Words at work

– 8 min read

Transition words and phrases: Examples and tips

Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon

Ever put together a sandwich without any sauce?

Even if you haven’t, you can tell there’s nothing to hold together your sandwich’s ingredients, which makes eating it a messy affair. Transition words are the same.

They’re English language’s garlic mayo (or whatever flavor you prefer) that glue ideas, sentences, and paragraphs so they stick together in a sensible whole.

See the ‘and’ and ‘so’ in the sentence you just read? They’re transition words examples that help make the sentence flow in logical sense.

Want to learn how to use them like a pro? Read on. We’ll cover everything from transition words to start a new paragraph to their types and how you can use them. 

Let’s get on with it:

What are transition words?

Transition words are words and even phrases that connect ideas. ‘Because,’ ‘consequently,’ ‘and,’ ‘what’s more,’ ‘resultantly,’ ‘in sum,’ and ‘briefly’ are a few common transition words examples.

Owing to their job as words that bridge ideas, transition words are also called connecting or linking words.

Here’s a look at transition sentences examples that I’ve pulled from Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried:

When good enough gets the job done, go for it. It’s way better than wasting resources, or even worse, doing nothing because you can’t afford the complex solution. And, remember, you can usually turn good enough to great later.

Now let’s imagine these sentences without good transition words gluing all the thoughts together:

What we get here is a mishmash of ideas that make zero sense about how they’re linked to each other. To top that up, the flow’s toast.

The takeaway? Whether it’s transition words between paragraphs, transition words at the start of a sentence, or those that stitch sentences together in a cohesive paragraph, you can’t take these words for granted.

Why do you need transition words?

Although we’ve briefly touched on the why already, it’s time we take a microscope to the role that a transitional word plays:

They link ideas to one another, so that they form a whole when put together. With connecting words, you can see the link between actions and arguments – say something happens as a consequence of another thing as in the sentence below:

She couldn’t bear another day in the wretched city. So, she left the town in search of a bright future.

They put your thoughts in order

Organized thoughts breathe sense into your writing. Whether it’s academic writing that you’re doing or a blog post you’re working on, you’ll find this particularly valuable.

Why? Because the previous argument you make will flow in order as each idea builds upon another like a pyramid of cards.

Of course, the better your thoughts are organized, the smoother your piece will flow, which, in turn, gives your work a logical structure.

They’re proponents of brevity and clarity

Try as you might, you can’t create links between ideas without transition words acting as succinct bridges between them.

With these magic connectors, you can keep your writing clear, to the point, and sharp as a pencil.

Here’s an example:

Lightning struck all night, resulting in broken poles and a town without electricity for two days.

Let’s omit the transition words here and try rewriting this sentence: Lightning struck all night. There were broken poles. A town without electricity for two days.

Something sounds off, doesn’t it?

For one, there’s no flow to these short phrases and the ideas feel foreign to each other without connecting words. And, two, you’ve to rely on multiple sentences that are better off as one.

Transition words make writing easy to read

All this talk about organization, logical structure, and good flow and clarity pool together to deliver the champion writing characteristic – good readability.

That’s when your content is easy to read, gently pushing the reader from one sentence to another until they get through to the end. Bingo!

When and how to use transition words

Now that you know what transition words can help you with, you’re in a better position to use them.

Want to add up points together? Transition words can help. Want to agree with something or stress on a message? Again, use transition words. Want to introduce a shift or bring things to a close? You know what to do.

Besides if you ever feel there’s a lack of coherence or logical connections between your thoughts, you’ll want to revisit the transition words you’re using. Same goes for a lack of order in your writing.

Tip: Once you’re done writing, give the draft a break. Come back to read it out loud. Reading loudly helps you understand the flow, therefore, the need for transition words to make up for abrupt change in idea.

For a stronger hold on when and how to use transition words, get to grips on the different types of transition words such as conclusion transition words, introduction transition words, and more.

For instance, if there’s a consequence to an action, you’ll want to lean on cause and effect transition words such as ‘consequently,’ ‘subsequently,’ ‘next,’ and so on.

Here’s an example:

The crime on the streets got people worried. Next, came the terrible wind and people started locking themselves in their homes post dusk.

Similarly, if you’re sharing steps, you’ll need sequence or enumeration transition words like ‘firstly,’ ‘secondly,’ ‘thirdly,’ ‘lastly,’ and others. This example shows such transition words in action:

Shortly after her husband gave up on her, she ended up moving to downtown London.

We’ll look at the types of transition words in just a bit. For now, here’s a look at the punctuation that goes hand in glove with the use of transition words. This way, you’ll get everything related to the use of transition words correct down to the bone.

Two rules to keep in mind here are:

Use a period (.) or semicolon (;) after the first sentence. Use the latter only when you’re connecting two independent sentences that’ll do just fine as standalone sentences as well.

Sarah was going through a rough patch in her personal life. Naturally, her performance at work started suffering.

Use a comma before the transition word in a sentence to separate it from the rest of the sentence

I’ve been very careful about going out alone, but I can’t help it if an emergency crops up.

Positioning transition words

Frankly, transition words can occupy every nook and cranny in your writing. Hard to believe?

Briefly, here are the different places transition words do their job as an adhesive

• At the start of a sentence

• At the end of a sentence

• Smack dab in the middle of a sentence

• Transition words that start a new paragraph

Types and examples of transition words

For each type of transition word, we’ve a list below. We’ve also compiled a list of transition words into a cheat sheet of 100 transition words that you can fetch here (no sign in required).

1. Addition/agreement transition words

As their name indicates, these transition words help build up points like putting Legos together.

In addition, another key point, indeed

2. Comparison/contrast words

These magic words make it easy for you to sketch differences.

But, (and) still, (and) yet, on the contrast, on the flip side, on the contrary, in contrast, in comparison, regardless, nevertheless, nonetheless, irrespective, regardless, above all, after all.

3. Clarity transition words

If you plan on explaining an idea further, clarity transition words can be of help.

To clarify, to put it differently, by all means, in other words, to put it differently, that is to say, to emphasize, to repeat, to explain, to go in detail, especially, to rephrase,

4. Cause and effect/results transition words

Did something occur as a reaction to an action? Explain them using cause and effect transition words.

Accordingly, resultantly, consequently, as a result, subsequently, thereupon, forthwith, accordingly, henceforth, under the circumstances, Consequently, subsequently, with this mind, with this intention, in the event that, in terms of, to this end, in as much as, owing to, lest, because of, in case, in view of, in order to,

5. Concession transition words

If there’s a compromise to be made, this type of transition words can help. You’ll typically find these at the start and end of a sentence.

Granted, of course, naturally,

6. Emphasis transition words

As is obvious, emphasis transition words play a useful role accentuating a point or stressing on something’s importance.

In fact, above all, to top it all, Importance: of less importance, chiefly, foundationally, primarily, secondarily, critically, of less importance.

7. Enumeration/sequence transition words

These words define time.

What’s more, furthermore, eventually, gradually, earlier, meanwhile, finally, in due time, from time to time, sooner or later, as long as, in the meantime, immediately, instantly, quickly, overtime, by the time, prior to, during, since, till, afterward,

8. Example/support transition words

If you’re backing things with examples, you’ll want to alert readers of an example coming through. How? Use example transition words.

to illustrate, to demonstrate, that is, For instance, for example that you’ll find in abundance in this post.

9. Location/place transition words

Next up, place transition words show location or explain when something happens, making them a helpful device for descriptive writing in particular.

in front of, in the middle of, in the distance, to the left/right, here and there, amid, amongst, beyond, further, alongside, in the background, adjacent, nearer,

10. Similarity transition words

Another batch of good transition words are similarity words that pull similarities – much the opposite of contrast words.

Likewise, similarly, in the same vein, by the same token, in like manner, in similar fashion, in the same way

11. Conclusion transition words

These words work in the summation department. They’re a huge help for writing conclusions or summing up different ideas under discussion.

Therefore, thus, in summary, to summarize, in sum, to sum it up, In other words, in brief, briefly, in conclusion, for the most part, in a word, overall, on the whole, all in all, in essence, ultimately, by and large, in short, generally speaking.