33 Transition Words and Phrases

Transitional terms give writers the opportunity to prepare readers for a new idea, connecting the previous sentence to the next one.

Many transitional words are nearly synonymous: words that broadly indicate that “this follows logically from the preceding” include accordingly, therefore, and consequently . Words that mean “in addition to” include moreover, besides, and further . Words that mean “contrary to what was just stated” include however, nevertheless , and nonetheless .

as a result : THEREFORE : CONSEQUENTLY

The executive’s flight was delayed and they accordingly arrived late.

in or by way of addition : FURTHERMORE

The mountain has many marked hiking trails; additionally, there are several unmarked trails that lead to the summit.

at a later or succeeding time : SUBSEQUENTLY, THEREAFTER

Afterward, she got a promotion.

even though : ALTHOUGH

She appeared as a guest star on the show, albeit briefly.

in spite of the fact that : even though —used when making a statement that differs from or contrasts with a statement you have just made

They are good friends, although they don't see each other very often.

in addition to what has been said : MOREOVER, FURTHERMORE

I can't go, and besides, I wouldn't go if I could.

as a result : in view of the foregoing : ACCORDINGLY

The words are often confused and are consequently misused.

in a contrasting or opposite way —used to introduce a statement that contrasts with a previous statement or presents a differing interpretation or possibility

Large objects appear to be closer. Conversely, small objects seem farther away.

used to introduce a statement that is somehow different from what has just been said

These problems are not as bad as they were. Even so, there is much more work to be done.

used as a stronger way to say "though" or "although"

I'm planning to go even though it may rain.

in addition : MOREOVER

I had some money to invest, and, further, I realized that the risk was small.

in addition to what precedes : BESIDES —used to introduce a statement that supports or adds to a previous statement

These findings seem plausible. Furthermore, several studies have confirmed them.

because of a preceding fact or premise : for this reason : THEREFORE

He was a newcomer and hence had no close friends here.

from this point on : starting now

She announced that henceforth she would be running the company.

in spite of that : on the other hand —used when you are saying something that is different from or contrasts with a previous statement

I'd like to go; however, I'd better not.

as something more : BESIDES —used for adding information to a statement

The city has the largest population in the country and in addition is a major shipping port.

all things considered : as a matter of fact —used when making a statement that adds to or strengthens a previous statement

He likes to have things his own way; indeed, he can be very stubborn.

for fear that —often used after an expression denoting fear or apprehension

He was concerned lest anyone think that he was guilty.

in addition : ALSO —often used to introduce a statement that adds to and is related to a previous statement

She is an acclaimed painter who is likewise a sculptor.

at or during the same time : in the meantime

You can set the table. Meanwhile, I'll start making dinner.

BESIDES, FURTHER : in addition to what has been said —used to introduce a statement that supports or adds to a previous statement

It probably wouldn't work. Moreover, it would be very expensive to try it.

in spite of that : HOWEVER

It was a predictable, but nevertheless funny, story.

in spite of what has just been said : NEVERTHELESS

The hike was difficult, but fun nonetheless.

without being prevented by (something) : despite—used to say that something happens or is true even though there is something that might prevent it from happening or being true

Notwithstanding their youth and inexperience, the team won the championship.

if not : or else

Finish your dinner. Otherwise, you won't get any dessert.

more correctly speaking —used to introduce a statement that corrects what you have just said

We can take the car, or rather, the van.

in spite of that —used to say that something happens or is true even though there is something that might prevent it from happening or being true

I tried again and still I failed.

by that : by that means

He signed the contract, thereby forfeiting his right to the property.

for that reason : because of that

This tablet is thin and light and therefore very convenient to carry around.

immediately after that

The committee reviewed the documents and thereupon decided to accept the proposal.

because of this or that : HENCE, CONSEQUENTLY

This detergent is highly concentrated and thus you will need to dilute it.

while on the contrary —used to make a statement that describes how two people, groups, etc., are different

Some of these species have flourished, whereas others have struggled.

NEVERTHELESS, HOWEVER —used to introduce a statement that adds something to a previous statement and usually contrasts with it in some way

It was pouring rain out, yet his clothes didn’t seem very wet.

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190 Good Transition Words for Essays

August 23, 2023

good transitions words for essays, college

Essay writing consists of two primary procedures: coming up with the content we want to include and structuring that content. These procedures might take place in either order or they could occur simultaneously. When writing an essay it is important to think about the ways that content and structure complement one another. The best essays join these two elements in thoughtful ways. Transition words for essays (including for college essays) are some of our most primary tools when it comes to structuring a piece of writing.

When beginning an essay it is often recommended to begin with a messy first draft. The purpose of this draft is to get everything out on the page. You should put down as many ideas and trajectories as you can without worrying too much about phrasing or whether they will make it into the final draft. The key here is to be loose—to get ahead of our self-editors and expel everything we can from our minds.

