Dr. Karen Palmer

Transitions are used in writing in many ways. Most students know that transitions are used to transition to a new idea in the paper. Usually, this occurs at the beginning of a paragraph. For example, in a paper giving the steps to complete a process, a student might begin each paragraph with the number of the step: First, second, third, etc. The student could also use words like “after” to indicate the order of the processes. ie After completing step one, you should begin the second step.

Transitions can also be used within paragraphs to connect one sentence to another so that readers can easily follow the intended meanings of sentences and relationships between sentences. Sometimes students forget to connect their ideas together, leaving readers wondering how one thing relates to another. This often happens in two common areas:

  1. Between the hook and the introduction to the topic in an introduction paragraph. Make sure you make the relationship between the hook and the topic clear. The hook is designed to draw readers into the topic…not just to get their attention and then move on.
  2. When using quotes. Often students simply drop a quote into their writing and expect readers to understand the purpose of the quote. Make sure to connect the quote to the purpose of the paragraph clearly for readers.

The following table shows some commonly used transition words and what their purpose is:

Purpose Common Transition Words
To compare/contrast after that, again, also, although, and then, but, despite, even though, finally, first/second/third/etc., however, in contrast, in the same way, likewise, nevertheless, next, on the other hand, similarly, then

To signal cause and effect

as a result, because, consequently, due to, hence, since, therefore, thus
To show sequence or time after, as soon as, at that time, before, during, earlier, finally, immediately, in the meantime, later, meanwhile, now, presently, simultaneously, so far, soon, until, then, thereafter, when, while
To indicate place or direction above, adjacent to, below, beside, beyond, close, nearby, next to, north/south/east/west, opposite, to the left/right
To present examples for example, for instance, in fact, to illustrate, specifically
To suggest relationships and, also, besides, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, too


Exercise 1

1. In your essay rough draft, look at each paragraph to see that it flows smoothly from the paragraph before it. If not, work on adding in transition words.

Exercise 2

1. In your essay rough draft, take a single paragraph and look to see that each sentence flows smoothly from one sentence to the next. If not, work on adding transition words.

Exercise 3

1. In your essay rough draft, check to make sure that each quote has a transition (signal phrase into it). For example:

As one expert notes, “Quote” (citation).

According to Jane Smith, “Quote” (citation).



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