English Grammar Blog
Mastering the Art of Sentence Transitions
Imagine you are on the bank of a running river. Notice how the rocks in the river affect the water’s flow. The water hits the rock, splashes, swirls, and is redirected. Remove the rock, and the river runs freely. In writing, sentence transitions help your content flow smoothly – transitions remove the “rocks.”
Transitions are words or phrases that help to connect and clarify sentences. Transitions help ideas flow from one sentence to another. Without them, writing can appear choppy or confused. Transitions not only establish a relationship between sentences, but between you and your reader.
Which transitional word or phrase you use depends upon the type of relationship you want to build between sentences. For example, this sentence began with a transition know as “illustration.” The use of “for example” illustrates the point of the sentence before it. Other illustration transitional words and phrases include: for instance, namely, to illustrate, in other words, in particular, and specifically.
Let’s take a look at other types of relationships between sentences, along with a few examples of some of the transitional words and phrases associated with them:
Contrast: But, or, nor, yet, rather, in spite of, however, nevertheless.
Addition: And, further, finally, moreover, besides, than, too, also, again.
Time: Before, after, then, once, next, last, usually, soon, meanwhile, ordinarily.
Space: Below, beneath, under, around, above, over, surrounding, beside, nearby.
Concession: Although, granted that, in spite of, of course, at least, even though.
Emphasis: Furthermore, indeed, truly, certainly, surely, in fact, really, above all.
Details: Specifically, especially, namely, including, in particular, in detail.
Consequence: Consequently, thus, hence, accordingly, in other words.
Summary: Therefore, finally, in short, in conclusion, therefore, so, because.
Suggestion: To this end, with this in mind, for this purpose.
In using transitional words or phrases, it’s important to pay attention to the use of punctuation. Typically, transitions that occur at the beginning of a sentence are followed by a comma. However, sentences with a particularly close relationship, whether in content or format, often use a semi-colon to stress that relationship.
- He planned to become a professional baseball player and diligently practiced the sport every day. However, his parents had other plans for him.
- He planned to become a professional baseball player; however, his parents had other plans.
Don’t be afraid to keep transitions simple. Some writers try to appear sophisticated by using overly-complex transitional words and phrases. Experienced writers know that simple words and phrases are often the most effective. A good rule of thumb is to use language that you would normally use in your everyday life. Words such as “nevertheless” or “heretofore” may work in academic or technical writing, but may be viewed as overblown rhetoric in less complex work.
Finally, remember transitional words and phrases are not just used to connect sentences, but to connect paragraphs as well. Beginning a paragraph with a transitional word or phrase will help you on your way to mastering the art of sentences transitions.
- Improve Your Writing by Simplifying Your Sentences
- Structuring a Formal Paragraph Correctly
- The Essentials of Readable Writing
- Online Grammar Resources
- What Is an Adverb and How Are They Used?