When you are writing an essay or paper, your paragraphs do not function in a vacuum, and because of this, making paragraph transitions is essential for creating coherent thought throughout an entire written piece. Think of your body paragraphs as intricate puzzle pieces you must fit together to give your reader the whole picture.
These paragraph transitions let your readers know when you are moving on to a new topic or connecting two ideas. They also create continuity throughout an essay that shows the connection of paragraphs to the overall focus or topic. To create effective paragraph transitions, follow the three steps below throughout the process of writing.
Identifying the relationship for paragraph transitions
The first step to creating smooth paragraph transitions is identifying how the paragraphs are connected—the relationship between them. To identify the relationship, you might ask the following questions about the transition to the next paragraph:
Does the next paragraph…
- Make a similar point?
- Make a new point?
- Elaborate on the previous point or idea?
- Continue an argument?
- Contradict an argument?
- Qualify the preceding information?
- Show cause(s) of the previous information?
- Show effect(s) of the preceding information?
- Make a generalization with the preceding point or idea?
- Show an exception?
- Provide emphasis?
- Give a new direction to the preceding point or idea?
While this list is not exhaustive, it does give you a good starting point for determining the relationship between two paragraphs so that you can write effective paragraph transitions.
Choosing words, phrases or concepts to make paragraph transitions
Once you have identified the relationship between two paragraphs, you can decide how you want to do the paragraph transitions. Variety adds life to any paper or essay, so mixing it up between different types of transitions is always your best bet.
There are two main ways you can make paragraph transitions to create a clear, logical connection: with words/phrases or with implied or conceptual transitions.
Transitional phrases are often a group of words or a phrase that includes a conjunctive adverb. With these phrases, keep in mind that many different words or phrases can show the same relationship, so if you are showing similar types of connections between multiple paragraphs, vary your selection of words in your paragraph transitions. Consulting a [URL]transitional phrases resource[http://www.write.com/writing-resources/mechanics/transitional-phrases/] that gives examples of phrases and the type of connection each makes using transitional phrases easier. Consider the below example:
Ending sentence of paragraph:
These relationships show that the establishment of traditional gender roles is influenced by the type of toys children play with when they are younger.
Start of next paragraph:
In addition, children’s peer groups and social experiences also influence whether they associate with traditional gender roles.
“In addition” is the transitional phrase, and it creates a logical paragraph transition while also keeping both ideas connected to the overall topic.
Implied/conceptual paragraph transitions:
Paragraph transitions that make a logical connection through implied or conceptual transitions do not require transitional words or phrases. Instead, they use something common between the two paragraphs. This is established in several ways. You can use a [URL]demonstrative pronoun[http://www.write.com/writing-resources/grammar/demonstrative-pronouns/] or a common word to make paragraph transitions, or you can use a concept that connects the two ideas. Consider the below example:
Ending sentence of paragraph:
When the men in my family joined the military, they did not think about how they would feel about their decision years later.
Start of new paragraph:
Those who served during times of war have experienced lasting effects of engaging in combat.
“Those” is a demonstrative pronoun that modifies the subject of the first sentence in the new paragraph by referring to the noun in the previous sentence, creating a connection.
The men in my family have witnessed how fighting in wars creates lasting effects by the experiences of our brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and grandparents, even if they have not experienced combat firsthand.
“The men in my family” are words that are present in both the preceding sentence and the new paragraph. The connection is made through the use of a common term.
Because the enlisted men in my family have often fought during times of war, they have first-hand knowledge of the long-term effects of war.
“Because the enlisted men in my family have often fought during times of war,” contains the topic or idea in the preceding paragraph. By using this statement and following it with the idea from the upcoming paragraph, you create a smooth paragraph transitions.
Checking for coherent thought and paragraph transitions
While choosing the words that create paragraph transitions is something you should do as you write your essay or paper, you need to read through your completed paper for smooth transitions that maintain the flow of your writing and topic. During the overall editing process, look closely at how each paragraph ends and how the next paragraph connects to it.
If you find one paragraph that does not connect well to the previous one, work on building better paragraph transitions. In some cases, you may find that a reorganization of paragraphs is necessary to maintain the flow of the content. If you cannot connect two paragraphs, it is best to move the paragraph to a location where you can logically create a connection. The ability to create smooth paragraph transitions helps you write a more cohesive paper that allows readers to easily follow your train of thought.