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Transitions

Transitions

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In this lesson, students will learn how to effectively use transitions in their writing.

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Tutorial
This lesson will cover transitions—the different types, and how to select the one that will be most effective in a given situation. The specific areas of focus include:
  1. Transitions in Writing
  2. Types of Transitions
  3. Using Transitions Effectively


1. Transitions in Writing

Transitions are tools that writers use in sentences and paragraphs to move from one idea to the next.

More specifically, transitions are words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas. This means that they will click together two ideas, like building blocks, to tell the reader how a passage moves from one idea into the one that’s about to come.

This can happen on a small level, such as transitions between sentences, or on a bigger level, such as transitions between paragraphs and thus between bigger, fuller ideas.

Transitions
Words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas


2. Types of Transitions

All conjunctions, such as “like,” “and,” “but,” and “or” are transitions. However, there other kinds of transitions as well.

These fall into a few different categories:

  • Contrast
  • Additional information
  • Example
  • Qualification
  • Result

As you learn about these types, notice the examples of common transition words that fall into each of the categories. These words appear highlighted in blue in the images below.

Contrast transitions show the difference between two ideas. In practice, that might look like this:

Additional information transitions demonstrate that the next idea will build upon ideas from the first. That will look like this:

Example transitions indicate that the next idea will be an example of the first idea. That may look like this:

Qualification transitions point out that there might be conditions to the first idea. That might look like this:

Result transitions identify that the first idea is a cause and the next idea is the effect. That will look like this:

Now it’s your turn to try these transitions out. Here are two paragraphs with some missing transitions. Read through and decide what transitions you think should fill those blanks. Look for context clues in the sentences to help you decide.


To start, what kind of transition should this be?

The first sentence is an example of what some people argue (shown in blue below), and the second is an argument from the opposite side (shown in green below). Therefore, this is a contrast. You might then use a contrast transition such as “on the other hand.”

What about here?

This time the transition is linking two paragraphs. When transitioning between paragraphs, it’s useful to think about what each paragraph’s main idea is.

In the first paragraph, the main idea is that there are pro and con arguments for teaching these texts. In the second paragraph, there is a discussion of the ways in which pop culture texts might make sense in college courses. Thus, the argument of the first paragraph results in the exploration of the second, so this should be a result transition.

Finally, what about in this last part?

This is a transition within a compound sentence, so you know that this can easily be a conjunction.

These aren’t the only transitions you could have chosen, but they represent the kinds of transitions that make the most sense in each spot. Even if you selected different transitions, your sentences will likely still make sense as long as you chose transitions from the same categories as those above.


3. Using Transitions Effectively

As you can see, there are lots of possible transitions you can use in any writing situation. To select the most effective transition, there are three conditions you can check.

First, avoid being too wordy. Good writing is often concise writing, so aim for brevity and avoid unnecessarily complicated phrasing.

Here is an example of writing that is too wordy:

This would be a much better alternative:

Second, match the tone of the sentences. If the paper is written in a formal voice, certain transition words such as “thus” and “therefore” are particularly useful, whereas those very formal words might sound stiff in a more casual text. It’s important to think about the purpose and context of the writing.

Third, make sure that the transition itself is logical. When in doubt, ask yourself about the connection between the two ideas, and then try to fit that connection into one of the five transition categories.

If the transition doesn’t fit, the ideas won’t make sense and the connection won’t be clear:

“In addition” implies that the dog’s fleas are an additional reason that you would want to pet him, but fleas are usually a reason not to pet a dog.

Instead, try a different category of transition:

In this tutorial, you learned that in writing, transitions are used to connect ideas and move from one sentence or paragraph to the next.

You also learned that there are five different categories of transitions, each with a different role: Contrast transitions show the difference between two ideas; additional information transitions show that the next idea builds on the previous one; example transitions indicate that the next idea will be an example of the first; qualification transitions point out that there might be conditions to the first idea; result transitions identify that the first idea is a cause, while the next idea is an effect.

Finally, you learned how to use transitions effectively by selecting the appropriate transitional word or phrase for any context.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Martina Shabram.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Transitions

    Words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas.