A transition is a “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another.” At least that’s what Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says. But that thing’s only been around for like 184 years or so, so I’d like to amend it a bit.
Instead, let’s say a transition is “a passage from one state, stage, subject, place, or IDEA to another.” That’s what we do when we transition in our essays. We transition between ideas that are usually related to one subject.
We do this from section to section, from paragraph to paragraph, from sentence to sentence, and often, within individual sentences.
On the macro level (sections and paragraphs), we often use whole paragraphs or sentences to transition from one idea to the next. However, on the micro level (between and within sentences), we use transition words.
Politicians use transitions all the time when they’re presented with an undesirable question and prefer to spin to another subject.
Well, some are better at it than others.
For better or worse, we’re focusing on these little gems today: transition words for essays. Why? Because they’re oh-so-important when it comes to moving from one idea to another and melding those ideas into one cohesive whole within your essay.
Without transition words, you can lose your direction. But their overuse, or misuse, can lead to a clunky, redundant mess of transitional madness.
So today, let’s tackle what you need to know about using transition words for essays.
What Exactly Are Transition Words, and Why Are They Important?
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably all too used to writing essays. I don’t need to explain to you the essay’s prevalence in just about every level of the education system.
You already understand the different types of essays that require you to analyze, interpret, compare and contrast, and break down any number of subjects.
When writing any essay, it’s important that all of your ideas progress in a clear and concise direction. It’s also important that you present them in a logical order. After all, we can only focus on one idea at a time.
What makes transition words so important? They allow us, as writers, to seamlessly move from one idea to the next. They also let us do so in a way that’s almost imperceptible to the reader.
Let’s take this quote as an example:
“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits.” —Kristin Armstrong
In this quote, we see the speaker uses the transition word “but” to shift from the difficulty related to life transitions to the positives that can come from them. It flows so well that you don’t even notice the word.
In contrast, imagine if she said, “Times of transition are strenuous. I love them.” This would give the reader pause as the connection isn’t clear. Instead, by using “but,” Armstrong effectively transitions you to the positive aspects of her thinking, which she then elaborates on.
As you can see, neglecting to use transition words entirely will result in writing that’s disconnected and difficult to read and understand. Transition words are vital to establishing flow and fluency in your paper. That flow and fluency allows your reader to seamlessly identify and connect to your ideas.
However, when transitions are overused or misused, they can be counter-productive.
What Are Some Common Transition Mistakes?
Learning to use transitions is easy, but learning to use them fluidly is more difficult. It’s kind of like dancing. Anyone can hold on to another person and move his feet. Doing it gracefully is another story.
So let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes I see with the use of transition words for essays.
Transition by numbers
“Firstly, smoking is bad for your lungs. Second, smoking can discolor your teeth. Third, smoking is bad for the people around you. In the fourth place, smoking is very expensive.”
Often when writing an essay, we’re asked to present several arguments or pieces of evidence. So numbering each of the points as we present them seems logical. However, this isn’t a list. It’s an essay. Try to avoid using “first,” “second,” and “third” exclusively when transitioning to a new point.
The broken record
“Exercise can improve your cardiovascular function. In addition, it can increase your self-esteem. Additionally, exercise can be a great way to meet new people. Plus, exercise can extend your life and make you feel younger.”
Some transition words will be used more than others, and that’s fine. However, a big part of writing is finding the right balance. You may have a favorite transition word, but try to show some restraint in using it. Switch it up from time to time. Avoid overusing transitions that essentially all mean the same thing.
Starting with ands and buts
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught that it’s a sin to start a sentence with “and” or “but.” And being the rebel writer I am, I love to break this rule (<– see?). But I have to admit, doing it continuously is less than ideal (<– see?).
Spelling it out
Transitions are meant to guide your reader through your essay from idea to idea and section to section. Consequently, there’s this tendency to spell everything out. I’ve read so many conclusion paragraphs that begin with “in conclusion.”
