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.

Sentences and Style

Tips for Choosing Style

Include Variety

“Sentence variety is a means by which the writer helps the reader to understand which ideas are most important, which ideas support or explain other ideas, etc. Variety of sentence structures is also a part of style and voice.” (Douglas E. Grudzina and Mary C. Beardsley)

Adding variety to sentences gives it life and rhythm. Sentences with the same structure and length become boring for readers. Varying sentence style and structure also reduces repetition and adds emphasis wherever necessary. Long sentences are useful when incorporating large amount of information; short sentences help in maximizing the essential points. To enliven the paragraphs, the sentences should be of varying lengths. This also helps in creating effective emphasis. If many sentences start with the same word (The, It, This, or I), it becomes tedious for readers. Therefore, changing the opening words and phrases can be refreshing. Different beginnings help alter not only the structure but also the emphasis of the sentence. Also, one change often leads another, thus creating an abundance of sentence variety.

Use Subordination Carefully

Subordination is a grammatical strategy, which combines two ideas of a sentence, one being more important than the other. The less important idea is subordinate to the more important idea. The data chosen for subordination depends upon the meaning you want to deliver. The main idea should be expressed in an independent clause, and subordinate ideas should be expressed in subordinate clauses. Subordination enhances the writing style.

Ex:      As the sky turned dark gray, the wind died down. [Focus is on wind].

As the wind died down, the sky turned dark gray. [Focus is on sky].

When, Whenever, After, Until, Before, After, Where, Wherever, Because, Since, So that, If, Unless, If only, Although, and Even though are all effective subordinators.

Proper Use of First and Second Person Pronouns

Usage of first (I, my, me, mine, we, us, our, ours) and second (You, your, yours) person pronouns is important in establishing a link between the writer and the reader. Unless giving an opinion, one should generally write in Third person. Try to keep first and second person pronouns such as “I”, “We”, and “You” out of your writing as much as possible.

Editing for content

  • Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how when reading for content. Does the text answer all the questions you think it should?
  • Highlight the sentences that best answer these questions, just so you can see if the facts flow in logical order.
  • Do the math, do the math, and then do the math again. Somewhere between the screen and the printer 2+2 often becomes 3.
  • Make a list of “bugaboo” words and do a search for them before final proof. Include every swear word, words related to product terminology, and other words that pop up on occasion. Then do a “find” for all these words.
  • Actually do every step in procedures to make sure they are complete, accurate, and in correct order.
  • Count the number of steps a list promises to make sure they are all there.
  • Check that figure numbers match their references in the text and are sequential.

Check that illustrations, pictographs, and models are right-side up.

Tips to proofread your own work

  1. Don’t proofread until you’re completely finished with the actual writing and editing. If you make major changes while proofreading, even if it’s just within sentences, you’re still in an artistic, creative mode, not a science mode.
  2. Make sure you have no distractions or potential interruptions. Shut down all email and social media, hide the cell phone, shut off the TV, radio, or music, and close the door. Print your document if you need to get away from the computer altogether.
  3. Forget the content or story. Analyze sentence by sentence; don’t read in your usual way. Focus on spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Work backwards, if that helps, or say the words and sentences out loud. Concentrate.
  4. Make several passes for different types of errors. Try checking spelling and end punctuation on one pass, grammar and internal punctuation on another, and links or format on yet another pass. Develop a system.
  5. Take notes. If you notice format issues while checking spelling or if you need to look something up, make a quick note and come back to it so you don’t lose your focus.
  6. If you do make a last-minute change to a few words, be sure to check the entire sentence or even paragraph over again. Many errors are the result of changes made without adjusting other, related words.
  7. Check facts, dates, quotes, tables, references, text boxes, and anything repetitive or outside of the main text separately. Focus on one element or several related aspects of your writing at a time.
  8. Monitor yourself. If you find yourself drifting off and thinking about something else, go back over that section again. Try slapping your hand or tapping a foot in a rhythm as you examine each word and sentence out loud.
  9. Get familiar with your frequent mistakes. Even the most experienced writer mixes up their, they’re, and there or too, two, and to.

Check format last. Every document has format, even an email, whether it’s paragraph spacing, text wrap, indentations, spaces above and below a bullet list or between subheadings and text, and so on. Leave this for the end because contents may shift during handling.

How to Improve Your Reading Skills

Here are some steps to help you improve your reading skills:

1.  Evaluate your reading habits to find out where you need improvement. Do you “say” the words you’re reading? Do strange words slow your speed and comprehension? Do you read every word? Do you re-read sentences? Do you vary your speed to suit the material?

2.  Provide the best conditions for reading. Choose a place where you’ll have few interruptions, have good lighting, can sit in a good chair, and won’t be distracted by radio, TV or other noises. Hold the book about fifteen inches away (about the distance from your elbow to your wrist).

3.  Use your eyes efficiently. If words are blurry, get your eyes checked by a professional. Don’t “say” what you read, and don’t re-read unnecessarily. Read phrases, not every single word.

4.  Increase your vocabulary by keeping a dictionary handy, maintaining a list of new words, and knowing the origin of words.

5.  Match your speed to the material you are reading. Know what and why you’re reading. Preview the material, especially when studying. Study reading requires closer, slower reading. For leisure reading you can go faster. Be sure you get the information in graphic aids and illustrations.

6.  To improve your reading speed, practice for about 15 to 30 minutes each day, checking your rate in words-per-minute. Check your comprehension by summarizing what you read. Ideally, you want to read faster while maintaining your understanding. Therefore, use the same type of materials each time you practice to provide the consistency needed for meaningful practice.

Why Does Grammar Matter?

One of the most lucid and sensible answers to this question appeared a few years ago in–of all places–a position statement on the teaching of grammar in American schools. Published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the report is blessedly free of educational cant. Here’s how it begins:

Grammar is important because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English but in any language. As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children–we can all do grammar. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences–that is knowing about grammar. And knowing about grammar offers a window into the human mind and into our amazingly complex mental capacity.

People associate grammar with errors and correctness. But knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise. Grammar can be part of literature discussions, when we and our students closely read the sentences in poetry and stories. Knowing about grammar means finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns.