Transitions Between Paragraphs

While within-paragraph transitions serve the purpose of alerting readers of upcoming shifts in perspective or voice, between-paragraph transitions serve the unique purpose of alerting readers of upcoming shifts in argument or idea. Because one of the core rules of effective paragraph-writing is limiting each paragraph to only one controlling idea (see the Basic Paragraph Resource Center lesson), shifts in argument or idea only tend to happen between paragraphs within the academic essay.

There are literally dozens of transition words to choose from when shifting focus from one idea to another. There are transition words that show cause and effect, contrast, similarity, emphasis, and even sequence. To give you a general idea of the options available to you, below are examples of just a few of those categories and word combinations:

This is a table of Transition Words in English. Transition Words of Emphasis: undoubtedly, unquestionably, obviously, especially, clearly, importantly, absolutely, definitely, without a doubt, indeed, and it should be noted. Transition Words of Addition: along with, apart from this, moreover, furthermore, also, too, as well as that, besides, in addition. Transition Words of Contrast: unlike, nevertheless, on the other hand, nonetheless, contrary to, whereas, alternatively, conversely, even so, differing from. Transition Words of Order: following, at this time, previously, finally, subsequently, above all, before.

With so many available options, you may be wondering how you will ever be able to figure out which word or set of words would work best where.

Guiding Questions

While there are many approaches you could take, let’s take a look at a few basic guiding questions you should be asking yourself as you look over your own essay and create your own between-paragraph transitions:

Your answer to these four basic questions should help you more easily identify which categories of transition words might work best at the beginning of each of your paragraphs.

A Couple Tips to Get Started

Selecting proper transitions takes time and practice. To get you started on the right foot though, here are a couple tips to point you in the right direction:

To see the power of an appropriately-used transition in action, let’s consider the following prompt question example. Imagine you were asked to write an essay based on the following prompt:

A possible thesis statement (or answer to that prompt question) might be::

Ponder and Record

  • Based on the thesis statement above, how many body paragraphs do you think this essay will need to have?
  • What controlling ideas (or arguments) might each body paragraph be engaging?
  • Are these arguments in any way related to each other or building on each other?
  • How might these body paragraphs benefit from transition words in the Addition or Order categories?

Body Paragraph Transitions

In answering the questions above, you likely realized that three body paragraphs will be required in this essay based on its current thesis statement. One body paragraph will focus on “spiritual” findings, another on “secular,” and then finally one supported by “personal experience.”

You also likely realized that the Addition transition word category cannot be applied to the first body paragraph as no arguments have been made yet that can be added to. This means that the first body paragraph would likely benefit most from a transition word selected from the Order category. An example of this in application might look like the following:

Body Paragraph #1 Topic Sentence

Above all, my spiritual study of the scriptures as well as the words of latter-day prophets have supported my belief that life callings emerge at the intersection of spiritual gifts and need in the world.

Ponder and Record

  • What does the selection of the transitional phrase “above all” suggest about the controlling idea that will be discussed in this paragraph?
  • What does it suggest about the ideas that will follow in subsequent paragraphs?

To see more “between-paragraph” transition words in action, let’s look at what the next body paragraph topic sentence might look like with the added benefit of transition words:

Body Paragraph #2 Topic Sentence

In addition to my spiritual study, my secular study of the “life calling” also supports this idea that life callings emerge again and again at the intersection of spiritual gifts and need in the world.

Ponder and Record

  • What is the transitional phrase used in the topic sentence above?
  • Which list is the transitional phrase “in addition” drawn from?
  • What purpose does it serve in this paragraph? How does it add value?

To really emphasize the value-add of between-paragraph transitions, let’s look at one final body paragraph example:

Body Paragraph #3 Topic Sentence

Finally, my own life experience has taught me that the concept of the “life calling” truly does lie at the intersection of gifts and need in the world.

Ponder and Record

  • What is the transitional phrase used in the topic sentence above?
  • Which list is the transitional phrase “finally” drawn from?
  • What purpose does it serve in this paragraph? How does it add value?

Concluding Paragraph

As mentioned above, the category of transition words that would most benefit your concluding paragraph is Emphasis. Since one of the main purposes of the concluding paragraph is to revisit ideas shared within the essay, transition words that express emphasis would be a natural fit and value-add. To see the power of this addition, feel free to examine the example below:

Concluding Paragraph Example

Without a doubt, I have come to realize over the years that a life calling is so much more than simply acting on a single moment in time— it is developing gifts and talents and constantly reassessing what value-add those gifts and talents can bring to the world at that particular moment.

Ponder and Record

  • What transitional phrase is used in the above concluding paragraph topic sentence?
  • How does the addition of “without a doubt” add emphasis to the conclusion? How does its addition help fulfill one of the concluding paragraph’s primary purposes?

Within-paragraph and between-paragraph transitions are truly the best ways to alert readers to upcoming changes in perspective and voice as well as argument or idea. As you write and then review your own writing, really try to consider which transition words would best help you create the most powerful and organized experience for your readers.