Using Transitions to Improve Clarity and Logical Flow

If your writing looks professional, so do you.

  • Nancy Tuten

    13 April 2020

    Using Transitions to Improve Clarity and Logical Flow

    Using transitions to improve clarity and logical flow is essential, whether we are meticulously drafting a legal brief or lengthy proposal or dashing off a short email or tweet.  In either case, transitions enable a reader to follow the writer’s train of thought as the message moves from one idea to the next. 

    Just as road signs direct a traveler toward a destination, transitions move readers toward the main point of a message by enabling them to see how each detail is connected logically to the next. It is the writer’s job—not the reader’s—to clarify those logical connections.

    Transitions are, in short, the glue that promotes logical coherence in a document.

    Transition words and phrases also help writers;  as they consider which transitions best suit the logical flow of their message, they might discover that their ideas are not in the best order, that they have left out important information, or that they have included information that is unhelpful. Increased focus on transitions strengthens both the product and the process.

    To assist with the task of providing those verbal “road signs,” we have compiled a list of transitional words and phrases organized according to the logical connection, or transition, they indicate. You may find it helpful to keep this list posted near your keyboard, where you can see it easily when writing.

    We did not alphabetize the items in each list. Rather than gravitating toward the word or phrase that may have already come to mind, writers are encouraged to scan the entire list to identify the transition best suited to a particular context.

    One final point: Good writers avoid the slavish and stilted repetition of transition words or phrases in a text and will instead strive for elegant variety.

    (The following set of lists is also available as a printable PDF.)

    Using Transitions to Improve Clarity and Logical Flow

    To indicate examples:

    • occasionally
    • usually
    • often
    • frequently, especially
    • specifically
    • principally
    • mainly
    • namely
    • significantly
    • indeed
    • for example, for instance
    • first of all
    • for one thing
    • most important, most importantly
    • to illustrate
    • in particular
    • in general
    • in this way, in this manner

    To indicate comparison:

    • at the same time
    • in the same way
    • in a like manner
    • likewise
    • similarly
    • like
    • as

    To indicate addition:

    • and
    • also
    • above all
    • further, furthermore
    • moreover
    • first, second, third . . .
    • next
    • other
    • besides
    • too
    • likewise
    • last
    • again
    • finally
    • in addition
    • in the second place, secondly
    • what is more
    • indeed
    • in fact

    To indicate contrast:

    • although, even though, though
    • at the same time
    • and yet
    • conversely
    • however
    • but
    • in contrast
    • nevertheless, nonetheless
    • notwithstanding
    • on the one hand, on the other hand
    • rather
    • still
    • yet
    • whereas
    • or
    • not
    • on the contrary

    To indicate concession:

    • no doubt, doubtless, doubtlessly
    • surely
    • certainly
    • naturally
    • granted that
    • although this [noun] may be true
    • admittedly
    • I admit
    • one must admit
    • I concede
    • one must concede
    • after all
    • one cannot deny that

    To indicate result:

    • therefore
    • for that reason
    • consequently, as a consequence
    • as a result
    • then
    • thus
    • so
    • hence

    To indicate cause/reason:

    • because
    • since (frowned upon by strict grammarians who insist that since can refer only to time)
    • for

    To indicate repetition:

    • again
    • as has been pointed out
    • as I have pointed out, as I have mentioned
    • to repeat
    • in other words
    • again, once again
    • in fact
    • indeed
    • to recapitulate, to recap
    • to repeat

    To indicate time:

    • before
    • after, afterward
    • earlier
    • formerly
    • later
    • subsequently
    • presently
    • soon
    • shortly
    • meanwhile
    • simultaneously
    • now
    • then
    • after a while
    • at last
    • finally
    • at that time
    • in the meantime
    • in the past
    • up to now, until now

    To indicate place:

    • between
    • among
    • here, there
    • elsewhere
    • above, below, behind, beyond
    • on top of
    • next to
    • adjacent to
    • opposite from, opposite to
    • farther, farther on
    • in the background

    Copyright 2009 Get It Write. Revised 2020.