Transition Words: The Road Map of Essay Writing

Because we all need maps when we travel to new places.

Has a teacher ever commented that you need to ‘link your ideas’ or ‘transition’ better in your writing? An RRLS Learning Specialist and co-creator of The Essay Coach, Catherine, provides the perfect analogy for why this is an important writing skill.

Road Map

Think of reading an essay a little like a roadtrip to a friend’s cottage. You pick up your two best friends in your dad’s 2010 Honda Civic and you start driving, but no one really knows where you’re going. Your other friend, let’s call him Chad, was supposed to give you directions to his cottage, but everything he told you was vague. He didn’t tell you when to change lanes, when to turn left, or when he realized that you needed to make a U-turn. You end up getting lost and start crying when you realize that you’re never going to make it to the cottage before dark, and you’re afraid of the dark, and werewolves, and everything is terrible. In your plight, you can blame Chad. Because he didn’t use transition words.

Chad.

Iron Man Eye Roll Gif
Ugh. Chad.

Okay so in that brilliant metaphor above, Chad was the author of an essay with poorly chosen or absent transition words. He didn’t tell you when you needed to turn left. You and your friends in the car are the readers and, thanks to Chad’s neglectful use of the English language, you and your friends are lost, don’t understand his argument, and have to sleep in some scuzzy motel because you wouldn’t stop screaming about werewolves.

Okay, lesson learned. Right?

So what are these all-important ‘transition words’ we’re speaking about?

Transition words and phrases are simply what an author uses to: help the reader follow along. 

It’s that simple.

Transition words are an important part of all clear and organized writing. Essays require you to take a large argument and present numerous examples and explanations. There are a lot of ways to ‘lose’ your reader, and that’s where transition words can help. Transition words come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

They can introduce the details (sub-arguments) of a paragraph so that your reader can see the main details supporting your main idea:

  • First of all,
  • To begin with,
  • Furthermore,
  • Also,
  • Initially

They can introduce examples or explanations that prove your argument:

  • For example,
  • For instance,
  • To explain,

They can introduce contrasting ideas, so your reader knows that your argument has changed:

  • On the other hand,
  • However,
  • Yet,
  • Although,

They can introduce similar ideas:

  • Moreover,
  • Likewise,
  • Similarly,
  • In the same way,

They can show the reader you are concluding your ideas:

  • In closing,
  • All in all,
  • To summarize,
  • Ultimately,
  • To sum it up,

We hope that you won’t be a Chad and use these transitions in your next piece of writing — especially if it is an essay. Keep things clear, help your reader ‘drive’ through your essay, and everyone will thank you. Best of luck. Drive safely.

Thumbs up!

Want to know more about how to incorporate transition words into your essays? Check out our fantastic Essay Coach Programs!  We offer programs that focus on opinion, research, and literary essays as well as application essays. 

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