List of Good Transition Words for Essays (Continued)

While this is a good strategy for beginning an essay it will likely leave you unsure how everything fits together. This is where transition words come in. As you will see in this list (which is necessarily incomplete) the range of transition words for essays is vast. Each transition word implies a different relation, often in subtle ways. After accumulating content, the next step is to figure out how the elements fit together towards an overall goal (this could be but is not necessarily an “argument”). Consulting this list of transition words for essays can provide a shortcut for determining how one piece might lead into another. Along with transition words, rhetorical devices and literary devices are other tools to consider during this stage of essay writing.

Transition Words for College Essays

While this list will be a useful tool for all types of essay writing it will be particularly helpful when it comes to finding the right transition words for college essays . The goal of a college essay is to give a strong overall sense of its author in the tight space of 650 words. As you might imagine, it’s not easy to encompass a life or convey a complex personality in such a space. When writing a college essay you are working with a huge amount of potential content. Students often want to squeeze in as much as they can. To this end, transition words for college essays are essential tools to have at our disposal.

Here is our list of transition words for college essays and other essays. It is organized by the different types of transition words/phrases and their functions. While this organization should be convenient, keep in mind that there’s plenty of overlap. Many of these words can function in multiple ways.

1) Additive Transitions

These words function in an additive manner, accumulating content to build upon what has already been stated. They can be used to construct an argument or establish a scene through the accumulation of details.

  • Additionally
  • In addition to
  • Furthermore
  • Not to mention
  • In all honesty
  • To tell the truth
  • Not only…but also
  • As a matter of fact
  • To say nothing of
  • What’s more
  • Alternatively
  • To go a step further

 2) Comparative Transitions (Similarity)

  These transition words draw a parallel or bring out a similarity between images or ideas. They can be used not only in a straightforward sense but also to establish relations of similarity between objects or ideas that might appear to be dissonant.

  • In the same way
  • In a similar vein
  • Along the lines of
  • In the key of

 3) Comparative Transitions (Difference)

  While also functioning comparatively, the following words demonstrate difference between ideas or images. These transition words are useful when it comes to establishing contrasting points of view, an important component of any argument.

  • On the other hand
  • On the contrary
  • In contrast to
  • In contradiction
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • In any event
  • In any case
  • In either event

4) Sequential Transitions

  The following are particularly effective transition words for college essays. They will allow you to order ideas chronologically or in a sequence, providing a sense of continuity over time. This is particularly useful when an essay leans into something more creative or involves telling a story.

  • Subsequently
  • At the same time
  • Concurrently
  • In the beginning
  • At the start
  • At the outset
  • Off the bat

5) Spatial Transitions

Rather than organizing ideas or images in regards to sequence, these transitions indicate spatial relationships. They are particularly useful when it comes to painting a scene and/or describing objects, but they can also be used metaphorically. Consider, for example, how you might use the transition, “standing in […’s] shadow.”

  • Standing in […’s] shadow
  • In front of
  • In the middle
  • In the center
  • To the left
  • To the right
  • On the side
  • Adjacent to
  • Around the bend
  • On the outskirts
  • In the distance
  • On the horizon
  • In the foreground
  • In the background
  • Underground
  • Through the grapevine

 6) Causal Transitions

These transition words for essays indicate cause and effect relationships between ideas. They will be particularly useful when you are structuring a logical argument, i.e. using logos as a mode of persuasion . Causal transitions are an important element of academic, legal and scientific writing.

  • Accordingly
  • Resultingly
  • As a result
  • Consequently
  • In consequence
  • As a consequence
  • For this reason
  • So much that
  • Granting that
  • That being the case
  • Under those circumstances
  • With this in mind
  • For the purpose of
  • For all intents and purposes
  • In the event that
  • In the event of
  • In light of
  • On the condition that
  • To the extent that

7) Examples/Illustration/Supporting Transition

  These transition words for college essays can be used to introduce supporting evidence, emphasis, examples, and clarification. There is some overlap here with additive transitions and causal transitions. These transitions are also useful when it comes to building an argument. At the same time, they can signal a shift into a different linguistic register.

  • For example
  • For instance
  • In other words
  • As an illustration
  • To illustrate
  • To put it differently
  • To put it another way
  • That is to say
  • As the evidence illustrates
  • It’s important to realize
  • It’s important to understand
  • It must be remembered
  • To demonstrate
  • For clarity’s sake
  • To emphasize
  • To put it plainly
  • To enumerate
  • To speak metaphorically

8) Conclusory Transitions

These transition words for essays serve to bring an idea or story to a close. They offer a clear way of signaling the conclusion of a particular train of thought. They might be followed by a summary or a restatement of an essay’s argument. In this way they also provide emphasis, setting the reader up for what is about to come.

