Helping the Reader Along With Transition Words

Woman leading someone by the handThere’s something to be said for keeping your writing simple and concise, but it’s easy for some writers to take this too far, creating sentences that sound like staccato drum beats rather than music to your ears. Many times, the problem is that their sentences are just too short and choppy, lacking the variety and complexity needed to lead the reader naturally from one thought to the next. What’s needed is sentence and paragraph transitions, but alarmingly, it seems like fewer people have been taught how to use transitions at school in the past few decades. But don’t worry: It’s never too late to learn something new and improve your writing.

What Is a Transition Word?

Transition words are words that link ideas together, guiding the reader from one thought to the next. They can be used to join two clauses in a sentence, such as the simple conjunctions “and,” “but,” and “or,” but transitional words and phrases can also show connections between sentences or paragraphs. Without transitions, you’re asking the reader to jump with you from thought to thought, like crossing a stream by stepping on stones — and if they can’t make one jump on their own, they’ll get soaked. But with transitions, you can smooth out the gaps between those stones, turning them into a bridge that the reader can easily cross with you.

What Are the Different Types of Transition Words?

The list of transition words and phrases covers a wide range of meanings:

  • Addition words connect the previous idea to one that agrees with or reinforces it.
In addition Also Furthermore
Moreover As well as Likewise
Similarly Not to mention In the same way
  • Contradiction words have the opposite function: They signal that the next idea will oppose the one before it.
Yet Nevertheless Instead
However Still On the contrary
In contrast Then again Regardless
  • Example words introduce supporting details that further support the previous idea.
In fact For instance For example
In other words Notably Indeed
Specifically Including Such as
  • Cause and effect words are used to illustrate the relationship between an idea and its result.
Because Since For that reason
Therefore Consequently Accordingly
  • Transition words can also be used to clarify the time, place, or sequence.
First After Until
Since Hence Next
During Eventually Meanwhile
Here Further Beyond
Between Among Near

This is by no means a comprehensive list of transition words and phrases, of course, but it should give you some idea of all of the different ways that transitional words can help you guide your reader from one thought to the next.

The fact of the matter is that transitional words are a key factor in the readability of any piece of writing. Without a transition, sentences and paragraphs can seem to switch gears out of nowhere, leaving the reader behind. It’s easy to fall prey to the curse of knowledge, thinking that if you understand your train of thought, the reader automatically will, too, but that’s not likely to be the case. Using transition words effectively can do a lot to help the reader follow along with what you’re trying to say.

Mindy Young, an editor for Online Writing Jobs, got her start as a newspaper copy editor after earning her B.A. from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She spent nearly 13 years editing stories, writing headlines, and putting together pages for daily newspapers, and along the way, she also had the opportunity to write food columns and restaurant reviews. After earning a pair of Associated Press awards and a Suburban Newspaper Association award, she left journalism for the world of content marketing, where she puts her skills to work every day for OWJ clients and writers.

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