And Now…Transition Words!

Good transitions connect one sentence or paragraph to the next. A word, phrase, or sentence can serve as a transition to help make a shift in relationship, space, or time. Transitions connect ideas and supporting examples. They signal the coming of additional information or a conclusion.

Transitions in Relationship

Some transition words and phrases are used to compare and contrast. These include comparable to, in the same way, similarly, as opposed to, and on the other hand.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner write in Freakonomics: “In the classrooms chosen as controls, where no cheating was suspected, scores stayed about the same or even rose. In contrast, the students with the teachers identified as cheaters scored far worse.” The transition phrase In contrast joins the two opposite examples for a side by side comparison.

Transitions in Examples and Support

Words like to illustrate, for instance, and specifically help connect a notion to an example.

Here’s another example from Freakonomics: “The first thing to search for would be unusual answer patterns in a given classroom: blocks of identical answers, for instance, especially among harder questions.” Here, the transition comes after the example, but it still serves the purpose of guiding the reader from one idea (i.e. unusual answer patterns) to a specific example of that idea (i.e. blocks of identical answers).

Transitions in Location

Prepositions are good transition words for showing spatial relationships. Some examples include above, behind, in the center of, and to the left.

Herman Melville gives a description of Spouter-Inn in Moby Dick. “On one side hung a very large oil-painting….The opposite wall of this entry was hung over with a heathenish array of monstrous clubs and spears.” This description continues for four-pages. However, transitions guiding the reader through the setting make it easier to follow along.

Transitions in Time

Transition words can show a shift in time. Examples of these transitions include after, at the same time, in the meantime, next year, and today. For example, “Michael looked at his baby daughter. Throughout his whole life he had wanted to have children.” This transition word takes the reader from the present, through Michael’s lifetime, and back in a matter of one sentence.

Transitions in a text can be compared to modern transportation. Travel is easier with transportation. Likewise, reading is easier and more enjoyable when you’re being conveyed from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph with strategically-placed transitions.