To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact support@masterclass.com.

Writing

How to Use Paragraph Transitions to Strengthen Your Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

An important part of essay writing is learning how to effectively employ paragraph transitions—shifting from one paragraph or idea to the next. Learning to effectively use the different types of transitions will help you write more cohesive pieces and improve the clarity of your writing.

Save

Share


David Mamet Teaches Dramatic WritingDavid Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

Learn More

What Is a Paragraph Transition?

A paragraph transition is a sentence or unique paragraph that helps the reader move from one paragraph to the next, or from one idea to another. A transition is the first sentence of a new paragraph. Occasionally, the last sentence of the prior paragraph acts as the transition. When a writer wants to transition link two substantial paragraphs, they can use a standalone transitional paragraph.

4 Reasons Paragraph Transitions Are Important

Paragraph transitions serve a variety of purposes, and understanding how they function within the context of a larger piece of writing is essential to clear writing. Usually transitions are full sentences that link paragraphs, but occasionally simple phrases or single words can effectively transition between two shorter paragraphs. Here are a few reasons why paragraph transitions are important and should be included in your writing:

  1. Paragraph transitions link ideas. First and foremost, paragraph transitions serve to link two ideas. A body paragraph is generally devoted to a main idea or concept that fits into the larger piece and explores a facet of the primary thesis statement. A transition sentence links your first paragraph to your second paragraph and so forth.
  2. Paragraph transitions give your writing momentum. Paragraph transitions are incredibly helpful when it comes to building momentum in your writing. Effective transitions propel your essay forward and keep your readers engaged. This is particularly important in academic writing or professional writing that can otherwise feel dry or static.
  3. Paragraph transitions improve readability. Transition words can help your readers track your ideas and understand how they relate to each other. Thoughtful transitions clue readers in to the progression of your ideas and your overall train of thought.
  4. Paragraph transitions set the stage for new ideas. While effective transitions should tie up loose ends for material in the previous paragraph, it’s sometimes more important that they set the stage for the new ideas to come in the next paragraph. A written piece should have forward momentum, and transitions serve to prepare the reader for new information to come.
David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing
Judy Blume Teaches Writing
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
James Patterson Teaches Writing

How to Transition Between Paragraphs in Your Writing

Understanding why we use paragraph transitions in the first place is obviously important, but learning how to effectively employ good transitions in your writing can sometimes come only through practice. That said, here are some tips that can help you get started as you begin to use transitions in your writing.

  1. Outline your piece. Using an outline is vital to improving your writing process and should generally come before you start writing your piece. Outlining is important when you are working on transitional expressions and transition sentences because outlines give you a macro view of your piece as a whole, with signposts indicating the main ideas of each paragraph. Referring back to your outline can help you brainstorm types of transitions that set the stage for what’s to come and help your ideas flow. Use our guide for tips on how to outline your novel.
  2. Identify the subject of each paragraph. Once you’ve consulted your outline, it’s time to hone in on the main ideas of the paragraphs on either side of your transition. A good transition will have something to say about both the preceding paragraph and the new paragraph.
  3. Track the overall arc of your piece. Transitions link two specific paragraphs, but make sure you have an eye on the overall arc of your essay. If you have a good sense of the bigger picture you can use your transitions to set up information that is still to come, beyond the next paragraph.
  4. Brainstorm good transitional words. Transitional phrases often have similar word choice and style. Linking words and conjunctive adverbs are often used in paragraph transitions because they help establish the relationship between two separate ideas. Words like “therefore,” “nevertheless,” “although,” and “namely” quickly sum up how one idea relates to the next. Effective transition words keep your reader hooked into your piece.
  5. Consider cause and effect. It’s not enough to simply link two subjects; transitional sentences should also effectively demonstrate how these ideas build on each other. This is especially true in academic writing or persuasive essay writing. It’s your job to convince your reader that you have built a coherent argument for your main thesis statement. Transition sentences can help show readers how your ideas build on each other and conceptually link one entire paragraph to the paragraph that follows.
  6. Pay attention to style. The way that you transition between paragraphs and the types of transitions you use will depend on what type of piece you are writing. If you’re writing a high school- or college-level academic essay, you’ll probably want to avoid overly colloquial transitions. If you’re writing a personal essay or lighthearted humor piece, you should choose transitions that complement the voice of the piece.
  7. Review your transition sentences separate from your piece. Once you’ve finished your piece, it’s useful to take a look at all your transitions out of context to make sure that you haven’t overused certain constructions or repeated word choice. Looking at a list of your transitions can also give you a good roadmap for the overall shape of your essay and can help you decide if you’ve built a cohesive piece of writing.

MasterClass

Suggested for You

Online classes taught by the world’s greatest minds. Extend your knowledge in these categories.

David Mamet

Teaches Dramatic Writing

Learn More
Judy Blume

Teaches Writing

Learn More
Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

Learn More
James Patterson

Teaches Writing

Learn More

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Become a better writer with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by literary masters, including Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, David Baldacci, and more.

Save

Share