How to Write a Sentence: #4 Transitions

* First, read How to Write a Sentence #1,  How to Write a Sentence #2, and How to Write a Sentence #3.

Transitions are words or phrases that connect (link) ideas. The ideas may be in a sentence or in a longer text. Transitions help you to become a better writer (and communicator) because they help the reader (or listener) to follow what you are writing or saying. They help ideas flow smoothly and clearly. Transitions are often used to show:

contrast: however, nonetheless, on the other hand

cause and effect: therefore, thus, as a result

concession: of course, with this in mind, in view of …

example: to demonstrate, for instance, for example

addition: as a matter of fact, in addition, in the first place

(See below for links to extensive lists of Transitions.)

Now, have a look at the following two sentences:

Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. Fewer athletes use them.

How are attitudes shifting? Is drug usage becoming more or less acceptable? Using a transition can help the reader follow your thoughts.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. However, fewer athletes are using them.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. As a result, fewer athletes are using them.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. In conclusion, fewer athletes are using them.

Transitions are not conjunctions. The punctuation rules are different. There are two usual ways* to punctuate them:

  1. (As above)                              Transition + comma + independent clause
  2. (See below) semi-colon + transition + comma + independent clause

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting; however, fewer athletes are using them.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting; as a resultfewer athletes are using them.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting; in conclusion, fewer athletes are using them.

By the way, there are many useful transitions for you to use apart from those you may see in Transition lists like the ones I’ve listed below. A lot of expressions you may think of to link your ideas may be transitions. Use the punctuation rules above and see what you can come up with.

I use transitions when writing posts for this blog. My aim is to make these posts as easy to read as possible! I have used three transitions in this post:

  1. First, – This is the first word in this post (above the picture). It connects my ideas in the post to the heading, and to previous posts about how to write a sentence.
  2. Now, – This word connects my transition examples to sentences which show how to use them.
  3. By the way, – This transitional phrase is a common way to add more ideas to what you have already said. After explaining the rules and giving examples, I wanted to add that you can find more examples of transitions if you are interested.

∗∗ As you can see, none of the transitions I used connected sentences. Transitions do not connect sentences. Transitions connect ideas.

* For more ways to punctuate transitions …

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. Fewer athletes, however,  are using them.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting.  Fewer athletes, as a result, are using them.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. Fewer athletes, in conclusion, are using them.

**In the first two examples above, the sentences sound fine. Placing the transitions after ‘Fewer athletes’ is just as acceptable as the earlier examples of punctuation. However, I think you must agree with me that even though the third example is grammatically correct, it does not sound quite right. Placing ‘in conclusion’ after ‘Fewer Athletes’ sounds awkward. ‘In conclusion’ really should be at the beginning of a clause. You can see the same awkwardness in the example below. The grammar and punctuation are correct but the language and meaning are unacceptable. 

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. Fewer athletes are using them, however.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. Fewer athletes are using them, as a result.

♦ Attitudes to drug usage in sport are shifting. Fewer athletes are using them, in conclusion.

For a list of common transitions with detailed examples, click here.

For another list of transitions, click here and here.

For further examples and practice exercises, click here.

Click here to go to How to Write a Sentence: #5 Adjectives & Adverbs

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This entry was posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Upper Intermediate (Level 5) and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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