  • In conclusion
  • To summarize
  • To put it succinctly
  • To this end
  • At the end of the day
  • In the final analysis
  • By and large
  • On second thought
  • On first glance
  • That’s all to say
  • On the whole
  • All things considered
  • Generally speaking

List of Good Transition Words for Essays (Final Thoughts)

Even when elements appear to be disparate on first glance, transition words are a great tool for giving your essay a smooth flow. They can also create surprising juxtapositions, relationships, and equivalences. The way a reader will understand a transition word depends on the context in which they encounter it.

Individual words and phrases can be used in a wide variety of ways, ranging from the literal to the figurative to the colloquial or idiomatic. “Through the grapevine” is an example of the colloquial or idiomatic. When we encounter this phrase we don’t interpret it literally (as hearing something “through” a grapevine) but rather as hearing news secondhand. There are, of course, a vast number of idioms that are not included in this list but can also function as transitional phrases.

This list of transition words for college essays (and really any form of writing you might be working on) is a resource that you can return to again and again in your life as a writer. Over years of writing we tend to fall into patterns when it comes to the transition words we use. Mixing things up can be exciting both as a writer and for your readers. Even if you don’t choose to stray from your trusted transitions, considering the alternatives (and why they don’t work for you) can offer a deeper understanding of what you are trying to say.

List of Good Transition Words for Essays (An Exercise)

As an exercise in self-understanding, you may want to try highlighting all of the transition words in a piece of your own writing. You can then compare this to the transition words in a piece of writing that you admire. Are they using similar transitions or others? Are they using them more or less often? What do you like or dislike about them? We all use transition words differently, creating different tonal effects. Keeping an eye out for them, not only as a writer but also as a reader, will help you develop your own aesthetic.

  • College Essay

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Emmett Lewis

Emmett holds a BA in Philosophy from Vassar College and is currently completing an MFA in Writing at Columbia University. Previously, he served as a writing instructor within the Columbia Artists/Teachers community as well as a Creative Writing Teaching Fellow at Columbia, where he taught poetry workshops. In addition, Emmett is a member of the Poetry Board at the Columbia Journal , and his work has been published in HAD , Otoliths , and Some Kind of Opening , among others.

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Transition Words Examples: Enhancing Paragraphs and Essays

Lindsay Kramer

Think back to when you were first taught how to write essays. You were probably taught to organize your writing by starting each paragraph with a word like first , additionally , further , secondly , or third . These words are transition words .

Not all transition words are individual words. Sometimes, you need a whole phrase to make a smooth transition in your writing. These phrases are known as transition phrases . One transition phrase you were probably taught in school is in conclusion , a common way to begin an essay’s final paragraph . As you moved further in your academic career, you were probably taught to move away from these transition phrases and use subtler ones in your writing. 

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Read on to learn all about the best transition words and phrases and when to use them, as well as common pitfalls you might encounter when incorporating transitions into your writing.

What are transition words?

Transition words are words that help writing move smoothly from one topic to another without confusing the reader. Words like however , next , or in conclusion prepare the reader by signaling that the topic is shifting. Transition words can introduce new or contrasting ideas, show cause-and-effect relationships, and form other connections between different sentences.

Types of transition words

Transition words present the writer’s thoughts in an orderly fashion, express nuance, clarify vagueness, forge connections, and demonstrate comparisons. Because they do so many different jobs, transition words are divided into eight distinct categories.

Transition words that introduce, agree, and add on 

One of the most common ways transition words are used is to introduce new ideas and add onto topics that have already been explored in the piece. 

Transition words and phrases in this category include:

  • coupled with
  • in addition (to) 
  • furthermore
  • equally important

Take a look at a few ways you can use these kinds of transition words in a sentence:

  • We have to consider the students’ needs, but the staff’s needs are equally important .
  • First , preheat the oven. Second , sift together all your dry ingredients. 
  • The weather, coupled with the fast and loose itinerary, is the reason why I’m skipping the trip.

Transition words that oppose and limit

Transition words can also communicate opposition or limits to ideas and phrases. These words’ role is largely the opposite of the role played by the category above. Transition words that create opposition and limits include:

  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • notwithstanding

Here are a few examples:

  • We managed to have a decent harvest despite the drought.
  • I went to the seminar expecting a long, boring presentation but on the contrary , it was engaging and a lot of fun!
  • While Shekani is a stickler for tradition, Mei gives every holiday party a new twist.

Cause and conditional transition words

These transition words show how one action led to a specific effect or how one circumstance is conditional on another. This category also includes words and transition phrases that illustrate the relationship between an intention and an action. 