If you’re writing a strong conclusion, then there’s no reason to spell this out. Your reader will know. Trust me.
Now that you know why transition words are important and how to use them correctly, let’s take a look at 97 transition words for essays.
97 Transition Words for Essays You Need to Know
Transition words can be used to achieve various effects. Therefore, I’ve broken the following transition words into categories. This makes them a bit easier to digest—and refer back to later.
These transition words are used to provide additional information on a point.
- as well as
- of course
- in addition
- not to mention
Example:“Developing strong reading habits will improve your grade in English class, as well as any other class that involves reading, which happens to be all of them.”
These transition words are used to show the flip side of a point. They can be incredibly useful when transitioning from one side of an issue to the other.
- in contrast
- then again
- even though
Example: “The loss of my mother was the most difficult moment of my life. Then again, it was also the point when I began truly living my own life.”
These transition words are often used at the beginning of a sentence to show the cause of an action.
- in order to
- due to
- provided that
- with this in mind
Example: “I always think about having a drink when I’m feeling stressed about work.”
These are used in a similar way as the cause transitions, but later in the sentence to show the result of an action.
- as a result
- and so
- because of this
Example: “I was feeling stressed about work; thus,I thought about having a drink.”
These transition words are used to drive a point home by providing further information for the reader to think about in relation to it.
- in other words
- for instance
- for example
- such as
- with this in mind
Example: “Bullying in school can be detrimental to students, particularly when it occurs during the formative years of their education.”
These transitions are used to bring together various points that you’ve mentioned in your paper.
- in short
- in fact
- after all
- all in all
- in any event
- as mentioned
- in general
- in other words
- in summary
- as you can see
Example: “As mentioned, smoking is harmful to your health and the health of those you love.”
These are extremely important when it comes to developing strong flow from idea to idea, especially when they relate to time.
- as soon as
- at the same time
- in the future
- in the past
- prior to
Example: “Before we discuss the candidates’ platforms, let’s review their political histories.”
Putting Transition Words for Essays into Practice
This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, each of these transition words is common and valuable. They’re definitely transition words for essays you need to know. I encourage you to refer back to this list anytime you write an essay.
Need some inspiration? Check out these example essays where the writers did a good job of using transition words to connect ideas:
If you find that your essay lacks smooth transitions, the list of 97 transition words for essays will help you to add some.
If your essay feels redundant upon second reading because you’ve used similar transition words repeatedly, use these categories to find some good replacements.
If it still doesn’t feel right, I suggest you send your essay to the editing team at Kibin. Not only will the professional editors review your use of transitions, but they’ll work with you to improve your use of transition words for essays going forward.
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As a "part of speech" transition words are used to link words, phrases or sentences. They help the reader to progress from one idea (expressed by the author) to the next idea. Thus, they help to build up coherent relationships within the text.
This structured list of commonly used English transition words — approximately 200, can be considered as quasi complete. It can be used (by students and teachers alike) to find the right expression. English transition words are essential, since they not only connect ideas, but also can introduce a certain shift, contrast or opposition, emphasis or agreement, purpose, result or conclusion, etc. in the line of argument.
The transition words and phrases have been assigned only once to somewhat artificial categories, although some words belong to more than one category.
There is some overlapping with prepositions and postpositions, but for the purpose of usage and completeness of this concise guide, I did not differentiate.
