Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Transition words: what do they do?

Transition words and phrases connect ideas, help sentence flow and guide your readers from one thought to another in a text. For example (there’s one right there!), also, but, indeed, first and afterward are all transition words.

When choosing a transition word or phrase, you must know what the relationship is between your ideas. Are you trying to show how two ideas are similar or different? Or are you trying to show cause and effect, or simply a result? Are you giving an example? Your readers need transition words to understand what you are trying to say. Without these handy connector words, they have to muddle through on their own and may not get the intended meaning.

Transitions occur between sentences and between paragraphs. To make smooth transitions between sentences, place transition words or phrases at the beginning or in the middle of your sentences. For the same effect with paragraphs, place transition words and phrases at the beginning or end of your paragraphs. Just because you can put a transition word somewhere in your sentence or paragraph does not mean you have to. Use these devices when it is necessary to make the relationship between your ideas clearer for your readers, but do not overload your texts with them. Too many transition words will make your writing heavy and difficult to read.

Let’s look at some common transition words and phrases to see what they do:

  • as a result: shows the consequence of what was said before
  • because: introduces the reason for something
  • finally: introduces a conclusion or the last step in a list
  • for example: illustrates what was said before
  • in addition: shows the addition of one point to another
  • in fact: emphasizes the point you are making
  • on the other hand: shows a complete change in point of view
  • next: introduces another step in a list
  • so that: shows the result of what was said before

Don’t let readers muddle through what you’ve written—use transition words to make your writing clear!

See Transition words connect ideas for a list of transition words to print out.