Skip to main content

University Writing Center

COM 9: Transitions

Dynamic PDF: Transitions

Transitions serve as signals to your readers to help navigate between ideas in your paper. Transitions between sentences and paragraphs are essential for clarity and readability. Without them, writing can sound choppy and disconnected. When incorporating transitions, be sure to choose those that best communicate the connection you are trying to make between sentences, paragraphs, and/or ideas. Keep in mind: A transition can be a single word, a phrase, or a complete sentence.

Here are some examples of transitions in practice:

  • First, we must consider all the applicants; then, we can decide.

In this sentence, the transition words communicate the order in which the events must happen.

  • It rained this afternoon; therefore, I did not get to finish mowing the lawn.

Here, the transition indicates a cause and effect relationship.

  • Bob wants to earn his doctorate; however, he hasn’t yet been accepted into a program.

This transition indicates a contrast between the two ideas.

There are different kinds of transitions for different relationships between ideas. Transitions can signify sequence/chronology, cause/effect, contrast, comparison, and so on. Here are some suggestions for transition words and phrases to indicate these types of relationships:

First, initiallyThereforeHoweverMoreover, furthermore
BeforeConsequentlyAlthoughIn addition, additionally
SuddenlyAs a resultOtherwiseLikewise
EventuallyAccordinglyNeverthelessIn fact
Finally, lastlyIn order toEven thoughAlso

When transitioning between paragraphs or sections within a text, a sentence is frequently used to move between ideas. Often, keywords (like those above) are still used to show the relationship between the ideas in transition sentences.

Avoid overusing or repeating the same transitional phrases in your paper — keep it interesting for your reader!

Use the following method to revise your entire work for transitions:

  1. Grab a pen—this will be easiest if you choose a color that will stand out on the page.
  2. Start at the introduction. Each time you change ideas, underline the existing transition. If no transition exists, circle the place where a transition should be.
  3. Go back to the beginning of your paper. For each circle, decide what kind of transition is needed. Ask yourself how these two ideas are related — Chronologically? Causally? In contrast? It’s up to you whether your transition is short (a word) or longer (a sentence). If you aren’t sure, try a couple of options and read them aloud to hear how they sound.
  4. If you’re starting to feel comfortable with transitions, try going back over places where you used single transition words and ask how you could make those transitions more in-depth and interesting.
  5. Find a reader who can give you feedback on your transitions. If your reader has trouble following along, make a note of the problem areas so that you can return to them later.

Revising for transitions can sometimes show places in your work where reorganization is needed. Don’t be afraid to move paragraphs around if you think it will help your audience follow along. Revising can (and should!) happen throughout the writing process.

Office Phone

(615) 904-8237


Walker Library, Room 362



The Writing Center

Box 70

Middle Tennessee State University

Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Read about our 45th Anniversary event and take a look at our growing digital archive!

Check out the latest issue of Off Center Magazine!

Follow Us!