Transitional Words, Phrases and Sentences

Transitional words, phrases and sentences regulate the flow of paragraphs and sections. Besides, transitional sentences, as well as, in longer documents, transitional paragraphs can be used between one section and another.

Two common forms of transition are described below.

1)  Using a short sentence to state briefly your intended meaning in the next paragraph. For example, you might say, So far we have been discussing unemployment. Now we consider inflation. This could occur at the end of one paragraph or at the beginning of the next, depending on the paragraphs length and its desired effect. However, the new paragraph would begin more intensely, if its topic had already been introduced in the previous paragraph.

2)  Repeating a keyword or phrase, in order to echo the point made in a previous paragraph. In fact, synonyms can also be used for this purpose. For example, observe the following extract, from an article on evolution, for how this technique has been used. Besides, I have italicized the transitional sentences and the cohesive devices in the following paragraph:

Understanding the shape of the tree of life and the details of its branches are more than a quaint sideline of biology, even though the science of this quest, known as systematic, has come to be regarded by many biologists as dowdy and old fashioned, little more than stamp collecting. But, such an understanding is probably the best foundation for a larger appreciation of life, including evolution, ecology and behaviour. As Colin Patterson, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum of London, said: To retrieve the history of life, to reconstruct the evolutionary tree, is still the aim of evolutionary biology. Getting it right is therefore important.


Cohesion words or phrases define the association between one sentence and the next. These words or phrases link a sentence with its pervious or next sentence, thus, helping readers to relate the sentences and the authors intended meaning. The writer can use but, however, in spite of, or some other similar linking word or phrase; however, one should take care of correct grammatical structure.

Let us take the examples of some cohesion words and the relationship they express.

  • Enumerative cohesion words/phrases introduces the order in which points will be made. Examples: first, second; one, two; a, b; next, then, subsequently, finally, in the end
  • Additive words reinforce or confirm what was said. Examples: again, then again, also, moreover, furthermore, in addition, what is more

These words also highlight similarity. Examples: equally, likewise, similarly, correspondingly, in the same way

  • Explanatory words introduce examples. Examples: for example, for instance
  • Illustrative words note alternatives. Examples: alternatively, or again, or rather, but then, on the other hand

Other cohesion words include synonyms, referential pronouns, parallel structure, etc.


These are words with closely related meanings and help in addressing excessive repetition. If you used approach in one sentence and want to repeat the same idea, then you can use its synonym method in the next sentence. Similarly, for skill, you can use ability, and so no.

However, one should make sure not to overuse them as its excessive usage can make your document confusing and unclear.

Referential pronouns:

If two sentences begin with the same subject, then you can use a personal or referential pronoun in the second sentence instead of the word itself (I, he, she, it, we, they, this, that, these). However, if the use of a pronoun makes the sentence confusing, then you should repeat the noun.

Parallel structures:

Parallelism refers to similar grammatical structures of headings and sentences used within a paragraph, and it adds clarity to your paragraph.

Not parallel: These books are not primarily for reading, but they are used for reference.

Parallel: These books are not primarily for reading but for reference.

Not parallel: Not only is he conscientious worker, but also he is very competent.

Parallel: Not only is he conscientious but also competent.

Parallelism is also important in instructions.

A. Setting up the printer, maintenance, and what to do if something goes wrong are easy with ABC’s step-by-step user guide.

B. Setting up the printer, maintaining it and troubleshooting are easy with ABC’s step-by-step user guide.