Monday, May 7, 2012

Making the Transition

When writing, do you give conscious thought to transitions? Transitional words, while helpful, are not always necessary. A transition from one thought to another is not limited to their use, but is successful when ideas are organized and flow clearly, don't you think?

Common transitions include words like although, furthermore, between, first, second, consequentially, next, yet, during, finally, etc. I keep an eye on these words as I edit, and sometimes delete them, depending on the context. The key, I think, is to aim for each idea to move fluidly to the next.

Did you know that there are several categories of transitional words? Here are a few: 

Chronological & Logical - for cause and effect, or contrasting ideas
Pour the cake batter into the baking pan. Next, place the pan in the oven and set the timer.

Although bears in Yellowstone hibernate during the winter, the bison do not. 

Climacticto conclude, summarize, observe

Furthermore, workers will be penalized for arriving late.

Logical and/or Persuasive – summary, convince, influence

For this reason, we must vote for Elwood Smith for Class President.
Order of Importance- prioritize ideas

First, we must address the issue of shoplifting. Next, the customer return policy has loopholes and should be clarified. Finally, the employee handbook must be distributed.

If you think about it, transitional words, as necessary, can give the reader a map, illustrating how information is connected in terms of logic, place, or time. The bottom line, with or without specific transitional words, is to determine if thoughts are clear and flow cohesively.

Care to try your hand at writing better example sentences than these? Please share! :)

What is your take on transitions? Do you think about them when you write?

Congrats to Laura Pauling! Her book, A Spy Like Me debuts today! Check it out here. :)

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Stock Exchange


  1. Seamless transitions are what we shoot for, right? I think transition words can help but as with most things can probably be overused too. :)

    Thanks for the mention! :)

  2. I try not to rely on those crutch words. That's what editing is for! Like you and Laura, I look for seamless transitions.

  3. I like 'em. I use 'em. In my novels I agree with the above comments, I barely use 'em at all.
    ~ Wendy

  4. Gosh when I think of transitions - i think of my 11 year old grandson - it is a huge problem with him - I suppose it is in writing too. lol
    Good morning. sandie

  5. I just realized my transitions aren't as smooth as I would like them to be. I need to be better at blocking out scenes so characters aren't all of a sudden in a different place. Great post.

  6. Something I probably need to focus on better.

  7. When I consider a transition, ANY transition, I think of the word pivot. It's as though I was going one way, but now I'm going another. The connotation is both positive & negative, depending on which path the pivot lends itself to.

  8. Laura,
    Yes, I agree, seamless is best. I think there are many overused words - we're always balancing something in our writing, aren't we? :) Congrats on the release!

    That's a good word for them. Yes, you're right, that's what editing is for. Good thing we can edit! :)

    I think it depends on what we're writing, you know? :) Directions - now, there's a place they can come in handy.

    That's true, transitions aren't limited to just writing. There are all kinds! :)

    Nice to meet you! Thanks for commenting. I think we all can use work in some area, like Theresa said, that's what editing is for. :)

    Me too. There's always something to keep an eye on, isn't there?

    I hadn't thought of it like that. I like that term! Good food for thought, thanks a bunch!


  9. Hi Karen .. I try and write smoothly and hope to express my thoughts relatively succinctly.

    Grammar - is a lost cause to me and one I really should do something about and learn about - so hearing about transitions here is good!!

    Cheers Hilary

  10. So much to learn from you on this blog!We use transition words without much thought:)

  11. I probably use more transitional words or at least I'm aware of them more when I'm writing the synopsis. But I will put them in on purpose to move the story forward so it doesn't seem like my hero and heroine are falling in love in 24 hours. LOL

  12. I think about it when I feel a jolt between paragraphs/topics. That's a stopping place for me, and I try to figure out how to smooth it, make it a bit more seamless so it doesn't snap the reader's neck, if you know what I mean.

    Just ran into this in the writing of this week's column.

    Very good technical advice, Karen.

  13. Hi Karen....I try to avoid them as much as possible. However, I do use "however."

    Hope your week is going well so far and will continue to be good. Susan

  14. Hhmmm, I don't think about them, but I do use 'm... great post Karen, one I like to keep! Very helpful.

  15. Hilary,
    I think you express yourself quite nicely! I think too, you do better on grammar than you might think. We're all works in progress. :)

    So glad you found this helpful! We do use them without thinking, and they serve a good purpose. Something to be aware of, especially when editing.

    Ah yes, hadn't thought of that! I think there are times and purposes for them, just up to us to make the right call. :)

    Good way to put it! I like that, it's a good "visual" to apply to our writing. :) Looking forward to reading the column!

    However is probably one of the more useful ones, I'm thinking. :) However, I suppose it can be overused as well! :P

    I think we are always tweaking and revising, depending on what we're writing, you know? Glad this might be helpful! :)


  16. I tend to think of transitions as a kind of handing off the baton. There has to be a connection but a clear distinction that we are now in new hands.

  17. Like Alex, I too need to focus on this with more attention.

  18. It's great when you read prose where there are transitions but you're not aware--like Laura said, seamless is the key!

  19. Annie,
    I like the way you put that! Passing the baton lends such great imagery. Connections and distinctions, yes, absolutely!

    I don't always give it the attention I need to. We're all works in progress, aren't we? :)

    I know! That's what I'm aiming for in the long run. :)


  20. Hi Karen,

    Excellent tips! I'm thinking these words are more common in non-fiction. I don't see them a lot in novels.

    Susan :)

  21. Susan,
    Thanks! I think you are right. You do see them more in non fiction than anything else.


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!