What Are Transitional Phrases? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are curious about how to make your writing smoother and more polished, read on. In this lesson we will take a look at the definition of transitional phrases as well as some solid examples of how to use them in your writing.

Smooth Out Your Writing

If you have ever written an essay and received comments from your instructor about how it didn't flow well, or how it needed better transitions, you are certainly not alone. Transitional phrases are words that help a writer move from one sentence to another. One of the big challenges of using transitional phrases is that we don't hear them very often when we speak. For example, imagine if you were having a conversation with a friend who said: ''This is really good pizza. Indeed, I eat it almost every week.'' You would probably think it sounded too formal. However, in writing, transitional phrases indicate to the reader how one sentence relates to the sentences around it. Let's take a closer look.

Transitional Phrases to Show Examples

Some very useful transitional phrases are ones that help show an example. For example, if you want to talk about how adopting dogs is better than buying from a breeder, you might write something like this:

''Adopting is a far better option than buying from a breeder. There are many benefits to adopting. For example, adopting a dog helps solve pet overpopulation.''

In this sentence, we make a statement (adopting is better than buying) and then we give an example that backs up our statement. We use the transitional phrase ''for example'' to let the reader know that the next sentence helps prove our previous statement.

Other transitional phrases for introducing examples include:

  • to illustrate
  • to demonstrate
  • specifically
  • for instance

Transitional Phrases to Contradict a Statement

Phrases that help show contrast are also common in writing. These phrases help introduce an idea that contradicts (goes against) what you have just written. Let's stick with our previous example of arguing the case for animal adoption. You might write:

''Some people believe that buying a pet means the animal will be healthier. However, genetic studies prove that purebred dogs are far more prone to painful life threatening hereditary diseases than mixed-breed pets.''

In this example we have stated a belief, and our next sentence goes against that. The word ''however'' lets the reader know that we are going to contradict the statement.

Other examples of phrases that show contrast are:

  • nevertheless
  • but
  • at the same time
  • on the other hand
  • on the contrary

Transitional Phrases to Clarify

Transitional phrases that help clarify information are also valuable in writing. These types of phrases are especially useful when you are quoting other sources or are discussing something complicated. Consider these statements:

''The ASPCA stated 'canine oncologists have proven that canines of unmixed hereditary origin are predisposed to ophthalmic cancers.' In other words, purebred dogs are more likely to develop eye cancer.''

Woah! That first sentence was really tough to understand, but it was important to include it since it proves our statement about mixed dogs being healthier. Since the sentence includes many medical terms, it really helps to include the sentence that begins with the transitional phrase ''in other words.'' When you use a transitional phrase to help clarify, you are sending a message to your reader that says 'Hey, I know that last sentence was sort of tough to understand, so I am going to break it down a little for you.'

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