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How to Write and Use Transition Sentences

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  • 0:05 Road Maps
  • 1:51 Transitions Between Sentences
  • 2:56 Transitions Within Paragraphs
  • 5:30 Transitions Between Paragraphs
  • 7:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bill Brown

Bill holds an M.A.T. He has taught English/Language Arts to secondary students.

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.

Road Maps

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 front 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.

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