Can you quickly and easily improve your writing? Absolutely! For over 20 years, I’ve taught these tips to students and seen their writing dramatically improve. Why?
- Using transition words helps you resist the habit of using a simple subject-verb sentence structure.
- Transitions link your ideas more effectively and create more nuanced meaning.
- Finally, transitions make your writing sound more professional and less like spoken language.
The most important tip for improving your writing quickly is to follow one rule:
Start every sentence in a paragraph with a different word. How? Here is my step-by-step guide:
- Use the transition list as you write: Think about how the sentences in your paragraph are related to one another. If you are comparing and contrasting two ideas, then use the “Showing Contrast” transition words (see list below). Are you writing about steps in a process? Then use the “Adding to an Idea” transition words below. When writing about something that happened, use the “Sequence/Time” transitions I’ve provided.
- Using the transition list while you are revising: Sometimes, it is easier not to worry about these words until your final draft stage, especially if you are a beginning writer. How do you do this? Use the following tips:
- Go through your first draft and circle the first word in every sentence.
- If you use the same word to start a sentence twice in a paragraph, then you need to choose another transition word and re-word the sentence.
How can you choose the right word for each sentence? What makes using transitions improve your writing is that it forces you to explain the connections between your ideas. Ask yourself:
- What does the sentence before this one say?
- How does this sentence relate to that one?
- Scan the list for a transition that seems to fit best. You can also use these questions for help:
Does this sentence add information? Use: moreover, furthermore, additionally, not only…but also, or another addition transition.
Does the sentence contrast or contradict? Use: however, on the other hand, in contrast, yet, conversely, or another contrasting transition.
Are you writing something that happens in order? Use: next, then, in fact, similarly, or a time word like first, second, third, and finally.
Does this sentence add evidence? Use: for example, consequently, for this reason, or another adding transition.
Does the sentence emphasize an idea? Use: obviously, especially, as a rule, particularly, or another emphasizing transition.
Does the sentence start your conclusion: Use: finally, in conclusion, in sum, obviously, or another concluding transition.
Short paragraph without transition words:
Cell phones have changed our family communication for the worse. Parents complain their teenagers spending too much time on their phone. Teenagers are annoyed that they can’t get the attention of their parents who are always working or shopping on their phones. We need to make some changes.
Adding transition words:
Generally speaking, cell phones have changed our family communication for the worse. Obviously, parents complain about their teenagers spending too much time on their phones. Moreover, teenagers are annoyed that they can’t get the attention of their parents who are always working or shopping on their phones. Unquestionably, we need to make some changes.
Just following my tips to add transition words to your essay can often make your essay much better and will probably improve your grade. Inevitably, as soon as I tell my classes about this technique their writing improves dramatically. Better yet, the more you use transition words in revision, the more you begin to add that technique to your writing during the first draft.
Why does that help? It begins training you to think about how your ideas relate to one another and helps you to write essays that are deeper, more connected and logical. If you’ve found this technique helpful, or if you have another sentence starting technique, please add your comments below to help out other writers.