Cause and conditional transition words include:

  • in the event of 
  • for fear of
  • I hope that

A few examples of these words in sentences include:

  • As long as there are pets that need homes, I’ll keep volunteering at the shelter.
  • I brought extra socks in case we have to walk through puddles. 

Effect and result transition words

Similar to the category above, these transition words demonstrate the result of a specific action. Here’s the difference between the two: When your sentence is focused on the cause of the effect, you’d use one of the transition words from the “Cause and conditional” category above. When the emphasis is on the effect itself, you would use a word from this “Effect and result” category that fits with the rest of your sentence. 

For example, you might announce that you’ve postponed your barbecue by sending a group message that says “ because of the weather, I postponed the barbecue.” But you can communicate the same message with a slightly different focus by phrasing it as “it’s raining, so consequently I’ve rescheduled the barbecue.” 

Words and phrases in this category include:

  • as a result
  • because the
  • under those circumstances
  • consequently

A few more examples of sentences that include these transition words are: 

  • It’s very humid outside, hence the condensation on the window. 
  • We stayed to see the whole show and consequently missed our train home. 
  • Miguel forgot to add the yeast to his dough and as a result , the bread didn’t rise. 

Transition words that describe examples and support

Other transition words make it clear that one concept supports another, either by providing evidence, emphasizing it, or simply being an example. These words include:

  • for this reason
  • by all means
  • in other words
  • particularly
  • significantly

Here are a few examples of these transition words at work:

  • They had to slow down production, particularly of items with a low profit margin. 
  • I love all kinds of pizza, especially stuffed-crust pizza.
  • The sequel’s tone was markedly different from the first movie’s. 

Conclusion and summary transition words

These are the transition words that bring paragraphs , arguments, and pieces of writing to a close. They can also be used to summarize and restate ideas. These transition phrases and words include:

  • in conclusion
  • to conclude
  • in any event
  • in either case
  • to summarize

Take a look at a few ways these words work in sentences:

  • There were some surprises, but overall we had a great time.
  • In conclusion , an upgraded security system isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. 

Transition words for describing time

Another category of transition words deals with time, specifically when something happened or will happen in relation to another event. These words include:

  • occasionally
  • in the meantime
  • in a moment
  • momentarily
  • at the present time
  • all of a sudden
  • every so often

Take a look at these transition phrases and words in action:

  • I was walking through the mall when all of a sudden , I recognized my long-lost sister standing in line to buy a pretzel.
  • I’d love to hang out at the coffee shop after work. 
  • Don’t leave the lobby—we’ll be with you momentarily . 

Transition words for locations

Transition words can also draw a reader’s attention to where something is located, or the physical or spatial relationship between two things. This can mean where someone or something is literally located, or they can be used figuratively, like “Dan’s auto body shop is above Rick’s when it comes to quality and attention to detail.”

These words and phrases include:

  • in front of
  • adjacent to

You’ll notice that many of these words can also function as prepositions in a sentence. They can also function as transition words that are part of adverbial clauses . Here are a few examples of this kind of transition word at work: 

  • In the back , my cousin was grilling hamburgers. 
  • Among the students surveyed, more than half were excited to return to campus full-time. 
  • Next to the garage , they found a parking spot.

When to use transition words

Transition words illustrate relationships between other words and phrases. Although students are generally taught to use transition words at the beginning of sentences, this isn’t the only place they’re used. 

Generally, a transition word is the crux of its sentence . This is the decisive point where the sentence’s core message is communicated. Not every sentence contains a transition word, but when one does, the transition word is usually critical to its question or statement. 

Common mistakes writers make with transition words

Working with transition words isn’t always easy. Sometimes, especially when English isn’t your primary language, you may accidentally use the wrong word for the type of transition you’re making or use a word that doesn’t have quite the right connotation for your message. For example, you might say something like, “We could go out for burgers, pizza, sushi, or tacos. In either case, that works for me.” Either implies that there are only two choices, so in this scenario, it doesn’t fit because there are a total of four choices. (Here, the best way to phrase this would be “in any case.”)

Here are a few other commonly mistaken transition words:

  • Adam and Jeremy came over for dinner.
  • I made ribs and mac and cheese as well as a bagged salad. 
  • Although they offer personal training and classes, that gym is essentially an overpriced equipment store.
  • The gym’s website explicitly states that no guest passes will be issued until further notice. 

Another mistake writers sometimes make with transition words is using them in inappropriate contexts. As you saw in the lists above, some transition words and phrases feel more formal and academic than others. You can make your writing feel too formal—or too casual—by choosing a transition word that doesn’t fit your tone or the type of writing you’re doing. Here are a few examples of transition words that don’t fit their sentences:

  • I just picked up a new dress, got my makeup done, and therefore , I’m ready to hit the club.
  • In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna Pontillier felt inadequate whenever she spent time with Adele Ratignolle. 
  • I’ll be out of the office on Wednesday and consequently won’t be responding to emails. 

See how they’re all either too formal or too casual for the messages they’re communicating? Word choice is crucial to effective communication, and that includes choosing the right transition for each sentence. 

Make every transition a smooth one

Not sure if the transition word you chose is the right one? Run your writing through Grammarly and get suggestions for how to pick the perfect words and strike the appropriate tone that works best for what you’re communicating. 

beginning transition words for essays

Some experts argue that focusing on individual actions to combat climate change takes the focus away from the collective action required to keep carbon levels from rising. Change will not be effected, say some others, unless individual actions raise the necessary awareness.

While a reader can see the connection between the sentences above, it’s not immediately clear that the second sentence is providing a counterargument to the first. In the example below, key “old information” is repeated in the second sentence to help readers quickly see the connection. This makes the sequence of ideas easier to follow.  

Sentence pair #2: Effective Transition

Some experts argue that focusing on individual actions to combat climate change takes the focus away from the collective action required to keep carbon levels from rising. Other experts argue that individual actions are key to raising the awareness necessary to effect change.

You can use this same technique to create clear transitions between paragraphs. Here’s an example:

Some experts argue that focusing on individual actions to combat climate change takes the focus away from the collective action required to keep carbon levels from rising. Other experts argue that individual actions are key to raising the awareness necessary to effect change. According to Annie Lowery, individual actions are important to making social change because when individuals take action, they can change values, which can lead to more people becoming invested in fighting climate change. She writes, “Researchers believe that these kinds of household-led trends can help avert climate catastrophe, even if government and corporate actions are far more important” (Lowery).

So, what’s an individual household supposed to do?

The repetition of the word “household” in the new paragraph helps readers see the connection between what has come before (a discussion of whether household actions matter) and what is about to come (a proposal for what types of actions households can take to combat climate change).

Sometimes, transitional words can help readers see how ideas are connected. But it’s not enough to just include a “therefore,” “moreover,” “also,” or “in addition.” You should choose these words carefully to show your readers what kind of connection you are making between your ideas.

To decide which transitional word to use, start by identifying the relationship between your ideas. For example, you might be

  • making a comparison or showing a contrast Transitional words that compare and contrast include also, in the same way, similarly, in contrast, yet, on the one hand, on the other hand. But before you signal comparison, ask these questions: Do your readers need another example of the same thing? Is there a new nuance in this next point that distinguishes it from the previous example? For those relationships between ideas, you might try this type of transition: While x may appear the same, it actually raises a new question in a slightly different way. 
  • expressing agreement or disagreement When you are making an argument, you need to signal to readers where you stand in relation to other scholars and critics. You may agree with another person’s claim, you may want to concede some part of the argument even if you don’t agree with everything, or you may disagree. Transitional words that signal agreement, concession, and disagreement include however, nevertheless, actually, still, despite, admittedly, still, on the contrary, nonetheless .
  • showing cause and effect Transitional phrases that show cause and effect include therefore, hence, consequently, thus, so. Before you choose one of these words, make sure that what you are about to illustrate is really a causal link. Novice writers tend to add therefore and hence when they aren’t sure how to transition; you should reserve these words for when they accurately signal the progression of your ideas.
  • explaining or elaborating Transitions can signal to readers that you are going to expand on a point that you have just made or explain something further. Transitional words that signal explanation or elaboration include in other words, for example, for instance, in particular, that is, to illustrate, moreover .
  • drawing conclusions You can use transitions to signal to readers that you are moving from the body of your argument to your conclusions. Before you use transitional words to signal conclusions, consider whether you can write a stronger conclusion by creating a transition that shows the relationship between your ideas rather than by flagging the paragraph simply as a conclusion. Transitional words that signal a conclusion include in conclusion , as a result, ultimately, overall— but strong conclusions do not necessarily have to include those phrases.

If you’re not sure which transitional words to use—or whether to use one at all—see if you can explain the connection between your paragraphs or sentence either out loud or in the margins of your draft.

For example, if you write a paragraph in which you summarize physician Atul Gawande’s argument about the value of incremental care, and then you move on to a paragraph that challenges those ideas, you might write down something like this next to the first paragraph: “In this paragraph I summarize Gawande’s main claim.” Then, next to the second paragraph, you might write, “In this paragraph I present a challenge to Gawande’s main claim.” Now that you have identified the relationship between those two paragraphs, you can choose the most effective transition between them. Since the second paragraph in this example challenges the ideas in the first, you might begin with something like “but,” or “however,” to signal that shift for your readers.  

  • picture_as_pdf Transitions

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Transitions

What this handout is about.

In this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, transitions glue our ideas and our essays together. This handout will introduce you to some useful transitional expressions and help you employ them effectively.

The function and importance of transitions

In both academic writing and professional writing, your goal is to convey information clearly and concisely, if not to convert the reader to your way of thinking. Transitions help you to achieve these goals by establishing logical connections between sentences, paragraphs, and sections of your papers. In other words, transitions tell readers what to do with the information you present to them. Whether single words, quick phrases, or full sentences, they function as signs that tell readers how to think about, organize, and react to old and new ideas as they read through what you have written.

Transitions signal relationships between ideas—relationships such as: “Another example coming up—stay alert!” or “Here’s an exception to my previous statement” or “Although this idea appears to be true, here’s the real story.” Basically, transitions provide the reader with directions for how to piece together your ideas into a logically coherent argument. Transitions are not just verbal decorations that embellish your paper by making it sound or read better. They are words with particular meanings that tell the reader to think and react in a particular way to your ideas. In providing the reader with these important cues, transitions help readers understand the logic of how your ideas fit together.

Signs that you might need to work on your transitions

How can you tell whether you need to work on your transitions? Here are some possible clues:

  • Your instructor has written comments like “choppy,” “jumpy,” “abrupt,” “flow,” “need signposts,” or “how is this related?” on your papers.
  • Your readers (instructors, friends, or classmates) tell you that they had trouble following your organization or train of thought.
  • You tend to write the way you think—and your brain often jumps from one idea to another pretty quickly.
  • You wrote your paper in several discrete “chunks” and then pasted them together.
  • You are working on a group paper; the draft you are working on was created by pasting pieces of several people’s writing together.

Organization

Since the clarity and effectiveness of your transitions will depend greatly on how well you have organized your paper, you may want to evaluate your paper’s organization before you work on transitions. In the margins of your draft, summarize in a word or short phrase what each paragraph is about or how it fits into your analysis as a whole. This exercise should help you to see the order of and connection between your ideas more clearly.

If after doing this exercise you find that you still have difficulty linking your ideas together in a coherent fashion, your problem may not be with transitions but with organization. For help in this area (and a more thorough explanation of the “reverse outlining” technique described in the previous paragraph), please see the Writing Center’s handout on organization .

How transitions work

The organization of your written work includes two elements: (1) the order in which you have chosen to present the different parts of your discussion or argument, and (2) the relationships you construct between these parts. Transitions cannot substitute for good organization, but they can make your organization clearer and easier to follow. Take a look at the following example:

El Pais , a Latin American country, has a new democratic government after having been a dictatorship for many years. Assume that you want to argue that El Pais is not as democratic as the conventional view would have us believe.

One way to effectively organize your argument would be to present the conventional view and then to provide the reader with your critical response to this view. So, in Paragraph A you would enumerate all the reasons that someone might consider El Pais highly democratic, while in Paragraph B you would refute these points. The transition that would establish the logical connection between these two key elements of your argument would indicate to the reader that the information in paragraph B contradicts the information in paragraph A. As a result, you might organize your argument, including the transition that links paragraph A with paragraph B, in the following manner:

Paragraph A: points that support the view that El Pais’s new government is very democratic.

Transition: Despite the previous arguments, there are many reasons to think that El Pais’s new government is not as democratic as typically believed.

Paragraph B: points that contradict the view that El Pais’s new government is very democratic.

In this case, the transition words “Despite the previous arguments,” suggest that the reader should not believe paragraph A and instead should consider the writer’s reasons for viewing El Pais’s democracy as suspect.

As the example suggests, transitions can help reinforce the underlying logic of your paper’s organization by providing the reader with essential information regarding the relationship between your ideas. In this way, transitions act as the glue that binds the components of your argument or discussion into a unified, coherent, and persuasive whole.

Types of transitions

Now that you have a general idea of how to go about developing effective transitions in your writing, let us briefly discuss the types of transitions your writing will use.

The types of transitions available to you are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use them. A transition can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case, it functions the same way: First, the transition either directly summarizes the content of a preceding sentence, paragraph, or section or implies such a summary (by reminding the reader of what has come before). Then, it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.

  • Transitions between sections: Particularly in longer works, it may be necessary to include transitional paragraphs that summarize for the reader the information just covered and specify the relevance of this information to the discussion in the following section.
  • Transitions between paragraphs: If you have done a good job of arranging paragraphs so that the content of one leads logically to the next, the transition will highlight a relationship that already exists by summarizing the previous paragraph and suggesting something of the content of the paragraph that follows. A transition between paragraphs can be a word or two (however, for example, similarly), a phrase, or a sentence. Transitions can be at the end of the first paragraph, at the beginning of the second paragraph, or in both places.
  • Transitions within paragraphs: As with transitions between sections and paragraphs, transitions within paragraphs act as cues by helping readers to anticipate what is coming before they read it. Within paragraphs, transitions tend to be single words or short phrases.

Transitional expressions

Effectively constructing each transition often depends upon your ability to identify words or phrases that will indicate for the reader the kind of logical relationships you want to convey. The table below should make it easier for you to find these words or phrases. Whenever you have trouble finding a word, phrase, or sentence to serve as an effective transition, refer to the information in the table for assistance. Look in the left column of the table for the kind of logical relationship you are trying to express. Then look in the right column of the table for examples of words or phrases that express this logical relationship.

Keep in mind that each of these words or phrases may have a slightly different meaning. Consult a dictionary or writer’s handbook if you are unsure of the exact meaning of a word or phrase.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Common transition words and phrases.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Transitions Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Transitions clarify the logic of your argument by orienting your reader as you develop ideas between sentences and paragraphs. These tools should alert readers to shifts in your argument while and also maintain the smoothness and clarity of your prose. Below, you’ll find some of the most commonly used transition categories and examples of each. Depending on the example, these suggestions may be within sentences or at the beginning of sentences.

Transitions by Category

1. addition.

Use when presenting multiple ideas that flow in the same direction, under the same heading/ idea also, another, finally, first, first of all, for one thing, furthermore, in addition, last of all, likewise, moreover, next, and, second, the third reason

2. Sequence/ Order

Use to suggest a temporal relationship between ideas; places evidence in sequence first, second (etc.), next, last, finally, first of all, concurrently, immediately, prior to, then, at that time, at this point, previously, subsequently, and then, at this time, thereafter, previously, soon, before, after, followed by, after that, next, before, after, meanwhile, formerly, finally, during

3. Contrast

Use to demonstrate differences between ideas or change in argument direction but, however, in contrast, on the other hand, on the contrary, yet, differ, difference, balanced against, differing from, variation, still, on the contrary, unlike, conversely, otherwise, on the other hand, however

4. Exception

Use to introduce an opposing idea however, whereas, on the other hand, while, instead, in spite of, yet, despite, still, nevertheless, even though, in contrast, but, but one could also say…

5. Comparison

Use to demonstrate similarities between ideas that may not be under the same subject heading or within the same paragraph like, likewise, just, in a different way / sense, whereas, like, equally, in like manner, by comparison, similar to, in the same way, alike, similarity, similarly, just as, as in a similar fashion, conversely

6. Illustration

Use to develop or clarify an idea, to introduce examples, or to show that the second idea is subordinate to the first for example, to illustrate, on this occasion, this can be seen, in this case, specifically, once, to illustrate, when/where, for instance, such as, to demonstrate, take the case of, in this case

7. Location

Use to show spatial relations next to, above, below, beneath, left, right, behind, in front, on top, within

8. Cause and Effect

Use to show that one idea causes, or results from, the idea that follows or precedes it because, therefore, so that, cause, reason, effect, thus, consequently, since, as a result, if…then, result in

9. Emphasis

Use to suggest that an idea is particularly important to your argument important to note, most of all, a significant factor, a primary concern, a key feature, remember that, pay particular attention to, a central issue, the most substantial issue, the main value, a major event, the chief factor, a distinctive quality, especially valuable, the chief outcome, a vital force, especially relevant, most noteworthy, the principal item, above all, should be noted

10. Summary or Conclusion

Use to signal that what follows is summarizing or concluding the previous ideas; in humanities papers, use these phrases sparingly. to summarize, in short, in brief, in sum, in summary, to sum up, in conclusion, to conclude, finally

Some material adapted from Cal Poly Pomona College Reading Skills Program and “ Power Tools for Technical Communication .” 

Writing Effective Sentence Transitions (Advanced)

Transitions are the rhetorical tools that clarify the logic of your argument by orienting your reader as you develop ideas between sentences and paragraphs. The ability to integrate sentence transitions into your prose, rather than simply throwing in overt transition signals like “in addition,” indicates your mastery of the material. (Note: The visibility of transitions may vary by discipline; consult with your professor to get a better sense of discipline or assignment specific expectations.)

Transition Signals

Transition signals are words or phrases that indicate the logic connecting sets of information or ideas. Signals like therefore, on the other hand, for example, because, then, and afterwards can be good transition tools at the sentence and paragraph level. When using these signals, be conscious of the real meaning of these terms; they should reflect the actual relationship between ideas.

Review Words

Review words are transition tools that link groups of sentences or whole paragraphs. They condense preceding discussion into a brief word or phrase. For example: You’ve just completed a detailed discussion about the greenhouse effect. To transition to the next topic, you could use review words like “this heat-trapping process” to refer back to the green house effect discussion. The relative ability to determine a cogent set of review words might signal your own understanding of your work; think of review words as super-short summaries of key ideas.

