Transition Words & Phrases – Definition, Use & Examples

16.04.20 Academic writing Time to read: 7min

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Effective communication is crucial in academic writing. To guide a reader effortlessly through a text, a writer should employ transition words. They act as the glue that binds together different sections of your essay, ensuring a seamless flow from one idea to the next. Therefore, in this article, we’ll talk about how to use them, why they’re important, and answer common questions about them.

Definition: Transition words

Transition words, also known as linking or transitional words, are words or phrases used to link ideas together and create a smooth flow in writing or speech. They help to guide readers or listeners through a text by connecting one idea to the next, indicating relationships (such as cause and effect, contrast, or addition) between different sections or sentences. These words improve the coherence of the writing when used appropriately. However, different transitions serve different purposes.

Transition words – In a Nutshell

Transition words are like bridges in writing. They link thoughts, making reading smooth and clear. These words guide readers, connecting one idea to the next, ensuring clarity and a natural flow throughout the text.

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Transition words for paragraphs

Transition words in English are crucial as they bridge ideas and can also indicate shifts, contrasts, emphases, agreements, intentions, outcomes, and more within an argument. Smooth transitions between sentences are essential for maintaining coherence in a written piece, as common transitions help establish a clear and logical relationship between sentences. They’re essential for clarity and understanding, making them indispensable in any paper. Transition words are essential for clear and concise writing. Overuse slows down the text and makes it feel repetitive, so you should be careful not to overuse them. While these transition terms have been placed into specific categories for clarity, it’s worth noting that some types of transition word can fit into multiple categories. Below, you’ll find a list of transition words for different categories:

Agreement/Addition

These additive transition words can help you to add information, reinforce ideas, and express agreement.

Examples

not only ... but also as a matter of fact additionally in addition
in the first place not to mention to say nothing of equally important
also then equally identically
moreover as well as together with of course
first, second, third,.. as, likewise in the light of too
furthermore correspondingly and similarly
coupled with by the same token likewise again

Opposition/Contradiction

Adversative transition words, such as “but,” “rather,” and “or,” signify the presence of contrasting evidence or present alternative viewpoints, thereby signalling a shift in the logical flow of a text (contrast). They usually refer to the previous statement.

Examples 

although instead whereas despite
in contrast different from of course ..., but on the other hand
on the contrary at the same time in spite of even so
(even) though then again in reality after all
but (and) still unlike while
albeit besides as much as regardless
nonetheless nevertheless however otherwise

Cause/Condition

Causal transition words like “due to” or “because of” represent specific intentions or conditions.

Examples

in case provided that given that due to
as/so long as with this intention with this in mind in order to
seeing/being that in view of because of while
since as only/even if inasmuch as
if ... then unless when

Examples/Emphasis

Transition words like “especially” or “such as” are used to present examples as support, to illustrate, or to indicate the importance of an idea or previous arguments.

Examples

as an illustration in this case in other words in fact
to put it differently for one thing for this reason with attention to
by all means including like to be sure
notably truly certainly such as
in general in particular for example in detail
for instance to demonstrate to emphasize to repeat
to enumerate to explain to clarify especially
particularly specifically frequently first thing to remember

Effect/Result

Some transition words, like “thus,” “then,” “accordingly,” “consequently,” “therefore,” and “henceforth,” are used to tell us what happened after a certain time and what resulted from it.

Examples

hence then as a result thus
under those circumstances in that case for this reason in effect
consequently therefore henceforth accordingly
thereupon for forthwith because the

Remember: Linking words such as “for” and “because” come before the reason something happened, while the other words come before what happened as a result.

Summary/Conclusion

These transition words and phrases help to end, summarize, or reiterate ideas or make a final general statement. Some words, such as “therefore,” from the effect or consequence category, can be used to summarize.

Examples

in summary in conclusion in brief in fact
after all as can be seen briefly generally speaking
in the final analysis as shown above as has been noted given these points
altogether to summarize to sum up on the whole
in any event in either case all in all obviously
usually ordinarily in essence in a word
in the long run in short all things considered eventually

Time/Sequence

Sequential transition words such as “finally” serve to specify and define time, either independently or as part of adverbial clauses, by setting limits and constraints.

Examples

first, second,... immediately quickly finally
formerly suddenly shortly instantly
presently occasionally until now now that
by the time whenever all of a sudden in the first place
in the meantime as soon as hence before
at the present time from time to time after later
henceforth eventually further meanwhile
until at the same time since then
when in a moment sooner or later simultaneously

Space/Location

These transition words are frequently employed within adverbial phrases and serve to restrict, confine, or qualify spatial relationships and aspects. Many of them can also be located in the Time category and are adaptable for describing spatial arrangement or references.

Examples

further beyond nearby wherever
among alongside amid beneath
in the middle in front of in the background in the foreground
in the center of here and there in the distance on this side
here there next where
behind across from over
between around beside to the left/right

Examples of transition word usage

Transition words and phrases are essential in writing to connect ideas, sentences, and paragraphs smoothly, helping to improve the flow and coherence of your writing. Here are some examples of how they can be used:

Examples

  • In addition to this, there is another aspect to consider. (addition)
  • However, her perspective differs from his. (opposition)
  • Therefore, the outcome of the project was as expected. (cause)
  • For instance, consider the case of John Smith. (example)
  • As a result, the team had to revise their strategy. (result)
  • Summarized, the main points are as followed… (summary)
  • Subsequently, we will analyse the findings. (sequence)
  • The restaurant is adjacent to the cinema, making it convenient for us. (location)

Common mistakes with transition words

Even the most experienced writers trip sometimes when using transition words and phrases due to not knowing the exact meaning of the word they’re using, especially, when English is not the primary language.

It’s crucial to put them appropriately. The words “even if” and “even though” are one example of transitions that are commonly misused. The former is used to explain a present or past conditional, whereas the latter pertains to a future conditional.

Another common problem arises from the improper use of transitional phrases within sentences. For instance, although certain words like “and,” “but,” “also,” and “so” are commonly used as transitions, they should not be used at the beginning of a sentence in formal academic writing. Instead, consider using alternatives such as “in addition,” “although,” “therefore,” and so forth to initiate your sentences.

Below, you’ll find a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Transition word Example Explanation
Either We could get sushi, pizza, or ice cream. In either case, it's fine for me. "Either" implies that there are only two choices. In the example, there are three. Instead, you should opt for: "in any case"
As well as I really need to finish this post, as well as optimize already existing content. "As well as" suggests that the subsequent information is of lower significance compared to the prior one. If both aspects are equally important, you should use "and".
Moreover Moreover, I don't like vanilla ice cream. "Moreover" is used to add information that supports or extends the previous statement. In this case, the statement does not provide additional or relevant information.
However However, she was not feeling hungry, she decided to order japanese food. "However" is used to contrast two ideas. In this case, it's incorrectly used to connect two unrelated statements.
Irregardless Irregardless of the weather, we're going shopping. "Irregardless" is considered non-standard and incorrect in formal writing and speech. Instead, you should go for “regardless” or “irrespective."
And/but/so/also Also, you can print and bind your thesis here. "Also" is considered informal in writing and shouldn't be at the start of a sentence. The same applies to the following words: "and," "but," and "so." To replace them, use "in addition," "although," or "therefore."
Therefore I just picked up new shoes, got my nails done, and therefore, I'm ready to go out tonight. "Therefore" is typically used to indicate a logical consequence or conclusion. Instead, you should go with "so."
Additionally Additionally, she studied all night for the exam. Unfortunately, she still failed. "Additionally" is used to add extra information or details to the previous statement. In this case, the second statement contradicts the first.

Transition Words for Essays

In academic writing, your primary objective is to convey information concisely. Transitional devices help you achieve your objective by establishing sensible connectives between words, sentences, and entire paragraphs. Apart from improving the flow of your writing, making it sound better, transition words guide readers through complex ideas and information.

These words carry specific meanings that cue the reader to think or react in a certain way. Whether words or phrases, transitions act as a guide. They convert the reader’s thoughts to your way of thinking, enabling a smooth delivery of information. Using transition phrases and words can affect your grades, so you need to be careful not to misuse them. Students who use transition words correctly earn higher grades compared to those who misuse or do not use these words, as incorrect usage gives an impression of disorganization and lack of flow of ideas.

Transition words are…

  • (commonly) at the start of a new sentence or clause
  • used to express how this clause relates to the previous
  • followed by a comma
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FAQ's

Words such as ‘and’, ‘as a result’, ‘in fact’, ‘however’, and ‘although’ are good examples of common transition words in academic writing. They help to improve the coherence and cohesion of your writing work. Without transition words, it would be hard to recognise the different ideas and thought processes in your work.

Transitions can be divided into transition words, transitions between sentences and transitions between paragraphs. These all help with the flow of sentences and paragraphs in academic writing. Without them, your writing will be difficult to read and your essay or thesis formatting will be confusing to the reader.

When deciding which transition words to use, test which ones will lay out your ideas in the clearest and most concise manner. Be sure that you haven’t recently used the transition word to avoid awkward repetition and redundancy. You need to make an explicit connection between the ideas in your academic writing.

By using a reverse hook, you can tie the first sentence of the paragraph with the last sentence of the previous paragraph. This works especially well for the first body paragraph that comes after the introduction. Ideally, the end of a paragraph should always connect with the next paragraph in some manner. Using transition words, or starting a paragraph with a topic sentence, are examples of connectors used to transition to the next paragraph.

Using linking words or phrases is a great way to introduce a new paragraph. These words relate the ideas of the previous paragraph to that of the new paragraph. This also means they typically do not begin abstracts, which are usually at the very beginning of your academic work.

Transition words are important for connecting ideas in a sentence. They ensure a smooth flow when reading and also help prevent jarring mental leaps in between sentences and paragraphs. In essence, they help give a flow to the numerous paragraphs in your thesis, essay, or research paper.