Imagine a road with no street signs. How would you follow the right route if you didn’t have a sign showing you which way to go?
Transition words are the road signs in writing. And great transitions help your reader follow your train of thought without becoming bogged down trying to discern your meaning. Words and phrases like “similarly”, “nevertheless”, “in order to”, “likewise,” or “as a result” show the relationships between your ideas and can help illustrate agreement, contrast or show cause and effect:
- Mark avoided the campus dining hall where his ex-friends hung out. He didn’t like its food.
- Mark avoided the campus dining hall where his ex-friends hung out. Equally important, he didn’t like its food.
In the second example, you understand that the two thoughts are both important and related. Mark is not just avoiding the dining hall because he doesn’t like the food; he is also avoiding the people who used to be his friends.
- Kate thought her mother was over-reacting to her announcement. She waited two days after the first phone call to visit.
- Kate thought her mother was over-reacting to her announcement. Because of this, she waited two days after the first phone call to visit.
The use of “Because of this” in the second sentence makes clear to the reader that the gap in time between the call and the visit was a direct result of the over-reaction.
- The boy kicked the ball into the street. A speeding car came around the corner.
- The boy kicked the ball into the street. At the same moment, a speeding car came around the corner.
Now we see the action in a wider lens: the ball goes into the street just as a car comes careening around the corner. The first illustration is short and choppy. It doesn’t flow well. The second sentence with a transition leads you smoothly between two related, but different thoughts.
The ProWritingAid Transition Report will scan your writing and give you a “transitions score”, which is based on the percentage of sentences that contain a transition. We recommend that you aim for a score of 25% or higher, which means that you use at least one transition word or phrase every four sentences.