9 ways we use transition words and phrases to strengthen our writing

This post looks at how we use transition words and phrases in our writing. And lists some commonly used examples.

What are transition words?

Whatever your goal or purpose for your writing - whether it's to explain, inform, entertain or persuade - you want to present your reader with a cohesive text that conveys information clearly and concisely, and carries them effortlessly from idea to idea, and from beginning to end.

Transition words - also known as linking or connecting words - give your text that coherence, enabling your reader to progress smoothly through your writing.

They work by linking your sentences and paragraphs and connecting your ideas.

And they help you build logical and coherent arguments by pointing your reader towards each successive stage of your argument.

Without them, your writing would be a series of unconnected sentences or statements that don’t ‘flow’; making it extremely difficult for your reader to follow your train of thought, and requiring them to make disruptive stops and starts and intellectual leaps as they try and understand what you mean.

Different transitions do different things

They show your reader that you are doing such things as comparing and contrasting (yet, unlike, even so), elaborating (similarly, in other words, also), showing concession (admittedly, while it may be true), or concluding (finally, in conclusion)

Here are some examples of transition words in use (with the transitions in bold):

  1. I don’t feel like writing this essay today. On the other hand, it’s due tomorrow so I have to get it done.
  2. Monica has a lot of books, because she loves reading. Moreover, she believes a house isn’t a home without books. In contrast, her husband hardly ever reads anything except the daily newspaper.
  3. Regardless of cost, the project must be completed on time.
  4. It is not an idea around which we can expand the business. On the contrary, we see it as one that will result in potentially huge financial losses.
  5. He’s arrogant and bad-tempered, and yet somehow, he’s likeable.
  6. Your proposal is ill-thought-out, poorly presented, and lacking in detail - in short, it’s a disaster.

Below, are some examples of transition words and phrases according to categories (some words belong in more than one category)...

Examples of transitions words:

Transition words and phrases for adding information/elaborating

  • and
  • also
  • equally important
  • furthermore
  • in addition (to)
  • in other words
  • moreover
  • notice that
  • not only..... but also...
  • similarly
  • that is
  • which
  • which is to say

Giving examples or illustrating a point

These transition words and phrases show your reader that you are illustrating a point and/or providing examples:

  • another
  • for example
  • for instance
  • including
  • in other words
  • in particular
  • specifically
  • such as

Listing ideas

These transitions help you list ideas:

  • firstly
  • secondly
  • finally
  • the following
  • the first point
  • the second point

Transition words to show contrasting ideas

  • alternatively
  • although
  • at the same time
  • but
  • conversely
  • even so
  • even though
  • however
  • in contrast (to)
  • instead
  • nevertheless
  • on one hand
  • on the other hand
  • on the contrary
  • or
  • unlike
  • while this maybe the case
  • while this may be true
  • whereas
  • yet (and yet)

Transition words to show location/position

  • above
  • adjacent
  • behind
  • below
  • beyond
  • here
  • in front (of)
  • nearby
  • there

Transition words to show similarity

  • and
  • by the same token
  • equally
  • in the same way
  • likewise
  • similarly
  • too

Transition words to show concession

  • admittedly
  • although
  • at any rate
  • but even so
  • despite the fact that
  • despite this
  • even so
  • even though
  • regardless of
  • while it may be true

Transition words to show a result or to note consequences

  • so
  • accordingly
  • as a result
  • because
  • consequently
  • despite
  • due to
  • since
  • therefore

Summarising or concluding

Finally, these transition words and phrases tell your reader that you are summarizing and concluding your ideas, your train of thought etc.

  • as a final point
  • finally
  • in brief
  • in conclusion
  • in essence
  • in fact
  • in short
  • overall
  • to conclude
  • to summarise

To summarise, think of transition words and phrases as the bridges that connect your sentences, paragraphs, and ideas, or the glue that holds them together.

Without them, your reader can’t follow your train of thought or see the connection or relationship between ideas and arguments.

Employed effectively they help make your writing coherent, persuasive, and much more readable.