When arriving at a topic for this blog, I asked several of my friends to quickly self-assess where they believed their writing fell short. While I informally surveyed both native and non-native speakers of English, the answer I got was almost unanimous: transitioning or writing smoothly. Transition words and phrases, though seemingly inconsequential, act as the hinges that solidify the overall structure of a written work, allowing a writer to concisely and effectively communicate his or her ideas.
In learning how to write an essay, children are presented with the concept of logical organization in a fairly straightforward way. The five-paragraph essay that we learn as elementary school students makes use of simple transitions that organize our essay. For instance, in a five-paragraph essay addressing why war is bad, a student may begin with “Firstly…,” transition with “Secondly…,” “Finally…,” and conclude with “In conclusion.”
This pattern of organization is completely acceptable and actually encouraged at an elementary school level. Sometimes, these organizational routines carry over at the high school and college level. However, once writers mature, such a formulaic construction is seen as juvenile, uninventive, and imprecise. Transitions such as “firstly, secondly, finally etc.” carry little information. Furthermore, they may be rather anemic in terms of their ability to facilitate smooth writing when compared to the plethora of transition words and phrases that are out there.
But what exactly constitutes a good transition word? The good news for you is that they are words you already know, but may have been neglecting in your writing: but, however, still, therefore, meanwhile, additionally, subsequently. The bad news is that the answer to qualifying a good transition is not universal. Transitions ought to be used purposefully, based on context and intended meaning. The web below illustrates the numerous categories of transitions and offers a few examples. Visit this link for a more comprehensive listing.