The Importance of Transitional Words and PhrasesUpdated: Nov 1, 2016
The Importance of Transitional Words and Phrases
When it comes to writing academic papers, communication is pivotal. For a reader to navigate successfully through an essay, therefore following and understanding each point, thought by thought, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, the writer must always employ certain words, phrases, and tools, because it is their responsibility to have the reader know exactly what they are attempting to convey.
This includes linking words and phrases (like on the contrary, however, as a result, in comparison, this suggests that, including, most importantly and although) that bridge together certain items in a sentence or paragraph. Since most academic essays include some kind of a Thesis that is evidenced by supporting points, the individual paragraphs (the body) of an essay generally expand on each point, one at a time, to provide a solid argument – one that is believable, convincing. Linking words and phrases are to be generally used in a single paragraph to connect sentences and thoughts that validate a single point that is being examined in an essay.
These types of words and phrases are generally used for when a writer needs to expand on just ONE point, one idea on which they are elaborating. For example, in one of their points claiming that poetry is dying out in the 21st century, the writer may focus on the low number of poetry books sold in 2013. Expanding on this point, they may compare (and use phrases like in comparison) that number with the number of fiction or nonfiction books sold in 2013 to demonstrate (this suggests that) their point that people just aren’t reading and buying poetry anymore.
Then there are transitional words and phrases to indicate to a reader a change in a point, topic, or subject in the essay they are reading. They are usually found in the first sentence of a paragraph examining a new point in the argument. They strengthen what a written assignment seeks to convey, explain, or argue to the reader – who most times is the student-writer’s professor. Also, transitional words and phrases help the reader make connections between evidencing points in the essay, by the use of, sometimes, just one word. Just like key words in conversation, the purpose of these particular words is to communicate effectively and illustrate a transition in thought: Firstly, first of all, secondly, thirdly, next, subsequently, lastly, conclusively, in conclusion, and finally.
Without these cues, the reader is ultimately left confused, because the reader is ineffectively not kept abreast of the argument being made, which then weakens the essay’s overall purpose to convince or educate, depending on the type of essay. Lacking these cues, unfortunately, results in the student-writer getting a low grade on their written assignment.
Most persuasive essays, or even five-paragraph essays, are supported by extensive, well-thought-out evidence. The evidence is traditionally explained in the body paragraphs of an essay, which, again, are mostly made up of at least three defending, or defining, points, each one making up at least a paragraph, and usually more, of that essay.
But when an essay does not indicate when a new point is being put forth or examined, to further validate the overarching theme of the essay – which is its Thesis – the reader fails to recognize the change and instead is left considering the previous point and not the current one. And the writer’s argument is ultimately weakened.
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