Transitional Phrases

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What are transitional phrases?

A transitional phrase shows how the meaning of one sentence is related to the meaning of the preceding sentence. Transition words are used in these for establishing cohesion. When you use transitional phrases correctly in your written pieces, the overall flow improves.

The transitional phrase, the comma and the semicolon

Transitional phrases connect sentences and paragraphs and organize writing into a unified whole. Always use a comma after a transitional word or phrase, regardless where it appears in the sentence. Consider the following example:

Example 1: All things considered, the policy did not accomplish what it set out to achieve.

When merging two sentences to form one, the transitional phrase is known as “the bridge.” In these sentences, a semicolon goes before the bridge, or transitional phrase, and the comma is used after the transitional phrase. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Miranda’s guest was turned away at the door; as a result, she did not see the runway show. (Two independent clauses are “bridged” by a transitional phrase “as a result.”)

Example 2: Max missed his flight home; however, he still made it in time for his daughter’s recital. (Two independent clauses are “bridged” by the transitional word “however.”)

Writing with transitions

The use of transitional phrases provides logical organization, enhances understandability and improves your connection with your thoughts. Generally, papers flow better and read more smoothly. In writing, use transitions to start one paragraph where another ends. Using a key phrase from a previous paragraph and highlighting it in the next creates an obvious progression for your reader. Consider the following example:

Example: Achieving success in college is often a challenge for students. Most colleges offer services designed to assist students. They include peer advisers and private counseling. Colleges need to provide additional services to help students succeed.

Revised Example: Achieving success in college is often a challenge for students. As a result, most colleges offer services designed to assist students, such as peer advisors and private counseling. Nevertheless, colleges need to do more to help students succeed.

By adding the transitional words and phrases “as a result,” “such as” and “nevertheless,” the writer shows how the parts of the passage are related logically and the flow of the sentences is strengthened.

Overusing transitions

Transitions are important to how your writing flows; however, overusing them can cause confusion. Consider the following example:

Example: Studying for midterms is challenging. However, there are techniques that can make the process easier. For example, organize each subject in a folder. Next, create outlines for each chapter. In addition, organize all handwritten notes and test papers separately.

This example uses transition words and phrases in almost every sentence. This has a tendency to confuse your readers, and the use of transitions at the beginning of so many sentences is bothersome to read. In this case, less is more.

Revised Example: Studying for midterms is challenging. However, there are techniques that can make the process easier. Organize each subject in a folder, and create outlines for chapters. Next, merge your handwritten notes and tests into the folders.

Making clear, logical connections

Transitions indicate a relationship between ideas and words. Make sure the transitions you use in writing make logical connections. Consider the following example:

Example 1: Ever since Alana moved into the dorm this fall, she has gotten in the habit of not making her bed. On the contrary, it is clear that she does not find crawling into a rumpled mess of sheets uncomfortable.

Example 2: Ever since Alana moved into the dorm this fall, she has gotten in the habit of not making her bed. As a result, it is clear that she does not find crawling into a rumpled mess of sheets uncomfortable.

In Example 1, the transitional phrase “on the contrary” is used, which means unfavorable. In Example 2, the transitional word “therefore” is used, which means something that happens as a consequence. Example 2 offers a clear, logical connection; example 1 does not.

Choosing appropriate transitional words

When you are aiming to strengthen your writing with transitional phrases, try searching for those that imply the right connections you intend to make. Use the list below for guidance in what some the words and phrases in some transitions imply.

Showing addition

  • as well as
  • besides
  • coupled with
  • furthermore
  • in addition to
  • likewise
  • moreover

Showing contrast

  • but
  • by the same token
  • conversely
  • however
  • in contrast
  • nevertheless
  • on the contrary

Showing consequence

  • accordingly
  • as a result
  • consequently
  • otherwise
  • therefore
  • thus

Showing direction

  • here
  • in the distance
  • nearly
  • previously
  • to the left
  • to the right

Showing emphasis

  • above all
  • for instance
  • in particular
  • namely

Showing exception

  • besides
  • except
  • excluding
  • other than
  • save

Showing generalization

  • as a rule
  • for the most part
  • generally
  • ordinarily
  • usually

Showing illustration

  • for example
  • for instance
  • for one thing
  • in this case

Showing restatement

  • in brief
  • in other words
  • in short
  • namely
  • that is

Showing sequence

  • afterward
  • at the same time
  • for now
  • for the time being
  • in conclusion
  • in the meantime
  • later
  • meanwhile
  • next
  • then

Showing similarity

  • comparatively
  • coupled with
  • likewise
  • moreover
  • similarly
  • together with

Showing summarization

  • after all
  • all in all
  • all things considered
  • finally
  • in any case
  • in conclusion
  • in summary
  • in the final analysis
  • in the long run
  • to sum up