One of the most common weaknesses I see in day-to-day
writing is poor logical flow from one idea or point to
the next. This usually takes the form of a bunch of
seemingly unrelated phrases thrown together with little
or no sense of sequence, continuity, or relativity.
Although the overall subject may be obvious, the words
to describe it seem to be scattered on the page like an
almost random set of unconnected thoughts. On a regular
basis, I see letters and reports in which each phrase
seems to be independent of the one before and the one
after, when in reality, there is an actual sequential
and/or logical flow.
Consider the following three sentence example:
1. The entire building had to be searched.
2. They started the search on the third floor.
3. It took three hours to complete the search.
Notice that the three separate statements are all valid
sentences. They convey the bare essential facts of the
situation, but nothing more. In fact, they raise almost
more questions than they answer. For example:
- Was it a serious incident?
- Had it ever happened before?
- Why did they start on the third floor?
- What about the first two floors?
- How big/high was the building?
- Is three hours a long time for that?
- How long does it usually take?
These are all logical (and obvious) questions that the
average person might ask when reading a paragraph made
up of the three sentences above.
Let's transform these now, using transition phrases:
"UNLIKE the previous minor incident, this time the entire
building had to be searched. BECAUSE the fire was still
smoking on the first two floors, they had to start on the
third, working upwards to the tenth, covering the first two floors last. CONSEQUENTLY, it took them a full three hours before they finally completed the typical two-hour job."
Notice the use of the transition words: UNLIKE, BECAUSE,
and CONSEQUENTLY. Using these three words has allowed us
to easily connect the three independent sentences and
give them a sense of chronological order and logical flow.
They also allow us to answer ALL of the obvious questions,
either with the transition word itself, or by adding a
couple more words.
In short, transition words/phrases have turned three dry
independent phrases into a little story that makes sense
to the reader.
These types of words/phrases are ideal for allowing one
to easily connect thoughts, and create logical sequences
between sentences and paragraphs. They are usually inserted
at the beginning of a sentence and normally refer directly
back to the previous sentence and/or paragraph without
repeating the specific subject.
The following paragraphs list some of the more common
transition words and phrases that will help make your
text more understandable and interesting to the reader.
For each one, I have included a typical example of how
the word/phrase might be used in a typical sentence.
Note that I have capitalized the transition words/phrases
for emphasis and easy identification.
CAUSE AND EFFECT...
THEN, he moved on to the next work station.
AS A RESULT, the team lost the game.
FOR THIS REASON, she always went home for the weekend.
THE RESULT WAS always predictable.
WHAT FOLLOWED was as painful as it was inevitable.
IN RESPONSE, he quickly upped the ante.
THEREFORE, the aircraft overshot the runway.
THUS, it was just a matter of time.
BECAUSE OF THIS, the results were always the same.
CONSEQUENTLY, he was no longer friends with Frank.
THE REACTION to this event was swift and decisive.
IN CONTRAST TO...
UNLIKE last year, this one was highly profitable.
DIFFERENT from this, was our approach to manufacturing.
IN SPITE OF the dot com bust, the company prospered.
ON THE OTHER HAND, earnings per share have increased.
ON THE CONTRARY, the impact was less than expected.
OPPOSING that idea was the move to new technologies.
HOWEVER, that approach may actually prove better.
CONTRARY to his findings, the revenue picture is good.
NEVERTHELESS, something still appears to be missing.
SEQUENCE AND RELATIVITY...
THEN, each one followed in numerical sequence.
IN ADDITION, a fourth material was added to the mix.
TO ENUMERATE, first there was the car, second the boat,...
NEXT in the series was the "outrigger" brand line.
BESIDES THAT, there were two other possible sources.
SIMILARITY AND COMPARISON...
LIKE always, he took the company on a dangerous course.
SAME as before, he managed to meet all of the requirements.
SIMILAR things were known to happen at certain times.
CLOSE to that was the result of the second round of voting.
LIKEWISE, they made similar changes in the factory.
ALSO, there were the worker's families to consider.
NEAR that one, was where we found the faulty component.
EXPLANATION AND EXAMPLE...
FOR EXAMPLE, last year's model was underpowered.
ONE SUCH occurrence was last week's power outage.
FOR INSTANCE, earnings this year are higher than last.
TO ILLUSTRATE, he went to Chicago just to make his point.
ALSO, there is a new approach to sheet-metal moulding.
TO DEMONSTRATE, I will use the new model throughout.
The above are just examples, and there many other such
transition words and phrases that are used in everyday
conversation and writing. In my opinion, appropriate use
of these words/phrases is the number one technique for
making any type of writing flow logically and clearly.
Bottom line: Smooth, orderly and logical transitions
from one thought to the other, one sentence to the next,
and one paragraph to another -- are key to creating clear
meaning and flow in any document. Transition words and
phrases will achieve this for you.
? 2005 by Shaun Fawcett
Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help site
WritingHelp-Central.com. He is also the author of several
best selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks and
his internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and Tricks
For Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site: