Like a road map, transitions guide readers through your essay. This lesson examines the way writers transition between sentences, within paragraphs and between paragraphs to make for a smooth reading experience.
Imagine a time before GPS and smartphones. There's no Garmin, no Google Maps, not even the ability to call a friend for help. I know, it's scary, right? Before our era of modern technology, drivers actually relied on paper maps and road signs to get from point A to point B while traversing the unknown. Think about how important those signs along our highways become. Without a sign that warns drivers 'Elm St. Exit on right; 5 miles,' how would they know to prepare for a right lane exit? Even more important, without the 'Elm Street Exit' sign, how would drivers know to leave the highway for their final destination?
Let's think about those who read our essays as the poor souls before GPS. Readers rely on essay writers to clearly take them from point A to point B without having to encounter bumpy back roads and dead ends. The main argument of an essay should be clearly identified for readers in the introduction as an arguable thesis statement. As they progress through and between the body paragraphs of the essay, readers should be prepared for new ideas and shifts in tone through the use of the writer's transitions. Effective essay writing is just like providing really concise directions: no surprise exits, no out-of-the-way and impassable roads. If done well, your essay will provide a clear path for readers to follow and the confidence to know they'll reach the desired destination.
This lesson will show you how to transition between individual sentences, transition within paragraphs themselves and finally how to transition from one paragraph to the next.
Transitions Between Sentences
So what exactly are transitions and how do they work? Transitions are words and phrases that help carry a thought from one idea to the next.
Let's start with two basic sentences: 'Club X is a 21-and-over club. Eighteen-year-olds may enter with a valid ID and a $5.00 cover charge.'
Sure, it lacks refinement. No, it's not winning any writing awards, but there is nothing inherently wrong with these two sentences - except that without a transition between the two, the delivery seems abrupt and choppy. How about we change the second sentence to include the transition word 'however' to show exception?
'Club X is a 21-and-over club. However, eighteen-year-olds may enter with a valid ID and a $5.00 cover charge.'
It's not a drastic change, but the addition of a transition word between the two sentences makes it easier to read, and the ideas flow better.
Transitions Within Paragraphs
Let's take this concept a step further. We graduate from the individual sentence to look at the relationship between several sentences in a paragraph. Follow along as I read:
'Study.com Academy succeeds in bringing quality education to students through the Internet. Its key to success is employing instructors who know how to capture the main idea of each lesson and bring it to life on-screen. The videos are particularly beneficial in helping visual learners acquire the skills needed to master each concept. The instructor-created assessments at the end of each lesson help students retain the concepts learned. The Academy's resources have the potential to change the lives of all students.'
Just like our pre-transition-word sentences, there is nothing explicitly wrong with this paragraph. It is a paragraph in that the sentences are related to one another and stick to the overall main idea. The problem is that without those carefully chosen transitions, the writing is too choppy and difficult to read. It doesn't read like a cohesive idea. Keeping our road analogy in mind, this is one bumpy off-road experience. Look what happens when we add transitions to smooth out the sentence and help readers along the way.
Let's add 'For example' to the beginning of the third sentence to set up the detail, 'In addition' to start the fourth sentence showing sequence, and 'With continued outreach' in front of the 'The' in the last sentence to indicate the passing of time. Now let's see how this reads:
'Study.com Academy succeeds in bringing quality education to students through the Internet. Its key to success is employing instructors who know how to capture the main idea of each lesson and bring it to life on-screen. For example, the videos are particularly successful in helping visual learners acquire the skills needed to master each concept. In addition, the instructor-created assessments at the end of each lesson help students retain the concepts learned. With continued outreach, the Academy's resources have the potential to change the lives of all students.'
The main idea stays the same, but the paragraph is much more coherent, employs a greater variety of word choice and is much easier to read. Why? Because the revised writing transitions readers through the content of the paragraph.
Transitions Between Paragraphs
Finally, writers must ensure there is not only flow between the individual sentences and within the paragraphs, as we've seen, but also between the paragraphs. As the sentences flow, the paragraphs will begin to flow, leading to an essay that flows, and soon you're flowing your way to a quality paper.
It's true: each paragraph is meant to express a single idea. However, those ideas are each components of one cohesive argument laid out in the thesis. That's why each paragraph should follow a logical order that connects everything together.
Here we have the thesis statement for an essay on global warming: 'Through reduction of greenhouse gases, investment in alternative energy and tougher punishments for polluting corporations, the United States can combat the effects of global warming.'
So we know there are three paragraphs in this essay arguing the ability of the U.S. to fight global warming. The first paragraph calls for the reduction of greenhouse gases. Not only does this paragraph need to make its argument, but it should also set up the following paragraph on alternative energy.
If the conclusion sentence for paragraph one reads 'By reducing greenhouse gases, our desire for a cleaner and healthier United States is possible' and the topic sentence of the second paragraph states 'Americans need to invest in alternative energy,' there is no flow between the two. Remember, readers crave writing that transitions them from one idea to the next.
So let's think. Knowing that alternative energy would help reduce greenhouse gas, making our environment more healthy, use the relationship between the two ideas to transition from one paragraph to the next.
I'll keep the original conclusion sentence for the first paragraph and revise the topic sentence for the second to read 'A transition from greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels to alternative energy sources is another component of a healthier America.'
With this revision, I was able to continue the idea of a healthier U.S. from the first paragraph while also previewing the topic of alternative energy in the second. As a writer, you need to work to find those relationships and commonalities between each paragraph to carry readers from one to the next.
At the end of the day, if you have a solid argument and quality information to present, it really is the simple additions, like transition words, that can get a mediocre paper back on the road to success. Remember to check your essay for transitions between one sentence to the next and be sure those transitions are evident within each paragraph and ultimately between each paragraph as well. Even if it's not a 100-point research paper, make sure to utilize transitions in all your writing. Readers and teachers appreciate it.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define transitions and explain why they are important in an essay
- Understand how to transition between sentences as well as within and between paragraphs