Transitional Words and Phrases

Robert Harris
Version Date: December 16, 2013 

Transitional words and phrases provide the glue that holds ideas together in writing. They provide coherence (that hanging together, making sense as a whole) by helping the reader to understand the relationship between ideas, and they act as signposts that help the reader follow the movement of the discussion. Transitional expressions, then, can be used between sentences, between paragraphs, or between entire sections of a work. The two kinds of transitions are those of logic and those of thought. Each of these kinds is discussed here.

Transitions of Logic

Transitions of logic consist of words or phrases that convey "logical intent": that is, they show the logical connection between two ideas. Since there are several possible logical connections (such as time, purpose, contrast, and so on), there are several categories of transitions of logic. The table below lists many of these transitions, arranged by category and listed as milder or stronger. (Note that there is some double listing, because of the different ways words can be used.) Some hints for use:

Transitions of Logic
  Milder Stronger
Addition a further x
and
and then
then
also
too
next
another
other
nor
further
furthermore
moreover
in addition
additionally
besides
again
equally important
first, second
finally, last
Comparison just as ... so too
a similar x
another x like
similarly
comparable
in the same way
likewise
Contrast but
yet
and yet
still
otherwise
or
though
but another
rather
however
still
nevertheless
on the other hand
on the contrary
even so
notwithstanding
for all that
in contrast
alternatively
at the same time
though this may be
otherwise
instead
nonetheless
conversely
Time then
now
soon
afterward
later
shortly
earlier
recently
first, second, third
next
before
after
today
tomorrow
meanwhile
at length
presently
at last
finally
immediately
thereafter
at that time
subsequently
eventually
currently
in the meantime
in the past
in the future
Purpose to do this
so that
to this end
with this object
for this purpose
for that reason
because of this x
Place there
here
beyond
nearby
next to
at that point
opposite to
adjacent to
on the other side
in the front
in the back
Result so
and so
then
hence
therefore
accordingly
consequently
thus
thereupon
as a result
in consequence
Example that is
specifically
in particular
for one thing
for example
for instance
an instance of this
this can be seen in
Summary and Emphasis in sum
generally
after all
by the way
in general
incidentally
naturally
I hope
at least
it seems
in brief
I suppose
in short
on the whole
as I said
in other words
to be sure
in fact
indeed
clearly
of course
anyway
remarkably
I think
assuredly
definitely
without doubt
for all that
on the whole
in any event
importantly
certainly

Transitions of Thought

Transitions of thought consist of words that help maintain the continuity of thought from one sentence or paragraph to the next. Transitions of thought are produced by the following techniques:

Pronouns and Possessive Pronouns.
Follow a noun with a pronoun (to continue the same subject) or a possessive pronoun (to move to something related to the original subject).

 Pronouns include he, she, it, we, they, us, them, him, her, I, me, and you
Possessive pronouns include his, her, hers, its, their, theirs, ours, our, my, mine, your, yours

 Keyword Repetition. Repeat the word around which the discussion is focusing. Note that many sentences have two or more nouns, any of which might be the subject of interest in the following sentence. To help keep your reader focused, repeat the noun that represents the topic you want to continue:

 Synonyms. A synonym is a word that means nearly the same as another word. The meaning is close enough so that the thought continues, but different enough so that the idea expands and gains greater definition than it would by simply repeating the same word over and over (which would be pretty boring, too, huh?). Using synonyms when you write is a much better way to help define and refine the meaning of your concept than, say, quoting a dictionary.

 Demonstrative Pronouns and Adjectives. Demonstrative pronouns include this, that, these, and those. They are useful for both direction and emphasis. However, using them by themselves can sometimes create an unclear reference, if there are two or more possible referents in the previous sentence. For example:

It is a good idea to change demonstrative pronouns to demonstrative adjectives by adding a clarifying noun (so instead of saying, "This is good," say, "This ice cream is good.").


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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com