Effective Transitions that Aid Your Reader’s Comprehension

Importance of Effective Transistions

Without transitions, your readers feel like they are in a car taking many wild turns, slamming on the breaks, and changing directions. In essence, reading an essay, article, or book without transitions leaves one with mental whiplash.

To avoid this whiplash, you need transitions, but not just any old transition. You need effective ones. When writing an essay, students like to insert transitional words like “first,” “next,” “also” etc. and be done. Sure that worked when you were in elementary school, but not anymore. And as an author of a book, you have a variety of subpoints within each chapter, and often you move on to the next without even putting in a transition at all.


How to Write an Effective Transition

These effective transitions require the author to show how their ideas work together and build upon each other. Each subtopic should clearly build into the next. Without a transition, this new subtopic seems like a whole new topic all together. Yes, your subpoints are all, hopefully, about your main topic. However, you need to show your reader how each subtopic connects. “First,” “second,” “next” and similar transitional words do not show a unique, clear connection.

Therefore, the first thing you should do when writing a transition is find a connection. Once you have the connection, mention the old topic and then bring in the new.

By referencing the relevant material from the previous paragraph, readers can see how the two ideas connect and writers can develop important points for their readers.

The formula: Mention the old, bring in the new + connecting statement. Your connection can come anywhere in your transition, but you will want to ensure that the old topic comes before the new topic.

The steps for writing a good transition:
1. Find the connection between the two paragraphs
2. Write the transition using the formula


Examples from This Blog

Before I show you examples from nonfiction books and essays, look back at the first three paragraphs in this blog and see how I wrote effective transitions. Can you spot them?

Example 1

1st Paragraph Topic= No transition leads to mental whiplash

2nd Paragraph Topic= You must have effective transitions

  • Step 1 Find the connection= The second topic helps you avoid the first
  • Step 2: Write the transition using the formula

Transition: To avoid this mental whiplash, you need transitions, but not just any old transition.

  • I first mentioned the old paragraph: this mental whiplash
  • Then I brought in the new: you need transitions, but not just any transitions
  • I put in the connection: to avoid

Example 2

2nd Paragraph Topic: You must have effective transitions

3rd Paragraph Topic: Each subtopic must build upon the next

  • Step 1 Find the Connection: The third topic is needed in order to do the second topic
  • Step 2 Write the transition using the formula

Transition: These effective transitions require the author to show how their paragraphs work together and build upon each other.

  • I first mentioned the old paragraph: these effective transitions
  • Then I brought in the new: show how their paragraphs word together and build upon each other
  • I put in the connection: require (one topic requires the other)

Examples from Nonfiction Books

You do not want a full-fledged effective transition between every paragraph in your book—that would be annoying— just when you switch to a new idea.

With each suggested transition, I underlined the previous topic, italicized the new topic, and put the connection in bold. You will notice that these transitions are more than one sentence long, and that is ok.

Example 1

Topic #1: There are people, culprits, in your life that can keep you from dating effectively.

Topic#2: You must determine why you want to date.

 

Suggested transition: After you eliminate the culprit(s) in your life, take a look at yourself. What if you are the culprit? If your reason for dating isn’t a good one, you may be preventing yourself from effective dating. 

Connection: The second happens after the first; the second topic may be another aspect of the first; and both are ways to ensure you are dating effectively

Example 2

Topic #1: The community should care more about food allergies.

Topic #2: The second time my son had an incident.

 

Suggested Transition: While I hoped others would understand food allergies and adapt to our culture, I don’t regret choosing to allow [name] to brave the world so both he and I could feel normal, connected, and involved. But it did result in another incident. However, this time we kept him safe for a longer duration.

Connection: She doesn’t regret her choice to not let the results of the first topic control her decisions even though it led to the next topic.


Examples from Essays

These examples come from essays I wrote in high school and college. Again,  I underlined the previous topic, italicized the new topic, and put the connection in bold.

Example 1

Paper Type: Argumentative essay

Topic: Parents shouldn’t give young teenagers a cell phone

1st Body Paragraph: Teenagers don’t need a cell phone
2nd Body Paragraph: Cell phones negatively affect young teenagers

Transition: Even if you do formulate a reason a young teenager would need a cell phone—i.e. for emergencies—the negative effects of cell phones for teenagers overshadow any reason.

Connection: Even if you disagree with the first topic, the second topic overshadows it.

Example 2

Paper Type: Informational

Topic: The benefits of college

1st Body Paragraph: Responsibility and work ethic
2nd Body Paragraph: Job Opportunities

Transition: Because you have learned good responsibility and work ethic, there are more job opportunities available to college graduates.

Connection: The first topic creates the second topic

Example 3

Paper Type:  Research paper

Topic: The life of James Joyce

1st Body Paragraph: James Joyce’s issues with his Dublin Life
2nd Body Paragraph: His family

Transition: Oddly enough, though he quickly escaped Dublin, leaving at the age of 20, he often came back to visit. Bolt attributes his visits to a strong bond with his family.

Connection: Despite overall not liking the first topic, he found some joy in it because of the second topic.

Example 4

Paper Type: Analysis

Topic: Theme in “La Belle Sans Merci”

1st Body Paragraph: The knight’s fantasy of perfection
2nd Body Paragraph: The metaphorical death of the knight

Transition: But even before being drawn into this magical world, we are aware of suffering, heartache, and grimness. The poem begins in a dismal state, emphasizing the perils of living in an idealist fantastical world.

Connection: Paragraph one causes paragraph two. And while we think the poem is as happy as paragraph one, there are clues to show that paragraph two is true.



To practice this concept, download this exercise.

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