Writing tip: Transitions

Theresa Bell
Writing tip: Transitions

Transitions are words, phrases, or sentences that connect ideas, sentences, or paragraphs. If you’ve received feedback that your writing is “choppy”, which means there isn’t a smooth flow between ideas, or that your reader struggled to understand the connections between ideas or paragraphs, try incorporating transitions into your writing.

Transitional expressions

Transitional expressions are words or phrases that indicate relationships between ideas and/or sentences. Transitions can signal many different connections, such as an addition (e.g., as well), a comparison (e.g., in contrast), or a conclusion (e.g., finally). For example, consider the next two sentences: Royal Roads University is a national historic site. People visit the campus for many different reasons. It isn't immediately clear how those ideas are connected, but inserting a transition makes the connection more obvious:

  • Royal Roads University is a national historic site, but people visit the campus for many different reasons (“but” indicates that people visit the site for reasons other than the national heritage status).
  • Royal Roads University is a national historic site, and people visit the campus for many different reasons (“and” indicates that the reasons relate to the site’s historical status).

For more information on using transitional expressions, please see the links to resources in Paragraphs. In addition, for a list of transitional expressions that are organized by the function of the expressions, please visit “Transitional Devices” (OWL at Purdue). Finally, for a more in-depth description of common transitions and their functions within sentences, please visit “Transitions (ESL)” (The Writing Centre at UNC-Chapel Hill).

Transitions undoubtedly improve the logical connections between ideas and sentences; however, they can also signal the connections between paragraphs or sections of a document.

Transitional sentences

Transitional sentences typically appear at the end of a paragraph or section and indicate the focus of the next paragraph. If you read the last sentence of the previous paragraph, you’ll see that the second phrase of the sentence introduced you to the focus of this section.

If you’re struggling to include transitional sentences in your paragraphs, consider how you would make the connections if you presented the information verbally. Presenters usually map the connections between sections of a presentation to ensure a smooth shift between slides or topics because those transitions are essential to the audience understanding the presentation. Similarly, transitional sentences help readers move between paragraphs or sections. If you’re feeling stuck when writing a transitional sentence, think about how you could verbally explain the connection between the paragraphs to an audience. It may be helpful to speak the words out loud to hear how they sound. Once you have a clear description of the connection, present that information in your transitional sentence.

For more information on using keywords in transitions between paragraphs, please visit “Using Keywords to Improve Flow”, which is a YouTube video that is also available via Paragraphs. For more information regarding transitional sentences, please view “Transitions”, which is slide 11 in the “Writing an Academic Paragraph” video (also available via Paragraphs). Finally, if you would like to access planning templates that include fields for transitional sentences, please visit “Finalize Your Document Plan” and “Plan Writing with PowerPoint”.

Do you have questions about this writing tip? Please contact the Writing Centre as we would be pleased to assist you.

Theresa Bell
Writing Centre Manager