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Developing your essay

Learn more about how to develop your essay: from brainstorming to organizing your writing

Transitional expressions

Transitions are words, phrases, or sentences that connect ideas, sentences, or paragraphs. If you’ve received feedback that your writing is “choppy”, which means there isn’t a smooth flow between ideas, or that your reader struggled to understand the connections between ideas or paragraphs, try incorporating transitions into your writing.

Transitional expressions are words or phrases that indicate relationships between ideas and/or sentences. Transitions can signal many different connections, such as an addition (e.g., as well), a comparison (e.g., in contrast), or a conclusion (e.g., finally). For example, consider the next two sentences: Royal Roads University is a national historic site. People visit the campus for many different reasons. It isn't immediately clear how those ideas are connected, but inserting a transition makes the connection more obvious:

  • Royal Roads University is a national historic site, but people visit the campus for many different reasons (“but” indicates that people visit the site for reasons other than the national heritage status).
  • Royal Roads University is a national historic site, and people visit the campus for many different reasons (“and” indicates that the reasons relate to the site’s historical status).

For a list of transitional expressions that are organized by the function of the expressions, please visit Transitions Guide (APA Style). For a more in-depth description of common transitions and their functions within sentences, please visit Transitions (ESL) (The Writing Centre at UNC-Chapel Hill).

Transitions undoubtedly improve the logical connections between ideas and sentences; however, they can also signal the connections between paragraphs or sections of a document.

Transitional sentences

Transitional sentences typically appear at the end of a paragraph or section and indicate the focus of the next paragraph. If you read the last sentence of the previous paragraph, you’ll see that the second phrase of the sentence introduced you to the focus of this section.

If you’re struggling to include transitional sentences in your paragraphs, consider how you would make the connections if you presented the information verbally. Presenters usually map the connections between sections of a presentation to ensure a smooth shift between slides or topics because those transitions are essential to the audience understanding the presentation. Similarly, transitional sentences help readers move between paragraphs or sections. If you’re feeling stuck when writing a transitional sentence, think about how you could verbally explain the connection between the paragraphs to an audience. It may be helpful to speak the words out loud to hear how they sound. Once you have a clear description of the connection, present that information in your transitional sentence.

One approach to create transitions between paragraphs is to use keywords:

For planning templates that include fields for transitional sentences, please visit Finalize Your Document Plan and Plan Writing with PowerPoint.