Why are certain literary devices, like transitional words, important? Does using these words and phrases truly set writers apart? Can a reader discover the intended meanings of writing when these words and phrases are absent?
One of the evening rituals in our home is to retell the day’s events to each other before bedtime. My husband will tell us what happened at work, while my daughter may talk about what happened on the playground.
Of course, because we are invested in each other’s lives, we follow the story to the best of our ability. But what happens when the storyteller is like my son (who is 2)?
Because his speech is just developing, he can’t retell the day’s events with detail or transitions, because he simply doesn’t have those skills yet.
As a result, we might not follow his “story” that clearly. We will know that he was happy (or sad), we can follow his points, but his story will lack the depth he might want to be understood at.
When writers lack skills in using transitional phrases, readers can encounter the same struggle. Transitional phrases are crucial to helping the reader along.
When transitional phrases are used, the reader can say, “Oh, okay, I understand that this point is important. Oh, and now we’re moving on”.
Just like a road trip from LA to New York follows a sequential path, writers must give their readers landmarks to follow.
Types of Transitional Words
Transitional words are vital to high-quality writing because it allows the reader to follow the thought process of the writer. Since writers are usually not sitting in front of readers, eager to answer any clarifying questions during the reading, writers must use these devices to their advantage.
There are many ways that transitional words (and phrases) are organized into similar types, and I’ve compiled the most common types here:
Agreement words are used to demonstrate that two like ideas are in agreement with each other.
These words aim to create continuity amongst points within the writing.
Agreement Word Examples
- In addition,
- As well as
- First, second, third
- Coupled with
Transition words like before, since, and by the time are characterized as “sequencing words.”
Sequencing words limit, restrict, and define time in the text. However, sequencing transitional words also serve as pacing essays. “First, second, and finally” serve as cues to the reader that they are progressing through the essay. These transition words are indicators that the reader is hitting the main points of the essay.
- First of all…
- At this point
- Before this
- All of a sudden
- Prior to
Cause and Effect Words
Cause and effect transition words create continuity in writing. Causation also serves as a place for a writer to provide a rationale behind their claims.
This is all just a fancy way of saying that after a writer makes a statement, causation transitions will allow them to say, “here’s what I mean” in more official terms.
These words should be used when you want to get from point A to point B. Words like, because, since, and therefore are all prime examples of cause and effect words.
Cause and Effect Examples
- Due to
- To explain
- In particular
Words like yet, but, and unlike, are used in writing to indicate that there is evidence that disputes points being made. They are also used to point out different viewpoints or contrast themes in writing. When the writer is offering opposing views, they will use the “contrasting” transitional words.
Contrast Word Examples
- At the same time
- Even though
- On the other hand
When kids are first learning transition words, the conclusion words are some of the easier to remember. A simple, “In conclusion,” and you have successfully transitioned to the end of the writing.
Conclusion words include any words that serve to summarize, conclude, and wrap up writing. They will review anything that was covered in writing and effectively bring the writing to a close.
Conclusion Word Examples
- To sum up
- All in all
- To summarize
- After all
- Given these points
- In the final analysis
- As can be seen
Do You Want to Become a Stronger Writer?
Being an effective writer is a skill that can serve people for their entire lives. In the age of technology, being able to communicate through the written word is becoming a skill that every graduate should have a strong understanding of.
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In Conclusion (See What I Did There?)
Transition words, like frosting on a cake, make a piece of writing more palatable. Instead of confusing readers with a lot of text that doesn’t blend, transitions serve to make the writing smooth.
There are many different kinds of transition words, and they all serve unique purposes. It is important to make sure your desired delivery is clear when writing, so take care in selecting transition words that will reinforce your writing.
As an educator, I find myself thinking that transition words are something that students should know for standardized testing. The fact is, transition words are crucial for all adults to use each day.
Whether you’re writing a letter to an HOA or an email to a boss, clear and understandable writing will help you communicate your thoughts despite not being there in person.
Transition words are an essential piece of any piece of strong writing. Want to more about becoming a stronger writer? Check out the informative library of topics over at the ArgoPrep blog for more!