Transition Words: How, When, and Why to Use Them

What are transition words?

If the point of writing is to communicate, then transitional words and phrases offer excellent tools to accomplish this goal. Just like road signs, transitions help the reader to navigate. As you, the writer, jump from one idea to the next, transitions help the reader to follow along. By including transitional phrases and words, you ensure that the relationship between different ideas remains clear. Transitions can be especially helpful when you introduce a new paragraph. They help the reader to understand how the ideas in each separate paragraph relate to one another.

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In fact, in order for a reader to see how two ideas connect, the writer must first display a clear understanding of the relationship between those ideas. Before you begin writing a paper or essay, we suggest you create an outline. When a text has a logical organization and structure, it’s much easier to select transition words. As an example, if your first paragraph contains an argument and your second paragraph contains a counterargument, the transitional word or phrase you use to connect them should signify contrast. Choose an adversative word or phrase to begin your next paragraph. 

Here are a few great options:

  • In contrast
  • Nevertheless
  • Although
  • Whereas
  • Conversely


In addition to adversative transitions, other types of transitions can be used to link ideas. Below, we’ve listed a few common transition words, categorized by type of transition. Keep in mind that this list only shows a small number of options. Hundreds of other linking words and phrases exist, beyond these examples. Also, some transition words fit into multiple categories, depending on the context in which they are used. Still, this should give you an idea of some transitional words and phrases that can be used to help you communicate your ideas more effectively. 

What types of transitions exist?


Additive Transitions

  • Furthermore
  • In fact
  • Actually
  • As a matter of fact



  • In like manner
  • Likewise
  • In a similar fashion
  • By the same token


Causal (Cause and Effect)

  • Therefore
  • Hence
  • Accordingly
  • For this reason



  • In the first place 
  • Firstly
  • Next
  • As a final point



  • To put it another way
  • In other words
  • To explain
  • That is to say



  • Perhaps
  • Maybe
  • Nearly
  • Although



When to Use Transitions

If you’re new to using transitions, you may want to start with the first and last sentence of each paragraph. Look at your draft essay and examine the introductory sentence within each paragraph. Are there any ways that you can make the shift to a new idea clearer? As a straightforward example, if you’re writing a persuasive five-paragraph essay—with an introduction, three arguments, and a conclusion—you could use sequential transitions. Begin each of your three body paragraphs with a transition to indicate that you’re listing multiple arguments: First of allsecondly, thirdly. The concluding paragraph might benefit from a summarizing transition, such as in conclusionto conclude, or in summary.  

Next, you can examine the concluding sentence of each paragraph in your draft. Is it possible to wrap up the idea more clearly? Sometimes, you’ll end a paragraph with a strong statement, punctuating your main idea. Other times, you may present a thought that introduces a logical transition into the next paragraph. Either way, keep an eye out for places where a transition could add clarity. Whatever you do, don’t add a transition just to increase your word count. If you add one, it should make the essay easier to understand. 

Finally, you should probably read over your entire draft to see whether any of your sentences need stronger transitions. Are there any places where you’ve included an illogical transition word? For instance, you may have used the word however, when you meant to say and. As you make revisions to your essay, it’s common to discover that you’ve created a Frankenstein sentence—a sentence that combines ideas in a strange way. Be sure to read over your entire essay with transitions in mind. When you see a transitional phrase that doesn’t make sense, delete it or replace it with a better one. 

To conclude, transitions give your essay polish and style. More than that, they help you to make your ideas flow more logically. You wouldn’t want to approach a busy intersection without any traffic lights or road signs. In the same way, an essay without transitions could prove very confusing! To help your reader, think about structuring your essay so that one idea flows into the next. Pick transition words that will help the reader navigate your thought process. When this is done well, readers will feel like they’ve followed your argument to its logical conclusion. Even if a reader doesn’t agree with the conclusion you make, they’ll understand and respect the path you took to get there.



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