warm weekends, hot summer vacations, and slightly chilly fall days are planned around the call of local waterin’ holes. And even when that little touch of the big toe to slush-cold waters draws a shriek and sends a chill, children still ponder the possibility of a quick jump into tantalizing drops that promise fun-filled moments from start to finish.
As you can see in this example, transitional words and phrases have meaning. This meaning is what helps make the connections among ideas for your readers.
Which transitional words or phrases you choose to use depends upon the relationships that you want to draw or suggest for your readers. Click here to find a list of common transitional phrases and words that writers can use to create smooth transitions. (Close the window to return to this page.)
These transitional words and phrases may be helpful in transitioning from sentence to sentence or from paragraph to paragraph.
New paragraphs typically introduce new topics; however, the new topic shouldn’t be entirely separate from the information you’ve included so far in your paper. Including transitions between your paragraphs will help you maintain coherence and unity in your writing.
Depending on your writing situation, you may have two opportunities to transition: the first and last sentence of the paragraph. The first sentence in your paragraph is often the most important sentence in the paragraph. It sets the limitations or boundaries for the paragraph and states or implies the relationship between the ideas in the previous paragraphs (s). The last sentence in your paragraph may be important also, depending upon the length of the paragraph. In that final sentence, if you have a lengthy paragraph, you may need to sum up what you’ve said and suggest what’s to come.
Your goal in transitioning from paragraph to paragraph is to maintain coherence; you can accomplish this through transitional words and phrases or key words and phrases.
Transitional Words and Phrases
You’ve learned already about transitional phrases in the first part of this handout. The list of transitional phrases is a list you can use also to transition between paragraphs. Let’s consider this example of a paragraph and the first sentence of the next paragraph:
Chocolate does more than just taste good—it has psychological effects. Chocolate contains caffeine, which provides spurts of energy. It releases endorphins, which create a sense of relaxation and comfort. Chocolate also contains a cannaboid which, when consumed in very large quantities, can lead to altered states of consciousness.
Consequently, the FDA should regulate chocolate. . .
In this case, the writer wants to show a relationship between the last sentence of the first paragraph (altered states of consciousness) and the next paragraph (relating to FDA regulation of chocolate), so she uses the phrase “consequently.”
Key Words and Phrases
You also can use key words and phrases to make transitions between or among paragraphs. With this technique you repeat key words or phrases from the last sentence in one paragraph in the first sentence of the next paragraph. Let’s look at an example:
Women and men vary in the way they interpret each other's nonverbal communications. To a woman, a sigh represents an indication of melancholy, frustration, or anger--depending on the "tone" of the sigh. Women will often ask men what is bothering them based on the enunciation of a specific word, a particular sideways glance, or a specific body stance. Men, on the other hand, tend to be oblivious to nonverbal cues, both the ones they are exhibiting and the ones women are giving.
This “obliviousness” of men extends from nonverbal communication into verbal communication. Women's conversations often discuss problems they are experiencing in their lives. Women also expect a sympathetic ear when discussing these problems with their male counterparts. Men interpret this discussion as a complaint and, in turn, offer solution scenarios. Women often become alienated by these suggestions, believing that the men in their lives just do not grasp the significance of their problems.
In the example above, the writer uses the words “oblivious” and “nonverbal” to link the ideas between the two paragraphs.
Click here to find one final multi-paragraph example that shows all the techniques for transitioning.