Preview words

Preview words condense an upcoming discussion into a brief word or phrase. For example: You’ve just explained how heat is trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Transitioning to the theory that humans are adding to that effect, you could use preview words like “sources of additional CO2 in the atmosphere include” to point forward to that discussion.

Transition Sentences

The strongest and most sophisticated tools, transition sentences indicate the connection between the preceding and upcoming pieces of your argument. They often contain one or more of the above transition tools. For example: You’ve just discussed how much CO2 humans have added to the atmosphere. You need to transition to a discussion of the effects. A strong set of transition sentences between the two sections might sound like this:

“These large amounts of CO2 added to the atmosphere may lead to a number of disastrous consequences for residents of planet earth. The rise in global temperature that accompanies the extra CO2 can yield effects as varied as glacial melting and species extinction.”

In the first sentence, the review words are “These large amounts of CO2 added to the atmosphere”; the preview words are “number of disastrous consequences”; the transition signals are “may lead to.” The topic sentence of the next paragraph indicates the specific “disastrous consequences” you will discuss.

If you don’t see a way to write a logical, effective transition between sentences, ideas or paragraphs, this might indicate organizational problems in your essay; you might consider revising your work.

Some material adapted from Cal Poly Pomona College Reading Skills Program  and “ Power Tools for Technical Communication .”

Last revised: 07/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 05/2021

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COMMENTS

  1. Essay Transition Words to Know, With Examples | Grammarly">92 Essay Transition Words to Know, With Examples | Grammarly

    Matt Ellis. Updated on November 7, 2023 Students. Abruptly switching topics in essays can be jarring; however, transition words can smooth the change for the convenience of the reader. Moreover, you can use essay transition words to start a paragraph, sentence, or clause more naturally.

  2. Transition Words for Essays | Merriam-Webster">33 Transition Words for Essays | Merriam-Webster

    33 Transition Words and Phrases. 'Besides,' 'furthermore,' 'although,' and other words to help you jump from one idea to the next. Transitional terms give writers the opportunity to prepare readers for a new idea, connecting the previous sentence to the next one.

  3. Transitional Words and Phrases – The Writing Center – UW–Madison">Transitional Words and Phrases – The Writing Center – UW–Madison

    Transitional Words and Phrases. One of your primary goals as a writer is to present ideas in a clear and understandable way. To help readers move through your complex ideas, you want to be intentional about how you structure your paper as a whole as well as how you form the individual paragraphs that comprise it.

  4. Transition Words for Essays - College Transitions">190 Good Transition Words for Essays - College Transitions

    List of Good Transition Words for Essays (Final Thoughts) Even when elements appear to be disparate on first glance, transition words are a great tool for giving your essay a smooth flow. They can also create surprising juxtapositions, relationships, and equivalences.

  5. Transition Words & Phrases | List & Examples - Scribbr">Transition Words & Phrases | List & Examples - Scribbr

    Transition words and phrases (also called linking words, connecting words, or transitional words) are used to link together different ideas in your text. They help the reader to follow your arguments by expressing the relationships between different sentences or parts of a sentence.

  6. Transition Words and Phrases Examples | Grammarly">Transition Words and Phrases Examples | Grammarly

    Write with Grammarly. Read on to learn all about the best transition words and phrases and when to use them, as well as common pitfalls you might encounter when incorporating transitions into your writing. What are transition words? Transition words are words that help writing move smoothly from one topic to another without confusing the reader.

  7. Transition Sentences | Tips & Examples for Clear Writing - Scribbr">Transition Sentences | Tips & Examples for Clear Writing -...

    Revised on July 23, 2023. Clear transitions are crucial to clear writing: They show the reader how different parts of your essay, paper, or thesis are connected. Transition sentences can be used to structure your text and link together paragraphs or sections. Example of a transition sentence for a new paragraph.

  8. Transitions | Harvard College Writing Center">Transitions | Harvard College Writing Center

    To decide which transitional word to use, start by identifying the relationship between your ideas. For example, you might be. making a comparison or showing a contrast. Transitional words that compare and contrast include also, in the same way, similarly, in contrast, yet, on the one hand, on the other hand.

  9. Transitions – The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at ...">Transitions – The Writing Center • University of North Carolina...

    Transitions signal relationships between ideas—relationships such as: “Another example coming up—stay alert!” or “Here’s an exception to my previous statement” or “Although this idea appears to be true, here’s the real story.”

  10. Common Transition Words and Phrases | The Writing Studio | Vanderbilt ...">Common Transition Words and Phrases | The Writing Studio |...

    Transitions clarify the logic of your argument by orienting your reader as you develop ideas between sentences and paragraphs. These tools should alert readers to shifts in your argument while and also maintain the smoothness and clarity of your prose. Below, you’ll find some of the most commonly used transition categories and examples of each.