6 – Organization

Transitional Words and Phrases

Suzan Last; Anonymous; Kalani Pattison; and Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt

Transitional words and phrases show the connection between ideas and how one idea relates to and builds upon another. They help create coherence. When transitions are missing or inappropriate, the reader has a hard time following the logic and development of ideas. The most effective transitions are sometimes invisible; they rely on the vocabulary and logic of your sentence to allow the reader to “connect the dots” and see the logical flow of your discussion.

In previous English classes, you may have learned the simple transitional words or phrases in Table 6.2. These transitions can be effective when writing simple information in a structure where you simply add one idea after another or want to show the order of events.

Table 6.2. Simple transitions

First Firstly First of all
Second Secondly Next
Third Thirdly Then
Last Last but not least Finally
Moreover Furthermore Besides

However, more complex academic and professional communication requires more sophisticated transitions. It requires you to connect ideas in ways that show the logic of why one idea comes after another in a complex argument or analysis. For example, you might be comparing/contrasting ideas, showing a cause-and-effect relationship, providing detailed examples to illustrate an idea, or presenting a conclusion to an argument. When expressing these complex ideas, the simple transitions you’ve learned earlier will not always be effective–indeed, they may even confuse the reader.

The above “Simple Transitions” are mostly about communicating ideas that come in sequence. That is, the transitional words merely let the readers understand that the writer is moving to the next idea on a list. More complex transitions, however, can convey a range of relationships between ideas. The following Table 6.3, “Types of Transitions in Writing,” provides a list of how transitions can present conceptual links, the definition of each type of transition, and examples of how those transitions can be worded. Using these more complex transitions allows writers to present connections between ideas with more nuance and precision.

Table 6.3. Types of Transitions in Writing

Type Definition Examples
Internal Previews An internal preview is a brief statement referring to a point you are going to make. It can forecast or foreshadow a main point in your document. If we look ahead to, next we’ll examine, now we can focus our attention on, first we’ll look at, then we’ll examine
Signposts A signpost alerts the audience you are moving from one topic to the next. Signposts or signal words draw attention to themselves and focus the audience’s attention. Stop and consider, we can now address, turning from/to, another, this reminds me of, I would like to emphasize
Internal Summaries An internal summary briefly covers information or alludes to information introduced previously. It can remind an audience of a previous point and reinforce information covered in your document. As I have said, as we have seen, as mentioned earlier, in any event, in conclusion, in other words, in short, on the whole, therefore, to summarize, as a result, as has been noted previously
Sequence A sequence transition outlines a hierarchical order or series of steps in your document. It can illustrate order or steps in a logical process. First…second…third, furthermore, next, last, still, also, and then, besides, finally
Time A time transition focuses on the chronological aspects of your order. Particularly useful in an article utilizing a story, this transition can illustrate progression of time for the audience. Before, earlier, immediately, in the meantime, in the past, lately, later, meanwhile, now, presently, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon as, long as, as soon as, at last, at length, at that time, then, until, afterward
Addition An addition or additive transition contributes to a previous point. This transition can build on a previous point and extend the discussion. Additionally, not to mention, in addition to, furthermore, either, neither, besides, on, in fact, as a matter of fact, actually, not only, but also, as well as
Similarity A transition by similarity draws a parallel between two ideas, concepts, or examples. It can indicate a common area between points for the audience. In the same way, by the same token, equally, similarly, just as we have seen, in the same vein
Comparison A transition by comparison draws a distinction between two ideas, concepts, or examples. It can indicate a common or divergent area between points for the audience. Like, in relation to, bigger than, the fastest, larger than, than any other, is bigger than, both, either…or, likewise
Contrast A transition by contrast draws a distinction of difference, opposition, or irregularity between two ideas, concepts, or examples. This transition can indicate a key distinction between points for the audience. But, neither…nor, however on the other hand, although, despite, even though, in contrast, in spite of, on the contrary, conversely, unlike, while instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, regardless, still, though, yet, although
Cause and Effect, Result A transition by cause and effect or result illustrates a relationship between two ideas, concepts, or examples, and it may focus on the outcome or result. It can illustrate a relationship between points for the audience. As a result, because, consequently, for this purpose, accordingly, so, then, therefore, thereupon, thus, to this end, for this reason, as a result, because, therefore, consequently, as a consequence, and the outcome was
Examples A transition by example illustrates a connection between a point and an example or examples. You may find visual aids work well with this type of transition. In fact, as we can see, after all, even, for example, for instance, of course, specifically, such as, in the following example, to illustrate my point
Place A place transition refers to a location, often in a spatially-organized essay, of one point of emphasis to another. Again, visual aids work well when discussing physical location with the reading audience. Opposite to, there, to the left, to the right, above, adjacent to, elsewhere, far, farther on, below, beyond, closer to, here, near, nearby, next to
Clarification A clarification transition restates or further develops a main idea or point. It can also serve as a signal to a key point. To clarify, that is, I mean, in other words, to put it another way, that is to say, to rephrase it, in order to explain, this means
Concession A concession transition indicates knowledge of contrary information. It can address a perception the audience may hold and allow for clarification. We can see that while, although it is true that, granted that, while it may appear that, naturally, of course, I can see that, I admit that while

In addition to specific transitional words or phrases, writers may use other transitional strategies to link their ideas. These strategies typically employ strategic repetition. Of these strategies, the easiest to employ is to begin a sentence with the modifier “this” with the type of noun being described in the preceding sentence. As a generic example: “According to a recent study, 76% of homeowners feel like they overpaid for their home. This finding shows…” In the previous sentence, the phrase “this finding” refers back to the previous information. (Avoid using “this” or “these” or other demonstrative pronouns without a corresponding noun).

Another common and more advanced transitional tactic is to repeat a word or phrase from the previous sentence (or use a synonym or related word) to show that the same idea is still being discussed and is being developed further. This focused repetition, often called the “Known-New Principle” works because the writer starts with information that the audience knows and then adds on new information. For more information, see Chapter 5.

This text was derived from

Last, Suzan, with contributors Candice Neveu and Monika Smith. Technical Writing Essentials: Introduction to Professional Communications in Technical Fields. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 2019. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/technicalwriting/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

University of Minnesota. Business Communication for Success. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, 2015. https://open.lib.umn.edu/businesscommunication/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.



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Howdy or Hello? Technical and Professional Communication Copyright © 2022 by Suzan Last; Anonymous; Kalani Pattison; and Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.