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writing-transition-words

Good Transition Words for Essays to Structure Your Text and Make It Magnetic

April 2022

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Article by Herman Barnes

Article by Herman Barnes

Northeastern's Human Services program graduate, Herman Barnes contributes to our blog pro bono. He sees his mission in helping students prepare for academic careers by providing them with experience and skill-based background required for successful studying and research.

Your task as an essay writer is to convey your message to your reader as clearly and concisely as possible. To do that, you select strong arguments and illustrative evidence. However, the way you structure your text is equally important: the order in which you lay out your ideas, the logical connections you make between the sentences and paragraphs, etc. This helps your reader to navigate your text and stay engaged. 

Transition expressions are visible markers of such logical connections between structural elements. They alert your reader about a change of subject, make your text easier to follow, add clarity and coherence. You can use them to start a paragraph connecting it logically with a preceding one or to conclude a section, summarize it, and prepare your reader for further information.

Of course, even the best transition words for essays cannot replace a thought-through logical structure. They are merely traffic signs signaling the next turn and making your reader’s journey more predictable and comfortable. Therefore, you should avoid simply throwing some fancy bookish transitional expressions into your text for “cosmetic” purposes. Do not force them only to make your text appear logically organized. Otherwise, instead of making your text smooth, they will sound jarringly out of place.

To make sure your transition words are always helpful and to the point, follow two simple rules of thumb:

  • Always use them according to their broader function: for example, “order,” “emphasis,” “contrast,” etc.
  • Always remember their literal meaning. For example, do not use “in addition” if you do not intend to introduce another piece of evidence illustrating a previously stated point.

With that in mind, let us study some of the most helpful groups of transition words for paragraphs in essays. We shall start with fundamentals and gradually progress to more sophisticated expressions.

Transition Words for Essays: High School and Middle School

There are three cases of use for transitional expressions: transition between sentences inside the paragraph, transitions between paragraphs within the text, and transition between sections of the longer papers (including entire transitional paragraphs). 

For high school essays, given their relative shortness, a transition between paragraphs is the most relevant case. Here are some of the primary expressions that are helpful to beginners. With them, one can improve the flow of the classic 5-paragraph essay.

Beginning transition words for essays to use in the introduction:

  • First of all
  • As a rule
  • At the beginning
  • Generally
  • One important thing
  • To begin/start
  • The first thing
  • Here
  • Early on

Transitional expressions for body paragraphs:

  • Therefore
  • Moreover
  • At the same time
  • Except
  • Firstly/Secondly/Thirdly
  • Another important factor
  • Furthermore
  • Along with
  • In fact

Summarizing transition words for essays conclusion:

  • On the whole
  • To conclude
  • To summarize
  • To sum up
  • In conclusion
  • In a word
  • In brief
  • In summary
  • As a final word

This list, of course, is far from comprehensive. Rather, these are just some examples of transitional expressions for your essay to glide smoothly, helping your readers move along with the flow of your thoughts.

Transition Words for College Essays According to the Type

In college, essays become longer – and more complex in their structure. Paragraphs are also of substantial length and often need some transitional expressions to hold them together. Here are some transition words for essays college students might find helpful. We have grouped them according to the essay type, where particular expressions are often used.

Transition words for cause and effect essays include two major groups of expressions. Namely:

Causal transition phrases highlight the inciting incident, the reason something happened:

  • Owing to
  • Because of
  • Due to
  • Since
  • Seeing that
  • In view of
  • Given
  • While

Consequential transition phrases introduce the result or the effect that followed:

  • As a result
  • Consequently
  • For this reason
  • Hence
  • Therefore
  • Thus
  • Under these circumstances 
  • What followed is
  • Accordingly

With these words, it will be easier for you to list causes and effects coherently and for your readers – to follow your paper and retain the knowledge.

