Paragraphs represent the basic unit of composition: one idea, one paragraph. However, to present a clear, unified train of thought to your readers, you must make sure each paragraph follows the one before it and leads to the one after it through clear, logical transitions. Keep in mind that adequate transitions cannot simply be added to the essay without planning. Without a good reason for the sequence of your paragraphs, no transition will help you. Transitions can be made with particular words and phrases created for that purpose--conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases--or they can be implied through a conceptual link.
Conjunctive Adverbs and Transitional Phrases
Conjunctive adverbs modify entire sentences in order to relate them to preceding sentences or paragraphs; good academic writers use many of them, but not so many that they overload the page. Here is a list of some of them, courtesy of The Brief Holt Handbook:
Transitional phrases can perform the same function:
|in addition |
|of course |
as a result
in other words
as a result
Use them wisely and sparingly, and never use one without knowing its precise meaning.
Implied or Conceptual Transitions
Not every paragraph transition requires a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase; often, your logic will appear through a word or concept common to the last sentence of the preceding paragraph and the topic sentence of the following paragraph. For example, the end of a paragraph by Bruce Catton uses a demonstrative adjective, "these," to modify the subject of the topic sentence so that it will refer to a noun in the last sentence of the preceding paragraph:
When Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met in the parlor of a modest house at Appomattox Court House, Virginia,...a great chapter in American life came to a close.In this transition by Kori Quintana in an article about radiation and health problems, the connection between the paragraphs resides in the common term of "my family":
These men were bringing the Civil War to its virtual finish.
What I did not know when I began researching the connection between radioactivity and genetic damage was that I would find the probably cause of my own family's battle with cancer and other health problems.The first paragraph outlines the origins of Quintana's research into the connection between radiation exposure and disease, and ends with the revelation that her own family had been affected by radiation. The next paragraph discusses her family's health history. Each has its own singular purpose and topic, yet the first paragraph leads to the topic of the second through a common term.
Hailing from Utah, the state known for its Mormon population's healthy lifestyle, my family has been plagued with a number of seemingly unrelated health problems.
Paragraph transitions can expand the range of discussion as well as narrow it with an example, as Quintana's transition does; this selection from an article by Deborah Cramer on the ecological impact of the fishing industry shows how a single instance of overfishing indicates a world-wide problem:
....The large yearly catches, peaking at 130 million pounds from the Gulf of Maine in 1942, wiped out the fishery. It has yet to recover.Here, the transition alludes to the entire preceding section about New England fishing. Although Cramer managed this transition in a single sentence, transitions between large sections of an essay sometimes require entire paragraphs to explain their logic.
The propensity to ravage the sea is by no means unique to New England. The northern cod fishery in Canada is closed indefinitely. In Newfoundland more than 20,000 fishermen and fish processors were abruptly put out of work in 1992 when the government shut down the Grand Banks...
Proofreading Paragraph Transitions
At some point in your editing process, look at the end of each paragraph and see how it connects to the first sentence of the paragraph following it. If the connection seems missing or strained, improve the transition by clarifying your logic or rearranging the paragraphs. Often, the best solution is cutting out a paragraph altogether, and replacing it with the right one.
Like all the other transition words and phrases that are used to combine and connect ideas in writing, conclusion transition words show logical relationships between ideas and sentences. More specifically, these transitional words convey a conclusion, a summary, or a restatement of ideas. They often denote a final statement of an idea. Like an adhesive, they hold and bind ideas and sentences together to help an essay flow smoothly and aid readers to progress logically from one part of your essay to the next.
These transition words are generally used between the introductory paragraph and the first paragraph of the body and between the last body paragraph and the conclusion. They help the writer show the logical relationships between different sections of the essay and provide the readers a better perspective of the writer’s thoughts.
With the addition of just a few of these transition words in a passage, the organization and understandability of the whole essay is greatly enhanced. They strengthen the flow of ideas from one sentence to the other, from one paragraph to the next, and from one section of the essay to the other.
Below is a list of the most commonly used conclusion transition words:
|generally speaking||in the final analysis||all things considered|
|given these points||in summary||as shown above|
|as has been noted||ordinarily||for the most part|
|as can be seen||in fact||in the long run|
|in conclusion||in short||in a word|
|in essence||overall||after all|
|to summarize||by and large||on the whole|
|all in all||altogether||in any event|
|in either case||in brief||usually|
|on balance||to sum up||indeed|
|eventually||specifically||as a final point|
Used anywhere in an essay, these words or phrases allow the writer to establish clear connections between ideas and provides the readers with something they can relate to and feel a strong connection with. It is important however for the writer to be more specific rather than being general in his choice of transition words to use in his essay. This will create the impression among your readers that you have truly chosen your words wisely and made extra effort to make it enjoyable and pleasurable to journey through the essay.
Conclusion transitional words bridge the gap between the different ideas in your essay. They make your ideas stick together and remain coherent making it a wholesome experience to read through it rather than struggle to get a clear insight on what the author wish to convey. The use of these transition words allow you to achieve coherence as they help bind ideas and sentences together and aid readers to progress logically from one part of your essay to the next.
Dr. Michael Babcock is a Professor of Humanities at the Liberty University, Virginia. He wrote “The Stories of Attila the Hun’s Death: Narrative, Myth, and Meaning” (2001) and was a guest speaker at academic conferences on language origins and the philosophy of consciousness topics. Since 2008, he delivers help with academic papers on behalf of Professional Custom Essay Writing Service at freshessays.com.