Writing Efficient Transitions
Paragraph-to-paragraph and "global" (or multi-paragraph to multi-paragraph) transitions are among the most important, yet most poorly taught, poorly executed strategic elements of an essay. The most ineffective transitions are those that attempt to create a seamless, undifferentiated movement from the topic of one paragraph into the topic of the next paragraph or section of the paper. In fact, many teachers suggest that students create this seamless transition without thinking about its effects. Seamless transitions that create an undifferentiated emphasis from one paragraph to the next create confusion, not clarity. Rather than striving for seamlessness and undifferentiated emphasis in a paper, you should try to emphasize both the distinctions and the logical connections simultaneously.
One way of understanding this is to imagine a construction or room renovation project. Most rooms have both walls and doorways. Walls are typically undifferentiated surfaces in which the seams in sheet rock or drywall have been taped and covered up with plaster and paint. Doorways, on the other hand, have clear delineations and hardware that signal how the doors open and which direction they will swing. When it comes to transitions, many people try to create paragraphs that look like a long, undifferentiated wall surface. However, rather than creating a wall--in which the seams between sheets of dry-wall are taped, covered with plaster, and painted over to create the illusion of a single, uninterrupted surface--a writer should create transitions that are more like doorways. They are clearly delineated, they swing in a specific direction, and the location of handles and hinges provide clues regarding how the door articulates in its frame. When you write transtions, imagine carefully designed doorways that provide efficient access between ideas.
Please note: This exercise will be very difficult if your paragraphs are not well organized internally or from one paragraph to the next. If you suspect that this is a problem in your paper, check out Organizing Info and Paragraphs first. Then return to this page when you think everything is in the right place but just needs to feel more connected.
Avoid the Transitional Paragraph: Many students have been taught that a
transition is a paragraph that summarizes what the paper has discussed up
to a specific point and what it will discuss from that point forward. However, a full paragraph of transition is rarely
necessary except in longer works, such as a 150 page Master's thesis or a 300 page book.
using a word at the end of one paragraph that will be
important in the next paragraph: To avoid the tedious repetition
characteristic of the strategy described above, students often try to leave
more subtle hints about the next paragraph as they close a paragraph. This
strategy rarely works because, like the example above, it either ruins the unity of the first paragraph
or it misrepresents the relationship between the ideas, perhaps even using the word
in a forced way.
Place the transition at the beginning of the 2nd of the two paragraphs: In order to maintain paragraph focus and unity, you should generally place the transition at the beginning of the paragraph that will contain the new sub-topic.
Create a sentence that reminds readers of paragraph(s) above but has forward momentum leading to the paragraph(s) that follow: One way to do this is to create a dependent clause that reflects the paragraph(s) above the transitional point and a main clause that reflects the focus of the new paragraph (this can also serve as the topic sentence for the new paragraph). Then work on combining those clauses into a sentence that accurately reflects the logical relationship of the paragraphs. The dependent clause de-emphasizes the paragraphs above (while nonetheless reminding us of them), and the main clause propels us forward into the new topic sentence and paragraph/focus.
When to use complex sentences and
when to use a more simplistic transition: In
paragraph to paragraph transitions, a more simple sentence structure will often
suffice when transitioning from a single paragraph to another. In global,
multi-paragraph transitions, you might need a complex sentence as a transition
between sections of the paper plus a simple sentence as a topic sentence for the
Topic Sentence from earlier paragraph on
as a solution:
Transition to Additional
Transition to Better Solution
Transition to an Interim
Transition to Alternative Arguments
between larger sections of the paper, placed at the beginning of the first
paragraph of new section
Transition from Causes to
Solutions + Topic Sentence