Transition words for argumentative essays include the following often-used groups of expressions:

Sequential transition words are used to structure your argument and signal that you are going from one statement to another:

  • To begin/start with
  • In the first place
  • Initially
  • Then
  • Next
  • Secondly
  • Subsequently
  • After that
  • Last but not least
  • As the final point

Additive transition words can be used to build up the tension and go smoothly from one supporting piece of evidence to another:

  • And
  • Or
  • Nor
  • Either
  • Too
  • Moreover
  • Indeed
  • Furthermore
  • Additionally
  • What is more
  • As well
  • Let alone
  • Not only… but also…
  • Besides
  • On the other hand
  • Much less
  • Not to mention
  • In the same vein

The expressions above have rhetorical merits. They are crucial not only for structuring your essay but also for the eloquence and overall impression readers get from your text.

Transition words for compare and contrast essays include the following groups of expressions:

Similarity transition words connect things and suggest they are alike in some way:

  • Likewise
  • In the same way
  • In similar fashion
  • In the like manner
  • Similarly to
  • By the same token
  • Just as

Adversative transition words mark conflict, contrast, and contradiction:

  • Conversely
  • Whereas
  • In contrast
  • Unlike
  • However
  • But
  • On the other hand
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • Though

With these transitional words, your reader will never confuse what is similar and what is different in the items you compare.

Transition words for informative essays are very diverse and may include any of the groups mentioned above. Still, some transitional words and phrases are used more often for informative and expository writing:

Clarifying transition words used to explain, paraphrase, and detail:

  • That is/i.e.
  • In other words
  • To put it another way
  • That is to say
  • To rephrase
  • In other words

Opposition transition words express that there are limits and exceptions to the rules described earlier:

  • However
  • Although this may be true
  • At the same time
  • Despite this
  • Albeit
  • Still
  • Instead
  • Although
  • Different from
  • Of course…, but…

Using these expressions helps to lay out all the details about your topic in a structured manner and avoid confusion and information overload.

Transition words should be used sparingly in narrative essays to avoid formality and dryness. Still, some groups appear regularly in this style of writing:

Emphatic transition words:

  • Above all
  • Certainly
  • Most importantly
  • For one thing
  • To be sure
  • Truly
  • Indeed
  • Certainly
  • Surely
  • Especially
  • Surprisingly
  • Particularly
  • Specifically
  • Expressly

Transition words for time, sequence, and order:

  • First, second, third…
  • After/afterward
  • Before
  • Currently
  • During
  • Earlier
  • Meanwhile
  • Now
  • Next
  • Then
  • Finally
  • At last
  • In the end

As you can see, some transitional expressions can be successfully incorporated even in the creative writing samples.

Advanced Transition Words for Essays and Research Papers

Suppose you write on a high level, for example, to influence local policy or present the key findings of the important study. You might want to use strong transition words for essays to convey expertise and authority and be more persuasive.

To express purpose, condition, intent:

  • For that purpose
  • With this intention
  • With this in mind
  • Inasmuch as
  • Granted that
  • In the event that
  • In view of

To highlight effect, consequence, and result:

  • Henceforth
  • Forthwith
  • Thereupon
  • Consequently
  • For this reason

To introduce an example, evidence, and support:

  • To illustrate
  • Notably
  • In particular
  • To demonstrate
  • To enumerate
  • For instance
  • For example
  • Including
  • Like
  • Especially

To convey importance, significance, consequence:

  • Primarily
  • Chiefly
  • Most importantly
  • Critically
  • Foundationally

To signal conclusion, summary, and restatement:

  • Ultimately
  • On balance
  • Altogether
  • As has been demonstrated/noted/pointed out
  • All things considered
  • For the most part
  • Overall
  • By and large
  • In any case
  • In the end
  • All in all

Transition words are crucial for your essay’s readability, guiding your audience and alerting their attention to important parts of the text. Yet these expressions only work if they mirror the paper’s structure and are used according to their general function and literal meaning. 

We hope that this guide made transition words easier for you. However, if you still struggle, just remember: practice makes perfect.

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