A frequent fault of inexperienced writers is a tendency to present thoughts and ideas without showing connections between them, or without making their significance clear to the reader. Transition words and phrases keep the reader on track by showing relationships between ideas and information.
Consider the following paragraph:
People who adopt a dog need to teach it basic commands. Basic obedience keeps the animal safe and prevents it from becoming a danger. Many pet owners fail to teach their dogs to obey. They should always consider the need to train their puppies to obey.
The writer of this paragraph sees value in training a dog in basic obedience, but a reader might wonder what connection there is between basic obedience and the dog’s safety or dangerous behavior. Transitions are needed to show these connections.
The paragraph revised:
People who adopt a dog need to teach it basic commands in order to keep it safe and prevent it from harming others. For example, a dog that won’t come when called might run into the street and be hit by a car. A dog not trained to keep from jumping on people could cause injury by knocking someone down. Unfortunately, many pet owners fail to teach their dogs to obey, and, as a result, the animal becomes a nuisance or danger to family and strangers alike. To avoid undesirable behavior in their pets, dog owners should always consider the need to train puppies in basic obedience.
Here is a list of transition words grouped according to the types of transition they can be used for:
To add information:
and, not only…but also, also, moreover, furthermore, in addition, again, besides, equally important, what’s more, too
To give examples:
for example, for instance, specifically, in particular
To show contrast:
but, however, on the other hand, otherwise, instead, in contrast
To show concession:
yet, nevertheless, however, although, even though, despite the fact that, despite
To show similarity:
likewise, similarly, in the same way
To show result:
so, as a result, therefore, thus, as a consequence, consequently
To indicate time or sequence:
first, second, finally, meanwhile, immediately, thereafter, soon, finally, previously, formerly, next, following this, after, soon, therefore
To offer conditional thoughts:
or, whether…or, if…then
To explain or emphasize:
in fact, actually, in other words, namely, obviously, in any case, naturally, certainly, unquestionably
To offer alternatives:
or, either…or, neither…nor
on the other hand, on the contrary, by comparison, compared to, balanced against,
vis-à-vis, although, in contrast
because, for, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, in fact, in any case
in conclusion, in brief, on the whole, to conclude, as I have shown
Some transition words, like also, and, or, like, as for, and further are unobtrusive, directing the reader without distracting. Others, like albeit, jump out at the reader and must be used sparingly. Still other transitions cast doubt on the credibility of the writer. Here are some transitions often seen in freshman compositions. They are perhaps best avoided:
in all honesty, to tell the truth, to put it briefly, be that as it may, last but not least, to get back to the point, to make a long story short.