Transitions are gear changers in writing. They move the reader into new text without throwing the reader into confusion about the way sections of text relate to each other.  

I studied transitions in writing classes and became quite the expert in using words like however, therefore, nevertheless, nothwithstanding, and likewise. These days those words are almost always limited to learned treatises or academic works.

Contemporary writing still needs transitions, but they are more subtle today. For example, an author may move from one topic to another with words such as “as you will see,” “This is not necessarily the case. For example…” or “Here are three ways you can….”

Instead of “however,” you might write “That’s not the way I see it”  or “to the contrary.” Sometimes “but” works as in “I wanted to go with you, but my schedule was jammed” instead of “I wanted to go with you; however, my schedule was jammed.”

More subtle ways of transitioning text include the gradual movement of the content itself in a given direction. For example, you could start by a general description of the person, then of the bag the person is carrying, the contents of the bag, and the item important to your description. Once you’ve started the sequence, the reader senses where you’re going.

I found an interesting treatment of transitions at “Kim’s Korner for Teacher Talk.” Look at the examples and focus on those that fit best with your writing style.

Transitions should be almost invisible. The reader should not have to jerk to attention when a transition presents itself. The best transitions are barely noticed or not noticed at all by the reader.

Transitions add depth to your writing and help build a smooth path from one concept to another. Too many transitions get in the way, so be sure each one you use “feels” right and fits with the audience and style of your writing.

Every now and then turn on your “transition screen” and pay attention to transitions in the text you read. When you’re watching a movie or TV, notice the special effects and lighting that come to play when one scene moves to another.

A caveat: if you pay too much attention to your transitions, they’re likely to seem artificial and “noisy” to your readers. Read good writers, listen to good speakers, and you will gradually polish your transition skills.   

Joyce Griffith