Transition words are vital to the English language, and help to link what we’re saying together.
These words can be as straightforward as ‘and,’ ‘to,’ or ‘so,’ or more complex, like ‘moreover,’ ‘additionally,’ and ‘comparatively.’
Words like those listed above are essential for adding to, emphasising, or introducing a counter-argument in sentences, and really helps the readers to follow what you’re saying. Fundamentally, transition words are invaluable for building up coherent relationships within texts.
Because transition words introduce a greater level of readability to the content that writers publish online, they are essential for maximising your SEO potential. If you’re a content writer, blogger, or even somebody who wants to boost your social media presence, it’s imperative that you know your way around transition words.
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But what actually are transition words? And how can you use them to the best effect? Here’s a comprehensive guide that covers when and how to use transition words to optimise your content:
What are transition words?
So, as we’ve already covered, transition words are like ‘and,’ ‘but,’ and ‘because’. Transition words are used to link words, phrases and sentences. These words help to introduce readers to the relationship between phrases, sentences and entire paragraphs where applicable. Fundamentally, transition words help your readers to understand how your suggestions, thoughts and criticisms are connected together. They’re also an especially helpful tool for preparing your reader for what’s coming up in your text.
It’s time for an early example. To help clarify what transition words are, Yoast SEO offers up the sentence: “I pushed the domino. As a result, it fell over.”
The use of the term as a result instantly informs your reader of two things:
- Firstly, that something happened within the sentence that caused something;
- And secondly, that the second half of this sentence will describe this effect.
By incorporating the term ‘as a result’ in the sentence above, you can effectively combine two separate sentences into one flowing process. Without even needing to read the rest of the sentence, the reader can already make an educated assumption as to what’s about to come next.
In a manner of speaking, transition words act as a glue that holds texts together. Without this glue, your writing simply consists of a series of loose sentences. With transition words, individual parts combine to form one whole.
It’s also worth noting that transition words don’t always need to be positioned at the start of sentences. For example, consider the following text: ‘I’m trying to stay in shape. I went for a run yesterday evening, for instance.’
Here, the phrase ‘for instance’ is positioned at the end of the sentence. However, it still tells the reader exactly how the two sentences are interlinked.
Yoast also offers up the example of ‘I enjoy his company because he always tells interesting stories.’
In the sentence above, the term ‘because’ doesn’t actually link together two different sentences but rather combines two clauses. In a nutshell, transition words have the power to connect just about anything from short succinct phrases to verbose paragraphs.
How should I use transition words?
Transition words can be split into several different categories based on what you want to say. You’ll find that there are typically lots of words that can be used to make a specific transition – which is pretty handy when it comes to writing extensively covering the same point or idea.
Sometimes these transition phrases can mean exactly the same thing, while some other times their meanings can differ slightly, so it’s worth taking some time to understand each word and how they can be best used when making transitions.
If you’re not a native English speaker, then this isn’t a problem. It some terms you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with, while others would be unrecognisable to even the most experienced of writers in English-speaking countries. It could be helpful to explore some categorised transition words and search for a definition if you decide to use one while writing. The chances are that you’ll develop a fluency with a wide range of transition words in no time.
So let’s take a deeper look at some specific transition words, their contexts and how they could be applied within bodies of text.
Transition words indicating agreement, addition and similarity
|In the first place
|not only…but also
|as a matter of fact
|in like manner
|in such a manner
|in this manner
|in similar fashion
|in the same fashion
|in a similar way
|in light of
|not to mention
|to say nothing of
|by the same token
|as well as
Firstly, as we can see above, there’s the topic of transition words that can be used to form an agreement, addition or reference a similarity within a text.Smart-Words has an excellent resource available when it comes to finding examples of specific types of transition words. Using their source material, we’ll explore the categories of each type of transition and aim to provide some easy to follow examples.
Each column here represents a different type of transition word, and each term is largely similar to the one above and below.
An example of an agreement word would be: “He asked if he might record the interview in addition to taking notes.”
This is defined as an agreement because the transition connects two sentences or clauses that mutually agree with each other. If you’re in need of an effective transition between two statements that complement each other, then you should look to an agreement/addition/similarity transition word.
For an example of an additional transition word, a sentence like “they said they were going to go to the park and buy an ice cream” illustrates that the second clause is just adding some further context to what’s being said by the writer.
As for a similarity transition, this sentence shows that both clauses in a sentence are linked by terms that determine both are similar statements: “In 1920, he vetoed a bill calling for censorship of moving pictures and likewise a bill to permit the sale of “2.75%” beer.”
Transition words indicating opposition, limitation and contradiction
|Although this may be true
|in contrast to
|on the other hand
|on the contrary
|contrary to this
|at the same time
|in spite of
|be that as it may
|as much as
These types of transition phrases are essential when it comes to writing because when you’re looking to incorporate opposing views into a sentence or paragraph, it can be particularly tricky for the reader to understand that you’ve taken on an opposite point of view without warning them first.The above examples of opposition/limitation/contradiction transition words are used to indicate a change of tone in a sentence and can pave the way to contrary thoughts and arguments.
