Transitional Expressions and How to Use Them

Transitional expressions can really improve your essay.  They help serve as sort of guidelines or explanations, helping the reader follow your train of thought as you go from idea to idea.  They make your essay flow better and make it more interesting to read.

Examples of Transitional Expressions

You can use transitional expressions for a number of effects:

  • Addition! (Also, besides, furthermore, etc.)
  • Repetition! (In other words…)
  • Similarity! (Likewise, similarly…)
  • Contrast! (However, on the other hand, nevertheless…)
  • Sequencing! (First, next, finally…)
  • Time! (After, earlier, simultaneously…)
  • Examples! (For example, for instance…)
  • Emphasis! (Indeed, truly, in fact…)
  • Location! (Above, opposite, in front…)
  • Cause and Effect! (Accordingly, hence, therefore…)
  • Conclusions! (Finally, thus, to summarize…)

They are really very practical words, and they make it much easier to follow your logic as you’re trying to argue a point.  Just take a look at these two examples, taken from the University of New England

The concept of fairness is central to understanding plagiarism. Fairness means being fair both to yourself and others. Everybody both gives and receives their proper due, and nobody has anything to complain about. An incident involving unfairness could be taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. The person whose work has been taken receives no recognition or acknowledgment for their research and thinking. Writers who plagiarize are not being fair to themselves either because they are not developing their own independent academic skills. Students who do their own work with due acknowledgement of the work of others should develop their own academic skills and self-confidence far more than those who merely misuse the work of others.

Now, we’ll add transitional words.

The concept of fairness is central to understanding plagiarism. Fairness means being fair both to yourself and others. Moreover, everybody both gives and receives their proper due, and nobody has anything to complain about. For example, an incident involving unfairness could be taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. As a result, the person whose work has been taken receives no recognition or acknowledgment for their research and thinking. Furthermore, writers who plagiarize are not being fair to themselves either because they are not developing their own independent academic skills. Therefore, students who do their own work with due acknowledgement of the work of others should develop their own academic skills and self- confidence far more than those who merely misuse the work of others.

Both paragraphs give exactly the same information, but the second one is easier to understand.  “Moreover” and “furthermore” let us know that those sentences are adding more information to the central idea.  “For example” is providing a concrete example to back the argument.  “As a result” is highlighting a cause and effect relationship.  “Therefore” is drawing a conclusion.  These words just serve as little guides so the reader can easily follow along.

Punctuating Transitional Expressions

How should you include these in your own essays?  It’s fairly simple.

If you’re using them in the middle of a sentence, use commas to set them off from the rest of the sentence:

  • Most grizzly bears, however, are more afraid of you.

If you use the word at the beginning of an independent clause, on the other hand, end your previous sentence with a period or a semicolon, and then place a comma after the transition.

  • I really wanted to go to your party.  Therefore, I finished my essay last night.

Pepper your essay with these transitions!  They’ll help your reader understand your train of thought.

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