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Transitional Words and Phrases: Keeping your ideas together and preparing your reader for what’s next

Imagine a world where only abrupt transitions took place. Imagine, when a change took place, you didn’t have time to prepare or even think about it. For example, imagine the following:

Wednesday morning you and your spouse find out you’re having a baby. Wednesday night, the baby is here. There was no nine months of preparation to get ready for the baby. The abrupt change would not be easy.

Now, imagine if your writing transitioned abruptly as well. For example:

My husband and I are facing a difficult decision. We are debating between sending our children to private school or public school. We like the fact that private schools have uniforms. We like the idea that public schools are more diverse in just about every aspect. We don’t like that private schools can become costly. We do like that the education and discipline there is taken seriously. Public schools are often scared to discipline too harshly. There are pros and cons to both and we must reach a decision.

Below, the same paragraph as above is written, but you will find transitional words and phrases (that are underlined) making the writer’s ideas flow smoother.

My husband and I are facing a difficult decision. Currently, we are debating between sending our children to private school or public school. We like the fact that private schools have uniforms. However, we like the idea that public schools are more diverse in just about every aspect. Meanwhile, we don’t like that private schools can become costly; although, we do like that the education and discipline there is taken seriously. Public schools are often scared to discipline too harshly. All in all, there are pros and cons to both and we must reach a decision.

Having transitions in your writing allows the reader to prepare for what is next and keeps your ideas together.

On a personal note, I was co-teaching a tenth grade English composition course several years ago. The teacher I was closely working with created an entire unit on Transitions. At first, I asked myself why she would devote so much time to transitional words and phrases rather than making it a quick lesson. I thought it would be a pretty easy concept for tenth graders to grasp. But, I was wrong! My co-teacher required the students to use an excessive number of transitional words and phrases in their writings. I thought she was crazy. But again, I was wrong! Making the students use an absurd amount of transitions for practice in their works made them see just how important it is to connect ideas correctly and smoothly. 

Using transitional words and phrases allows your words to flow forming a cohesive work, which allows the reader to move from one point to the next point more smoothly. Look below to see examples of transitional words and phrases and the purpose of each.

Transitional Words and Phrases Purpose
In addition, again, as well as, furthermore, moreover, etc. To add a thought
As a result, consequently, hence, therefore, subsequently, etc. To show an outcome
On the other hand, likewise, nevertheless, therefore, however, similarly, etc. To compare
Above all, over all, in conclusion, after all, all in all, etc. To conclude
Generally speaking, usually, in general, etc. To generalize
Firstly, lastly, secondly, finally, in the meantime, meanwhile, afterward, later, etc. To show order
In other words, as mentioned earlier, etc. To restate
Specifically, in particular, for instance, especially, etc. To stress something

There are many more transitional words and phrases with the purpose to make your thoughts flow and connect, which results in your reader easily understanding your writing.

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