How to Use Transitions?

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Transitions often given students trouble, perhaps because it is easy when writing to forget that connections between ideas that seem obvious to the writer may not be so obvious to a reader unfamiliar with the subject matter. Transitions act as guideposts that make it easy for the reader to follow the author's train of thought. Even when transitions aren't that necessary to keep the reader on track, there presence makes for a smoother flow stylistically. For instance, consider the following essay, which has no transitions in it at all:

Smoking is bad because it causes a range of health problems, including lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma. It can damage the fetus during pregnancies. Smoking makes the smoker smell like nicotine, hardly a pleasant scent, while yellowing his or her teeth. Smoking costs the smoker financially too - smoking can easily be a five to ten dollar a day habit for a chain smoker. One should avoid smoking. People who smoke argues it relaxes them. They think it makes them look cool, and helps them fit in with their peers. These are not good reasons for smoking. Smoking may be relaxing, and may even look cool, but it just isn't worth the health problems it can cause. If no one was foolish enough to smoke, there would be no peer pressure to do so.

The author's main point is still clear, but the sentences each seem abrupt and unconnected. The statements are logically congruent, but the logic in all implied, forcing the reader to do extra work to follow the sense of the passage. To improve this sort of writing, the author has recourse to several different types of transitions.

If you are adding more details that improve your case, you can indicate that with these words:

Furthermore
Moreover
Additionally
Also
In addition

Smoking is bad because it causes a range of health problems, including lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma. In addition, it can damage the fetus during pregnancies. Moreover, smoking makes the smoker smell like nicotine, hardly a pleasant scent, while yellowing his or her teeth. Finally, smoking costs the smoker financially too - smoking can easily be a five to ten dollar a day habit for a chain smoker.

If you are introducing a conclusion or an effect, you can use the following words:

Therefore
Thus
Consequently
As a result

Therefore, one should avoid smoking.

If you are providing information that contradicts the points you have already made, as when you present the opposite side of an argument, you should indicate that with one of the follow transitions:

In contrast
On the other hand
However

On the other hand, people who smoke argues it relaxes them. They also think it makes them look cool, and helps them fit in with their peers. However, these are not good reasons for smoking.

Finally, sometimes you may introduce something that someone did, or that happened, even though some else was true that should have prevented it. In such cases, you have recourse to the following.

Although
Though
Despite
In spite of

Although smoking may be relaxing, and may even look cool, it just isn't worth the health problems it can cause. Besides, if no one was foolish enough to smoke, there would be no peer pressure to do so.

As you can see, transitions make it much easier to follow the author's reasoning, and improve the flow of the sentences.

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