Transitional words and phrases can be instrumental in helping your writing read more smoothly, increasing the flow of your prose.  Good transitions are the keys to improving the organization and understandability of your writing, enhancing the connections between ideas.  Consistency and coherent prose make for much easier reading, facilitating the reader’s experience from the first word until the end.

Good transitions usually refer to the relationships between sentences and paragraphs.  There are a number of different relationships that can be referred to using transitional phrases.  For instance, there are transitions that indicate additions (ex. ‘also’, ‘as well as’, ‘furthermore’) or consequences (ex. ‘as a result’, ‘therefore’, ‘then’).  Generalizations and examples can also make useful transitions, with phrases such as ‘generally’ and ‘usually’, or exemplifying phrases like ‘for instance’, ‘in particular’, and ‘such as’. Strong transitional phrases can further illustrate a point or add emphasis (ex. ‘for example’, ‘for instance’, or ‘above all’, ‘especially’).  Furthermore, transitions might also highlight a similarity or an exception (ex. ‘correspondingly’, ‘likewise’, ‘moreover’, or ‘except’, ‘other than’).

When trying to improve the flow and smoothness of your writing, try to identify the relationship between the ideas.  For example, if it is a restatement, use transitional phrases like ‘in other words’, ‘that is to say’, or ‘in short’.  If the relationship is a comparison, some words to use could be ‘conversely’, ‘instead’, or ‘however’.  Many times, the relationship could be a sequence or a summary, in which case, it could be useful to say things like, ‘first of all’, ‘to begin with’, ‘later on’, and for cases of summary, ‘in conclusion’, ‘finally’, or ‘all in all’.

Such transitional words and phrases cement ideas together in your prose.  They increase continuity and coherence, and assist the reader in understanding the relationship between the concepts in your work.  Moreover, they guide the reader, helping the reader follow the flow of your discussion. Transitions can be used to link together sentences, paragraphs, or even entire chapters and sections.  The transitional phrases discussed above are commonly known as ‘transitions of logic’.  Transitions of logic demonstrate logical connections between concepts.  These transitions usually have a greater emphasis when placed at the beginning of the sentence, rather than a few words into the sentence.  For example, compare the following use of the transitory word ‘however’:

a)      He was an adventurous traveler, who longed to go to the far corners of the world.  However, this was not always the case.

b)      He was an adventurous traveler, who longed to go to the far corners of the world.  This, however, was not always the case.

Although the ideas are the same in both of these sentences, the second sentence (b) has a much softer emphasis with a gentler transition.  Keep this in mind when writing, adjusting your transitional phrases accordingly, depending on your intent.

In addition to transitions of logic, there is also what’s called ‘transitions of thought’.  Transitions of thought usually deal with maintaining concept continuity between passages by using pronouns and synonyms.  Pronouns help to improve the flow and transition of a passage by reducing awkward repetitions.  Following a noun with a pronoun is usually an effective way of maintaining continuity and reducing repetition.  For example:  ‘Mark was excited about surfing in Hawaii.  He was definitely looking forward to it.’  Here, the transition is made using pronouns, instead of using a transition of logic.  Using a transition of logic here may read awkwardly; for example, ‘Mark was excited about surfing in Hawaii.  Furthermore, Mark was definitely looking forward to the surfing.’  Here, the repetition makes the transition between the sentences much less smooth.  So remember to always read over your writing to decide which type of transition would be the most appropriate.

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