Archive | December, 2010

And now, for something completely different: transitions.

10 Dec

Speaking of transitions, my grandmother is allergic to ice cream.

Transitions.  We use them everyday in our speech and writing, and often, we do it without realizing it.  Or we don’t, and our writing is more disjointed than a Cirque de Soleil performer.  We say things like, “Speaking of transitions, my grandmother is allergic to ice cream.”  If you’re the latter type of person, you may have noticed that your professors write words like “choppy” or “flow” or “transitions” on your papers.

Transitions are the words or phrases that establish connections between sentences and paragraphs so that your paper has a logical flow in it.  Think of them as a single colored thread that you stitch throughout your entire paper, pulling your reader from one sentence to the next in some sort of logical fashion.

There are hundreds of “transition words” and phrases that you can find in English textbooks and online.  One of many lists can be found here.  These lists will often include words or phrases like: howevernext,similarlyindeedfor examplelikewise, and meanwhile.

However, your paragraphs don’t always need to start with the words you’ll find on those lists, though they are very helpful.  As long as there is a clear link between paragraphs, then your reader should be able to follow along.  For example, my first paragraph talks about transitions and how we use them in our every day life.  The next paragraph doesn’t start with a transition word like those listed above, but it does immediately use the word transitions–a key term that stitches the two paragraphs together.  Sometimes, all it takes is a direct reference to what the previous paragraph has been discussing to establish flow in your paper.  When in doubt, though, it never hurts to use one of the hundreds of transition words and phrases in existence.  Ask yourself, “Why did I put this paragraph after that last one?”  If the answer is, “Well, because that comes next in the story,” then don’t make things complicated: start the next paragraph with a word like “next” or “later on,” and move along.

Finally, picture this: your friend grabs his computer and says, “Hey, you’ve totally got to watch this video of adorable kittens snuggling,” and then pulls up the video, and tells you, “Now, stare really, really closely a the screen because it’s important,” and you do because you trust him, even when he turns up the volume, which you figure is just to hear their adorable little purrs better, but then all of the sudden a demonic witch puppet pops up on the screen and screams, and your friend is laughing and recording you on his phone, and you’re shaking and screaming and crying and thinking, “I have lost my innocence!”

Don’t let your sentences and paragraphs pop up out of nowhere like a demonic witch puppet.  That’s just mean.

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