Agreement / Addition / Similarity
The transition words like also, in addition, and, likewise, add information, reinforce ideas, and express agreement with preceding material.
in the first place
not only ... but also
as a matter of fact
in like manner
in the same fashion / way
first, second, third
in the light of
not to mention
to say nothing of
by the same token
as well as
Opposition / Limitation / Contradiction
Transition phrases like but, rather and or, express that there is evidence to the contrary or point out alternatives, and thus introduce a change the line of reasoning (contrast).
although this may be true
of course ..., but
on the other hand
on the contrary
at the same time
in spite of
even so / though
be that as it may
as much as
Cause / Condition / Purpose
These transitional phrases present specific conditions or intentions.
in the event that
as / so long as
on (the) condition (that)
for the purpose of
with this intention
with this in mind
in the hope that
to the end that
for fear that
in order to
seeing / being that
in view of
only / even if
so as to
Examples / Support / Emphasis
These transitional devices (like especially) are used to introduce examples as support, to indicate importance or as an illustration so that an idea is cued to the reader.
in other words
to put it differently
for one thing
as an illustration
in this case
for this reason
to put it another way
that is to say
with attention to
by all means
important to realize
another key point
first thing to remember
most compelling evidence
must be remembered
point often overlooked
to point out
on the positive side
on the negative side
with this in mind
to be sure
Effect / Consequence / Result
Some of these transition words (thus, then, accordingly, consequently, therefore, henceforth) are time words that are used to show that after a particular time there was a consequence or an effect.
Note that for and because are placed before the cause/reason. The other devices are placed before the consequences or effects.
as a result
under those circumstances
in that case
for this reason
Conclusion / Summary / Restatement
These transition words and phrases conclude, summarize and / or restate ideas, or indicate a final general statement. Also some words (like therefore) from the Effect / Consequence category can be used to summarize.
as can be seen
in the final analysis
all things considered
as shown above
in the long run
given these points
as has been noted
in a word
for the most part
by and large
to sum up
on the whole
in any event
in either case
all in all
Time / Chronology / Sequence
These transitional words (like finally) have the function of limiting, restricting, and defining time. They can be used either alone or as part of adverbial expressions.
at the present time
from time to time
sooner or later
at the same time
up to the present time
to begin with
in due time
as soon as
as long as
in the meantime
in a moment
in the first place
all of a sudden
at this instant
by the time
Many transition words in the time category (consequently; first, second, third; further; hence; henceforth; since; then, when; and whenever) have other uses.
Except for the numbers (first, second, third) and further they add a meaning of time in expressing conditions, qualifications, or reasons. The numbers are also used to add information or list examples. Further is also used to indicate added space as well as added time.
Space / Location / Place
These transition words are often used as part of adverbial expressions and have the function to restrict, limit or qualify space. Quite a few of these are also found in the Time category and can be used to describe spatial order or spatial reference.
in the middle
to the left/right
in front of
on this side
in the distance
here and there
in the foreground
in the background
in the center of
List of Transition Words
Transition Words are also sometimes called (or put in the category of) Connecting Words. Please feel free to download them via this link to the category page:
Linking Words & Connecting Words as a PDF.
It contains all the transition words listed on this site. The image to the left gives you an impression how it looks like.
Usage of Transition Words in Essays
Transition words and phrases are vital devices for essays, papers or other literary compositions. They improve the connections and transitions between sentences and paragraphs. They thus give the text a logical organization and structure (see also: a List of Synonyms).
All English transition words and phrases (sometimes also called 'conjunctive adverbs') do the same work as coordinating conjunctions: they connect two words, phrases or clauses together and thus the text is easier to read and the coherence is improved.
Usage: transition words are used with a special rule for punctuation: a semicolon or a period is used after the first 'sentence', and a comma is almost always used to set off the transition word from the second 'sentence'.
People use 43 muscles when they frown; however, they use only 28 muscles when they smile.
However, transition words can also be placed at the beginning of a new paragraph or sentence - not only to indicate a step forward in the reasoning, but also to relate the new material to the preceding thoughts.
Use a semicolon to connect sentences, only if the group of words on either side of the semicolon is a complete sentence each (both must have a subject and a verb, and could thus stand alone as a complete thought).
Further helpful readings about expressions, writing and grammar: Compilation of Writing Tips How to write good ¦ Correct Spelling Study by an English University
Are you using WORD for writing professional texts and essays? There are many easy Windows Shortcuts available which work (almost) system-wide (e.g. in every programm you use).