For example, a sentence like: “He said he would take her on holiday and took his grandma instead” reads a little bit more clunky than, through the use of a contradiction word instead like “He said he would take her on holiday. However, he took his grandma instead.”
This is because a contradiction transition word helps prepares the reader for an incoming change of tone. Have you ever heard someone say the phrase “I can sense a ‘but’ coming”? They’re referring to the fact that they’re waiting for somebody to use a transition word to change the tone of a conversation.
An opposition transition phrase is equally significant – as we can see in the following example: “Many believe that Johan Cruyff was the better footballer, and although this may be true, it was Franz Beckenbauer who lifted the World Cup.”
Transitional words can also be used to illustrate limitations within the subject of a sentence. For example, “Tony Blair won the 1997 general election in a landslide, albeit with the help of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper.”
Transition words indicating cause, condition and purpose
|In the event that
|in the event of
|as long as
|so long as
|on the condition that
|on the condition of
|on this condition
|for the purpose of
|for the benefit of
|with the intention of
|with this intention
|with this in mind
|in the hope of
|in the hope that
|to the end that
|for fear that
|for fear of
|in order to
|in view of
|in lieu of
|so as to
Cause helps to shed light on the reason behind why the first half of a sentence or paragraph exists. For example: “John said he would be happy to come to the theme park, in the event that David can no longer make it.”Cause/Condition/Purpose transitions are excellent ways of elaborating on points made earlier in sentences.
Conveying conditions through the use of transition phrases is extremely important because they help to alert the reader to a pledge or promise within bodies of text. For example: “I said I would take David’s place on the trip to the theme park if I’m paid in time.”
The use of Cause/Condition/Purpose transitions work wonders in helping readers to understand your, or the subject’s motives behind their actions or statements. Purpose can be interpreted through the use of an appropriate transition word in the following sentence: “I’m going to have to drop out of our theme park trip, due to having to look after my nephews.”
Transition words indicating examples, support and emphasis
|In other words
|to put it differently
|putting it differently
|for one thing
|as in illustration
|in this case
|in the case of
|for this reason
|to put it another way
|that is to say
|with attention to
|by all means
|important to realise
|another key point
|first thing to remember
|point often overlooked
|an often overlooked point
|to point out
|on the positive side
|on the negative side
|with this in mind
|to be sure
The use of transitional words for this purpose is a little bit more significant than simply preparing them for a slight change of tone or an elaboration. When many writers look for examples or references, they can intertwine quotes or external phrases into their content – to avoid later issues with plagiarism or bringing an element of confusion, it can be beneficial to use a transitional tool wisely.We’ve been looking at examples for some time within this guide, so there’s no harm in exploring the transitional phrases associated with introducing readers to an upcoming example within texts.
For example, “I don’t like the new decor in the living room. To put it another way, ‘either that wallpaper goes or I do’.”
Transitions that express support are excellent ways of informing the reader that the things you’re writing can be backed up by the likes of statistics, references or external individuals. ‘Most people agree that this new wallpaper is very fashionable, including Tom, who studied interior design.’
To introduce an extra emphasis on parts of a sentence or paragraph, transition words can be used effectively to draw ensure that the reader pays close attention. For example: ‘I’ve painted over the wallpaper with a great new tone of paint. In fact, the store assistant said this colour was a bestseller when I bought it.’
Transition words indicating effect, consequence and result
|As a result
|Under those circumstances
|Under these circumstances
|Under such circumstances
|In that case
|In this case
|In such a case
|For this reason
|For that reason
For example: “The price of baked beans has gone up, and for this reason, I’ll be buying Frosties from now on.”Effect transitions work in a similar way to those that are designed to bring an extra emphasis for what’s being said. By introducing the effect that the earlier part of a paragraph or sentence has had, readers will know that they’re about to see an explanation.
Similarly to effect, consequence introduces the knock-on effect that earlier actions have had. Using this transition is a great way of elaborating on a statement: “They’ve put up the price of baked beans, hence why there are so many tins left on the shelves.”
Transitional words that focus on the result of earlier actions within a sentence or paragraph help to prepare the reader for something of a conclusion. Because this part of a sentence is usually a significant one, the use of transitions really helps to make the content unavoidable: “Nobody was buying the baked beans, so therefore they lowered the price again.”
Transition words indicating conclusion
|As can be seen
|In the final analysis
|All things considered
|As shown above
|In the long run
|Given these points
|As has been noted
|In a word
|For the most part
|By and large
|To sum up
|On the whole
|In any event
|In either case
|All in all
Transition words that help to draw conclusions within bodies of text are great ways of not only holding the attention of your audience but also keeping your writing accurate. “The quality of fries from both Burger King and McDonald’s is very high. But, all things considered, I believe that McDonald’s are the best in this area.”Some sentences or paragraphs need to be effectively concluded, and transitional words are an excellent means of drawing readers into the key takeaways you’ve drawn up from your content.
The sentence above helps readers to understand the wider context that forms your thoughts on an issue – which in this case is the quality of fries from selected fast food outlets. The chosen transition word in this example helps the reader to understand that the author has given some thought to the matter at hand and decided on a measured conclusion. If the sentence read “McDonald’s fries are better than Burger King,” the reader would have no idea of the perceived gulf in quality between the two foods.
Similarly, a summative transition is a great way of telling your audience that you’re about to reveal your closing thoughts on a matter or topic. Many authors and essay writers consider this part of the process to be so important that they use words like ‘conclusion’ and ‘in summary’ as a sub-heading as opposed to a transition phrase.
An example of a summary transition embedded within a sentence would be: “I prefer McDonald’s fries, but, on balance, the lower salt volumes associated with Burger King fries means that they’re likely to be healthier.”
The above example shows that it’s possible to add a caveat to a summary or conclusion, which is a great way of letting your audience know that there are pros and cons for both sides of an argument or divisive subject.
Restatements are an effective use of transition phrases and can help to create a well-thought-out close to an article or opinion piece: “While the superiority of both Burger King and McDonald’s fries is up for debate, ultimately a scoop of ice cream would be my preferred choice any day.”
Transition words indicating time, chronology and sequence
|At the present time
|From time to time
|Sooner or later
|At the same time
|Up to the present time
|To begin with
|In due time
|As soon as
|As long as
|In the meantime
|In a moment
|In the first place
|All of a sudden
|At this instant
|By the time
Time transitional phrases can help to add context, place a timestamp on your statements, make predictions, or reference the past.Transitional words that relate to timing and sequencing can act as invaluable tools for adding a wealth of context to sentences.
For example: “He may enjoy buying a cup of coffee each morning, but sooner or later those expenses will catch up with him.”
Above we can see that this transition has worked wonders in informing the reader that although a relatively harmless activity is happening now, in the future it could have consequences. This transition is important because the potential alternative of “he may enjoy buying a cup of coffee each morning and those expenses will catch up with him” is notably more vague and clunky.
Chronology can be an important transition to make too. By adding a small note that explains to readers that the sentence has time-travelled somewhat, it’s much easier for audiences to keep up with events. This can be seen in the sentence: “He got a large telephone bill, and hasn’t bought a cup of coffee since.”
Here, the use of the word since adds an important level of chronological context to the sentence.
Transitional phrases pertaining to sequence can also be vital here, as can be seen in the following example: “He must’ve been spending £10 on coffee per day prior to receiving his phone bill.”
This transition helps readers to understand that the action of spending lots of money on coffee occurred before the arrival of a bill, and thus have stopped since.
Transition words indicating space, location and place
|In the middle
|To the left/right
|In front of
|On this side
|In the distance
|Here and there
|In the foreground
|In the background
|In the centre
|Around the corner
For example, “She was about to boil a cup of tea until a clock in the background showed that she was running late for work.”Transition words are great tools for adding context regarding space, location and place into sentences.
In this case, the location of the clock is a strong visual tool, as opposed to a vital piece of context. Here, the reader can build a better image of the scenario being described, thus helping them to better relate to the text.
Location transition words, on the other hand, can be important ways to build a level of much-needed context. Consider the sentence: “She rushed out of the door to see her bus depart from a stop down the road.”
Finally, place transitions help to build stronger levels of understanding between readers and what authors are trying to say within their text. “Luckily, her day was saved when a second bus drove around the corner of her street moments later.”
The importance of appropriately used transition words cannot be underestimated. Readers need to understand the text that they’re reading, and this is even more important in the age of Search Engine Optimisation.
Today, websites and blogs alike get rewarded based on their user-friendliness and readability. If somebody navigates on to your website and immediately struggles to interpret what you’re trying to say because there are too few context-adding transitional phrases, the chances are that they’ll perform a bounceback very quickly indeed.
It’s worth noting that although transition words aren’t capable of single-handedly influencing your SEO, they certainly account for a large portion of your site’s readability – which does play a big role in determining the quality of your SEO.
To help us to understand how important the use of transition words is for readability purposes, Yoast SEO has created two texts to help us along. Text A is completely devoid of transition words, while Text B features the same sentences and basic content – only with the addition of transition phrases:
Image Source: Yoast
While Text A makes some sense and isn’t exactly unreadable, the improvements featured in Text B are clear for all readers to see.
Text B clearly performs better in terms of introducing and informing readers of each argument that’s being made along with counter-arguments to boot and an easy-to-follow conclusion. Text A, on the other hand, requires a great deal more concentration to interpret the types of arguments being made and how the author summarises their points.
The best thing about Text B is the fact that the reader no longer needs to strain to understand if each argument belongs to the initial point being made or a new one. This added content makes the act of reading more enjoyable for audiences and helps them to stay using your website for longer.
Herein lies the beauty of transition words. They have the ability to make your content much more enjoyable to read and are relatively easy to utilise and learn. Yes, there are lots of transitions out there, and certainly a number that have evaded this guide. But with the help of this list, you have the chance to develop an understanding of which transitions to include in specific situations and begin to understand the definitions more and more transitional phrases. Your content will soon reap the rewards!