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.
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:
- Comparing the Diction and Syntax in the Works of Langston Hughes and Sandra Cisneros
- A Summary and Investigation of Green Buildings
- American High Schools Compared to the Swedish School System
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.